Meryl Streep is the point of intrigue as well as the beating heart of S02E01 of Big Little Lies

The 69-year-old veteran makes an entry into the show in this season and fires it up like no one else can

  • Published 10.06.19, 7:56 PM
  • Updated 10.06.19, 8:40 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern (Still from the show)

Did Big Little Lies need a Season 2? The first season, that dropped a little more than two years ago, was such a cleverly crafted series that tempered soapy melodrama with the weighty themes of rape and domestic abuse, that fans of the show wouldn’t be blamed if we thought a second season was unnecessary, especially when Season 1 ended with that almost-perfect shot of “The Monterey Five” looking blissfully out on the beach, bonding like never before and watching their kids frolic around.

Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Season 1 was an addictive watch, boasting an ensemble of as-good-as-they-come leading ladies — Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz, with Kidman and Witherspoon executive producing — and ended with a murder that tied the five together in a kind of “sisterhood of the hushed secrets”. It was a fitting finale to an exemplary series that ticked all the right boxes and won Big Little Lies eight Emmys and four Golden Globes.

So we come back to the question: does the show warrant a second season? The answer:

Meryl Streep. The 69-year-old veteran, the winner of three Academy Awards and widely regarded as one of the best actresses in the world, makes an entry into the show in this season and fires it up like no one else can. Streep plays Mary Louise, Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) mother-in-law, who descends on the idyllic town of Monterey from the bustle of San Francisco after her son Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) dies under mysterious circumstances at the end of Season 1. Sanguine that Perry didn’t fall to his death — as Celeste and her four friends claim — Mary Louise is determined to unearth the truth. A truth that only “The Monterey Five” know (along with the audience, of course) and a secret that draws them closer in Season 2.

Big Little Lies cuts to the chase immediately, with Meryl Streep’s Mary Louise holding centre stage. Just watch out for the scenes, all crackling, that feature her in the first episode
Big Little Lies cuts to the chase immediately, with Meryl Streep’s Mary Louise holding centre stage. Just watch out for the scenes, all crackling, that feature her in the first episode (Still from the show)

Episode One of Season 2 of the HBO series that dropped on Sunday night in the US (one can stream it on Hotstar here), is more or less a look-back at what happened in the seven episodes of the previous season, even as it establishes the new arcs of the familiar characters and introduces some new ones.

Celeste is plagued by nightmares — all to do with Perry abusing her — even as she’s determined to provide a happy growing-up environment for her twin sons, all the while fearfully looking out for violent traits — like their father — in them. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is her usual bossy, dominating self, but she’s even more on edge now, possibly to do with the dark secret she harbours deep in her heart. Renata (Laura Dern) remains the ambitious, overbearing go-getter she was while Jane (Shailene Woodley) seems to have at last exorcised the demons of her past. The only one who seems to have trouble moving on from the tragedy is Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), who’s withdrawn and guarded and seems to have become a completely different person from when we saw her last.

The five women often congregate to talk in hushed whispers about that fateful night, worried and hopeful in turns that the dark days — as their kids begin second grade and things seem to be skipping back to normal — are behind them.

Or are they? Directed by Andrea Arnold — who takes over from Jean-Marc Vallee in this season — Big Little Lies cuts to the chase immediately, with Streep’s Mary Louise holding centre stage. Just watch out for the scenes, all crackling, that feature her in the first episode. Politely menacing and hiding some steely grit behind her golden-rimmed glasses and dowdy cardigan-clad persona, she goes about attacking Celeste mentally, in order to get her answers. That scene at the dining table where she breaks into a scream will give you goosebumps and she’s terrible at apologies, disguising insults directed at Madeline with, “I don’t mean it in a negative way… maybe I do”.

This is Streep at her best and we can’t wait to watch what she brings to Season 2. Especially in the final seconds of episode one where she wakes up Celeste from one of her nightmares and asks, her beady eyes gored into her daughter-in-law, “Who were you planning to kill?”