Entertainment TV Big Little Lies: Truth is this show needs to end here

Big Little Lies: Truth is this show needs to end here

Big Little Lies cast
Time to wrap it up ladies: from left, Big Little Lies' Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern. Photo: HBO
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This story contains Big Little Lies spoilers.

Big Little Lies is done for a second season. It should be done for good.

The slide of the ‘Monterey Five’ and their rich woman travails – man problems, precocious kids who gossip as much as they do – into forgettable territory started around episode three.

That would be when cosseted Year 2 child Amabella had a freak out about climate change and was carted off with a panic attack to a hospital that wasn’t Stanford.

The meltdown sparked an emergency school assembly and Madeline’s own onstage implosion, which saw Reese Witherspoon thinking, ‘Emmy, you are mine’ and the rest of us thinking seriously, is this a cartoon?

And so it went on. Renata (Laura Dern) turning to venal theatrics after her husband’s bankruptcy, Jane (Shailene Woodley) inexplicably dating an aquarium employee who looked 12, a haunted Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) overcome by memories of her abusive mother.

It was both too much and too little.

There was always going to be a second series of Big Little Lies.

The first, the brainchild of author Liane Moriarty and David E. Kelley, was too fine an exploration of women’s messy, affirming relationships not to follow it up.

The dark fingers of domestic violence and their entwined place in relationships were explored with sensitivity in the first series. Watching Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard beat each other up mentally and physically was the visual equivalent of being dragged along a giant cheese grater.

It made for compelling, shocking television.

But the second series had none of the original devastating emotional relevance and heft. It ultimately seemed slightly pointless, except for the real estate and fashion porn.

There were certainly no fully-drawn grown-up women. No real insights into the biting chaos of motherhood. Ed (Adam Scott) was the most emotionally evolved character.

Big Little Lies court scene
Witherspoon, Dern, Woodley and Kravitz emote as glum friends. Photo: HBO

Kidman spent most of the time speaking quietly in a somnambulant daze. Witherspoon had one annoying note. Woodley and Scott were fabulous. And then there was Meryl Streep.

With her fake teeth and unwavering air of menace, the Oscar winner ‘Streeped’ everyone around her while they turned in pantomime performances as if unsure whether to play for laughs or tears.

Meryl Streep Big Little Lies
Meryl Streep as human steamroller Mary Louise in Big Little Lies. Photo: Getty

The crux of the storyline was supposed to the fallout from Perry’s death, which created a bond between the five, and a heavy cross to bear.

The idea of who would crack was interesting, but not enough for a whole series. Just go to the cops and be done with it, or get on with planning your next costume party, already.

Big Little Lies would have been a much better show if it had embraced the chance for discussions about grief, about the end of love and the toxicity of relationships and guilt.

Instead, it skated over the important stuff for ersatz one-liners and fretting about college admissions.

In the end, while Madeline dealt with the consequences of her affair and Bonnie finally realised she was married to a dud, the series was hijacked by the contrived Celeste v Mary Louise child custody smackdown.

As is often the case with soap operas, Mary Louise looked like she would win the chocolates until Celeste suddenly stopped gazing into the middle distance long enough to become a tiger mother/capable lawyer.

It was like that bit in Happy Gilmore where Happy learns to putt, except not as convincing.

The final scene with the five women walking into the police station suggests HBO could be considering a third season. Especially because so far Big Little Lies has been the network’s third most watched show for 2019, behind Game of Thrones and the second season of Barry.

It should resist the temptation and leave us all to wonder what happened next. It would be the only intriguing thing about Big Little Lies this year.

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