How do you top the critically acclaimed, disturbing, sexually violent storyline that played out between Celeste and Perry (Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skaarsgaard) in Big Little Lies?
By showing us what happens next.
That means audiences will be divided by a particularly distressing scene as the cycle of violence appears to continue.
In a shocking scene in the second episode, Nicole Kidman (as bereaved, relieved lawyer Celeste) hurls her son Max roughly to the ground while breaking up a fight between her twins.
The little boy lashes out, yelling “f–k off,” as he turns on his mother, hitting her.
Celeste loses her cool, shoves him back with all her strength and screams, “No! You will not be like him!”
The dazed child lies on the ground as his grandmother, played by newcomer Meryl Streep, watches silently. It’s unsettling on many levels, and raises several questions.
The violence instantly takes us back to the darker moments of Big Little Lies’ first season, and we can’t help but wonder if such tendencies are innate or learned. Will Max inherit his father’s worst trait?
The child’s cruel streak – and his mother’s determination to thwart it – potentially sets up heartbreaking scenes.
Kidman said the storylines of how Celeste wrestles with the death of her abusive husband, the arrival of her mother-in-law and how it will all affect Jane (Shailene Woodley), who bore the dead man a son after he raped her, will be “complicated”.
Speaking at a panel in New York, she said it will be controversial: “There hopefully will be discussion and it will create more and more and more awareness and discussion and hopefully change.”
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There was always the chance that Big Little Lies, based on the novel by Australian Liane Moriarty, would out-stay its welcome. Hollywood has a tendency to flog shows beyond their use-by date.
But any concerns along these lines are laid to rest in the first episode.
Season one culminated in Perry’s death and set up a wealth of storylines for an equally compelling second season.
The show’s creators waste no time in introducing new character Mary Louise (Streep), who is ostensibly in the small town of Monterey to help Celeste with the kids, but who quickly establishes herself as a quietly menacing figure.
Judgemental and always watching, her sly digs at ‘The Monterey Five’, as the central characters have become known, reek of victim-blaming and shaming.
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We pick up at the start of the new school year, with all the trivial aspects of daily life.
Pushy parent Renata (Laura Dern) is predictably giving the class teacher and principal a hard time. Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) seems withdrawn and distant, avoiding her friends.
Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) attends university interviews with her daughter and displays a breathtakingly entitled attitude which may have unwitting parallels to the current US college admissions scandal.
Jane (Shailene Woodley) is coerced into a relationship with the mother of her secret rapist. Awkward doesn’t even begin to cover the weirdness of this situation.
The five women are bound by the secret about the role that Bonnie, who is clearly traumatised, had in Perry’s death. Their efforts to keep the secret from suspicious police, innocent partners and scarily smart kids set viewers up for an an enthralling ride.
Big Little Lies season two premieres Monday June 10 at 11am on Foxtel. It will screen every Monday at that time with encore screenings at 8.30pm.