Big Little Lies is one of the most anticipated shows of 2017 and comes with a powerhouse cast that includes the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley. The strong female ensemble is met by an equally talented group of male characters too, with Alexander Skarsgård and Adam Scott playing central figures in the drama-comedy miniseries.
Based on the novel of the same name from Liane Moriarty, for those those that haven’t read the book, the premiere episode lays out some of the plot line workings, starting with the reporting of a murder. We are introduced to the women of Monterey, with newcomer Jane Chapman (Shailiene Woodley) as the latest addition to the Monterey, California community.
Here’s what we know so far, and why we’re already hooked.
There’s a murder-mystery aspect
You find out almost immediately that there’s been a murder, but you don’t know who’s been killed, how it happened or who did the murdering. There is a sort of docu-drama element to the miniseries told through flash forward segments, with outside characters seen breaking down their thoughts on who the killer could be — each dispensing such information inside the police interrogation room. They also delve right into the life and manner of people like Madeline Mackenzie (Witherspoon) and Celeste Wright (Kidman) along with, to a lesser degree so far, the role of Renata Klein (Laura Dern).
There’s a backstory yet to be told
Jane Chapman is a young mother with a son named Ziggy (immediate quirps about David Bowie are realized in the first episode). She has recently moved to Monterey and her reason to move has been explained in that it hasn’t really been explained at all. But, one reason is allegedly the education opportunity that Chapman thinks would be beneficial for Ziggy. Other than that, her reason to escape to the quiet beach town is yet to be disclosed.
Episode two (called “Serious Mothering”) also gives us a bit more insight into Jane, who is shown running and screaming at the top of her lungs on top of a hill. It’s pretty apparent Jane has something she’s hiding or, at the very least, something she is trying to get away from (mentally, physically or both), we just don’t know what that is, just that her and Ziggy’s motto is “everyday we’re going to be brave.”
There’s a character that perfectly carries drama around with her
Madeline Mackenzie, a strong busy bee of a woman, is at the centre of the story and much of her life wavers between her dealings with her work-from-home second husband Ed (Adam Scott) and best friend Celeste. We see her relationship with her kids Chloe (who is always playing music on her phone) and Abigail, particularly her relationship with the latter, a young teenage girl that is becoming closer with her ex-husband’s new wife, Bonnie Carlson (Zoe Kravitz). Bonnie is a free-spirited yoga lover that seemingly irritates the hell out of Madeline, who is still hung up on her ex to some extent.
There’s a battle of the moms
Dern’s ability to play type A Renata is spot on, and we especially see her “helicopter mom” approach after her young girl Amabella is allegedly choked by Jane’s son, Ziggy. This all happens after orientation where the mothers are seen bringing and picking their kids up while being told the news. Ziggy swears he did not choke Amabella, but the verdict is still out as to whether or not he is telling the truth. They sure paint him to be an innocent, sweet, quiet boy, an intentional effort to get us questioning. However, the alleged one-time choking soon gets more intense when news breaks that Ziggy may have also sexually assaulted Amabella, as seen in episode two. Are these lies being told or is there something severely wrong with Ziggy?
The thread of competition and tension is a reoccurring theme, one that will surely be a cornerstone of the series. Madeline let’s it be known that she is not impressed with Bonnie’s decision to take Madeline’s daughter Abigail to Planned Parenthood to get birth control, and you can tell her underlying control tactics are being tested.
There are strong female friendships
Madeline’s immediately drawn to welcoming Jane into the community by letting her know the ins and outs of the place and the who’s who of the community. Madeline’s desire to include Jane could be just a nice gesture or it could be an attempt to secure another piece in the popularity puzzle–strength in numbers right? Strength seems to be a common theme explored in Madeline’s plot line, after all her daughter Abigail is basically the leader of the pack in school, something that Madeline is sure to point out almost immediately to Jane.
There’s a tumultuous (and addictive?) relationship
Perhaps one of the most questionable relationships is that seen between Celeste and her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård). What looks like a picture perfect love affair, complete with a handful of sexually-charged scenes, soon turns into a pictorial of abuse with Perry seen hurting Celeste (reprimanding her at times). This abuse only seems to fuel their intimate encounters, as was particularly seen in episode two, which basically sees Perry hurting Celeste one moment and then the two having sex against a wall the next. How we’re supposed to feel about all that? Uncomfortable?
There’s still lots left to learn
Big Little Lies may only be two episodes in but its undeniably an attention-grabber, what we’re grabbed by is still being unraveled, but the strength and seemingly flawed main characters are nothing near boring to watch. Reese Witherspoon’s wound-up nature, Celeste’s quiet vulnerability, Jane’s questionable dark side and Renata’s “me against the world” mentality make for a contrasting set of complex characters, characters that we want to follow, know and potentially understand.
All we do know is that Big Little Lies has a dark secret tone to it, one that cascades through fake smiles and overachievers, gossip and budding friendships–no wonder there’s already been Desperate Housewives and Mean Girls’ references to the show. It’s nice to see strong, relatable, female characters, and while so far the men seem to be secondary characters, surely we are not to expect everything is quite as it seems, and that’s what makes the digging that much more entertaining. Plus, with a sultry and undeniably enticing theme song, you can bet this is going to be a show that is full of spine-bending moments.
Are you watching Big Little Lies? If so, what are your thoughts so far?
Main photo courtesy of HBO Canada