‘Big Little Lies’ Season 1 Recap: Everything You Need to Remember Before Watching Season 2

Celeste’s abusive husband Perry may be dead, but he’s still haunting the women of Monterey. The highly anticipated Season 2 premiere of Big Little Lies kicks off on Sunday, June 9, with Celeste, Jane, Madeline, Renata, and Bonnie all dealing with the aftermath of Perry’s death at the school fundraiser, which viewers saw play out in the Season 1 finale.

But how exactly did these five women — all dressed in different Audrey Hepburn costumes — find themselves in a police lineup? It’s been more than two years since the last, dramatic episode of Big Little Lies aired on HBO, so it’s understandable if you’re a little fuzzy on what exactly triggered the deadly showdown on the steps of Otter Bay Elementary. Here’s a refresher.

A seaside town with secret

Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies
Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies | Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/courtesy of HBO

Big Little Lies is set in the wealthy oceanside town of Monterey, on California’s Central Coast. In the first episode of Season 1, viewers learn that someone has been killed at the school’s annual trivia night fundraiser. Over the next six episodes, the victim, the killer, and the events that lead up to the crime are all revealed.   

The main characters

The first season of Big Little Lives centers on the lives of five Monterey women:

Celeste (Nicole Kidman): On the outside, it seems like Celeste —  a former lawyer who gave up her career to raise her twin boys, first graders named Josh and Max — has the perfect life, but she’s actually trapped in a violent, abusive marriage to the handsome, successful Perry (Alexander Skarsgard).

Madeline (Reese Witherspoon): Celeste is friends with Madeline, a type-A, queen bee mom to first-grader Chloe and a teenager named Abigail from her first marriage. Madeline also forms a fast friendship with new-in-town Jane, who she meets on the first day of school, and helps defend her against Renata.

Renata (Laura Dern): Working mom Renata has a high-powered job in the tech industry, but she still finds the time to get deeply involved in schoolyard politics. When her daughter Amabella accuses Jane’s son Ziggy of hurting her in class, Renata doesn’t hesitate to protect her child, driving a wedge between the women.

Jane (Shailene Woodley): Single mom Jane is new to Monterey. She’s not as well off as the other moms, and when her son Ziggy is accused of attacking Renata’s daughter on the first day of school, it leads to conflict with some of the other mothers.

Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz): Yoga teacher Bonnie is married to Madeline’s ex-husband Nathan. She and Madeline have a testy relationship, in part because Madeline believes Bonnie is meddling in her parenting of Abigail.

What about the murder?

Zoe Kravitz Big Little Lies
Zoe Kravitz in Big Little Lies | Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/courtesy of HBO

The question of which child attacked Renata’s daughter Amabella drives a lot of the conflict between the women of Big Little Lies, and it eventually emerges that there’s a big connection between that drama and Perry’s murder.

Jane, who is convinced her son Ziggy is not a bully, eventually gets him to confess that it was Ziggy who choked Amabella. She tells Celeste, who is horrified to learn that her son has witnessed the violence between his parents at home and is now acting out against the other children at school.

Jane and her son Ziggy also have a more direct — and disturbing — tie to Perry. Early on in the season, we learn that Ziggy was conceived when Jane was raped by a man she knew as Saxon Banks. But in the revelation-packed final episode, Jane discovers that that was just an alias Perry used, and Perry is actually her rapist and Ziggy’s father.

On the night of the Audrey-and-Elvis-themed school fundraiser, Perry learns of Celeste’s plans to leave him. He confronts her, with Madeline, Renata, Bonnie, and Jane all there to see the attack. Bonnie rushes to Celeste’s defense, giving Perry the fatal shove down the stairs.

One important thing to note: In the book by Liane Moriarty on which the first season is based, it’s made clear that Bonnie experienced abuse as a child. That helps explain the way she responded to Perry. Presumably, Bonnie’s past will be explored in more detail in the next season.

What to expect from Season 2

Season 2 will apparently deal with the repercussions of Perry’s death and the coverup. The women who witnessed his fall have been dubbed the “Monterey Five” by the rest of the community, and they’ve banded together to protect their shared secret.

But things get complicated when Perry’s mother Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) shows up in town. Ostensibly, she’s there to help Celeste out in the wake of her husband’s death, but she’s also investigating what really happened to her son. In other words, expect just as much drama — if not more — this time around.

Check out Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Facebook!