Recap: Big Little Lies — Episodes One and Two

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Big Little Lies, and is intended to be read after watching the episodes.

Recap: HBO’s newest miniseries, Big Little Lies, premiered last Sunday, and the star-power, both in front of the camera and behind, is staggering. With an ensemble cast that includes (hold your breaths) Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz, and directed and produced by Dallas Buyers Club and Wild director Jean Marc Valee, the show follows in the footsteps of recent HBO shows such as True Detective and The Young Pope that similarly feature big screen talent.

Big Little Lies is a murder mystery, focusing on the interpersonal drama between a group of wealthy parents in Monterey, California. In recent times, murder mysteries are often elevated to greatness not by original twists or suspense, but rather by developing an original setting and world. While the plot of HBO’s True Detective was unremarkable, the miniseries remarkably utilized the lushness and gravitas of its Louisiana setting. Similarly, the town of Monterey provides an equally scenic representation of a group of unique people in Big Little Lies.

Usually, a show with an entirely unlikable group of characters is destined to fail. However, Big Little Lies’ collection of high-strung, privileged mothers and fathers have tremendous chemistry between each other, leading to dynamic and thrilling interactions. The show seems self-aware about how ridiculous its characters and their conflicts are. So far, the cancellation of a school production of Avenue Q and the exclusion of a single child from a birthday party has potentially led to murder. As ridiculous as it sounds, this premise is also very enticing. In fact, the premise is ridiculous enough to make me want to come back every week and find out more.

Starting this week, we’ll discuss the big questions from the previous night’s episode. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

The Big Questions:

Forget who did it—who was even murdered? So far, we’ve received few clues regarding the identity of the victim. The brief snippets of the police briefing we’ve seen so far have only described the graphic injuries sustained prior to the victim’s death. At this time, we don’t even know whether an adult or child was murdered. Considering the fact that the novel from which Big Little Lies was adapted does not reveal the victim’s identity until its final chapters, we will likely remain in the dark for a few more weeks. However, the show is not a completely faithful adaptation of the novel. For example, while Madeline’s husband’s abusive tendencies were a major plot twist in the novel, this was revealed in the show’s opening episode.

Why did Jane move to Monterey? While this question lingered in my mind throughout the first episode, it was addressed explicitly in the second episode. In fact, the latest episode featured two separate scenes in which Jane avoids answering the question, and appears to be hiding something about her past. In the episode’s first moments, Ziggy pesters Jane, asking why they moved to Monterey. She refuses to answer, only heightening our doubts that there must be a more sinister, nefarious reason to their seemingly out-of-place move. Later, when Jane chats with a store clerk and is asked what drew her to Monterey, Ziggy sweetly and comically speaks for her— “For a better life. For the education. That’s all you’ll get out of her.” We can expect to find out the exact reason for Jane’s move very soon. Judging by the show’s content so far, we can assume that the reason will be difficult to stomach.