Two years have passed since viewers were first introduced to Madeline Martha Mackenzie’s little grudges (she tends to them like pets). But by the end of Big Little Lies‘ seven-episode run, the story that started as the darkly comedic inner workings of Monterey’s wealthiest mothers, turned into a full murder mystery. In the landscape of grandiose productions like Game of Thrones and Westworld, HBO managed to create a show that combines stories of infidelity and abuse with some serious kitchen porn. The result was a critically acclaimed hit with an insanely stacked cast.Eight Emmys later, the one-time limited series is doubling down for a Season Two.
Before it drops this Sunday, June 9 on HBO, freshen up that memory with a recap of everything that happened in Season One, Amabella biters included.
What are the basics?
Big Little Lies is all about the relationships of five women in Monterey, California. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is a busybody stay at home mom. Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is Madeline’s best friend—a one-time successful attorney who has since become a stay at home mother as well. The two befriend Monterey newcomer, Jane (Shailene Woodley), who has moved to town with her son, Ziggy. On the first day of first grade, Ziggy is accused of choking a little girl named Amabella, whose mom is successful businesswoman, Renata (Laura Dern). The event splits the parents of Otter Bay elementary, with Madeline’s ex-husband Nathan (James Tupper) and his new wife Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) seemingly siding with Renata. But this is all minor in comparison to the flash forwards revealing that by season’s end, someone in the Monterey community has been killed at the year-end school fundraiser.
The series quickly escalates, tying the choking of Amabella with increasingly dramatic storylines. Celeste is revealed to be in an abusive marriage with her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård). Meanwhile, the residents of Monterey try to piece together why Jane, who seems to have no clear backstory, has moved to their town. Eventually, she reveals to Madeline that she was raped by a man named Saxon Banks. As the series continues though, the true story behind Celeste’s home life, Amabella’s choking, and the alleged rapist Saxon Banks comes to light.
As Jane and Madeline get closer to finding the identity of Saxon Banks, Amabella goes home to Renata with a bite mark on her arm. The incident puts the spotlight back on Ziggy, who insists he is not the child doing it. Jane pushes Ziggy to come forward with the truth if he knows who the real bully is. That’s when Ziggy reveals that all along it has been Celeste’s son Max, who has picked up the behavior after seeing Perry abuse Celeste. While Celeste attempts to make a clean break from Perry and rent a much smaller, but beautifully situated beach house (it’s all absurd, but stick with it), Jane brings the truth to Celeste and Renata.
In one final elaborate elementary school fundraiser that requires parents to dress up as era-specific versions of Elvis Presley or Audrey Hepburn (oh, to be wealthy in coastal California), there are revelations abound. Jane remembers that the man who raped her might have been called Saxon Banks, but it was an alias for Perry, Celeste’s husband. Soon after, a tense exchange between Perry and Celeste becomes physical, resulting in Renata, Jane, and Madeline coming together in Celeste’s defense. As Perry seems to have the upper hand, a rogue Bonnie (Remember that Zoë Kravitz is in this show? She spent most of Season One doing yoga) comes out of no where and pushes Perry down stairs, killing him in the process. The women tell the story that Perry tripped during the exchange, leaving Bonnie’s big push out of the story entirely.
So are the stories technically wrapped up?
You would think so, but no. In the final moments of Season One, a detective is seen on the beach, keeping a watchful eye on the Monterey Five as their children play in the water. On top of that, while the women are seemingly out of the woods. There’s also still the lingering backstory of Madeline’s infidelity to her husband Ed (Adam Scott), which takes a bit of a back seat to some of Season One’s other big plot points. And personally, I think there’s probably still some explaining to do as to why someone would name their child Amabella.
So what’s the reason for a Season Two?
Season Two is tasked with the aftermath of Perry’s death. While Season One could have wrapped up with its final episode, Season Two asks the very logical question: if these women supposedly didn’t do it, who did? That question is going to only become more and more pressing as Monterey’s newest resident comes to town. Meryl Streep has signed on to play Mary Louise Wright, Perry’s doting mother who cannot imagine who would have killed her son.
Rumors have also suggested that characters that didn’t get as much time in the spotlight will have their stories explored a bit deeper. Bonnie, in particular, has a relatively sparse storyline that will definitely get fleshed out with the addition of Crystal Fox, who will play her mother Elizabeth in Season Two.
Anything else that makes it stand out?
If you’re a fan of television soundtracks, Big Little Lies is boasting one of the best out there at the moment. If the prospect of pristine kitchens overlooking oceanfront landscapes doesn’t draw you in, the music for the show should get the job done.
Season One featured a line up of artists including Leon Bridges, Sade, and Frank Ocean, with some serious throwbacks from The B-52s and Jefferson Airplane. Even more hilariously, the running joke is that this is all from the music taste of Madeline’s equally sassy seven-year-old Chloe.
No matter exactly where Big Little Lies chooses to go in Season Two, viewers can rest assured that it will be acted to near-perfection. And don’t expect to get bored: nothing stays calm in Monterey for too long.