‘Big Little Lies’ Kept Us Guessing, in the End Diving Into the Psychology of Violence
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. That’s why viewers everywhere are mourning the loss of HBO’s new limited series, “Big Little Lies,” which had its finale last night. Viewers now know who the bully was, who dies, and who the killer was. We will tread very lightly here and try to avoid any serious spoilers for readers who haven’t had the chance to watch it yet, and offer guidance on where to go from here.
“Big Little Lies,” by famed director, Jean-Marc Vallée, was graced with an all-star cast who all gave standout performances. The hit series centers around the lives of a group of mothers living in the Monterey Peninsula. It sucked the viewer right in during the pilot episode when a first grader accused another child of attacking her. As to be expected from extremely involved parents, cliques started to form, and drama ensued. Shailene Woodley plays Jane, the extremely young mother of the child accused of attacking the young girl. Jane is a fish out of water and befriends the town’s queen-bee mom Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and the seemingly-perfect Celeste (Nicole Kidman). The viewer continues on throughout the series as we see dramatic mom fights in the elementary school’s drop off/pick up zone, domestic abuse in one of the couple’s lives, cheating in another, the death of one of the main characters, the mystery of who murdered someone, and who is ultimately responsible for attacking the little girl. The show has an honest take on marriage and provides a deeper look into these three-dimensional character’s lives as they are seemingly perfect on the surface, but vulnerable and deeply flawed once you get to know them throughout the series. The show ultimately questions whether violent people and abusers are taught to be that way and constantly worries that it stems from something in our nature – or if it’s something with which we’re born.
The finale of Big Little Lies delivered several surprises. Instead of centering on the murder that viewers were waiting to solve, the final episode focused more on the psychology of violence. The viewer comes to learn that Celeste’s son Max has been the one responsible for attacking Amabella. Once Celeste finds out, it’s the change agent that pushes her to get out of her marriage because her children are slowly but surely taking after their abusive father. Distraught, she comes forward and tells Renata (Laura Dern) that Max has been the one attacking her daughter. Renata and Celeste find Jane and Renata profusely apologizes for the way she’s been treating Jane’s son Ziggy. Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) sees Celeste down in the courtyard and tries to confront her and get her to come back home with him. It’s in this moment that Jane realizes that Perry was the man that raped her and is Ziggy’s father. Jane’s entire demeanor changes as her and Perry recognize each other and both Madeline and Celeste realize why. As a result Perry becomes outraged and starts attacking Celeste and in a moment of self-defense, Perry is pushed down the stairs, causing a fatal impact.
For the most part, it seems that viewers everywhere are happy with the way everything wrapped up. To further that, some are even going on Twitter to try and push HBO to do a second season. Still can’t get enough? If you haven’t had the chance already, think about taking a deep dive into the novel that inspired the limited series. The 2014 book by Lianne Moriarty offers more context and background so you can see more of what motivated the characters to do what they did and provides more to the mystery. It also received so much critical praise that it led to HBO optioning it and developing it into this standout limited series.
Overall, “Big Little Lies” took the viewer on a wild ride and is certainly binge-worthy. It has seven reasonably-paced episodes, with gorgeous scenery, a spectacular cast, and an emotionally-fraught storyline making it one of the best miniseries of the year. What makes “Big Little Lies” so engrossing isn’t the murder itself, but the performances that gave so much depth to its lead characters. Definitely a must-see.