‘Big Little Lies’: Was Season 2 a Flop?

Let’s face it, the second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies did not live up to the first. Although the cast delivered incredible performances and many of the actors could receive Emmy nominations, the writing and directing simply fell short. It could be in part due to the clash in vision between the two directors, Jean-Marc Vallée and Andrea Arnold. 

Here’s a closer look at what the Monterey Five are up to in the second season. WARNING Season 2 SPOILERS!

Big Little Lies Season 2 cast
Big Little Lies Season 2 cast | Jennifer Clasen/HBO

The ‘Big Little Lies’ cast delivered stellar performances

Through the first three episodes of Big Little Lies Season 2, we were so enthralled with the cast and the return of these characters, that we almost did not notice the complete lack of plot development. But, the addition of Meryl Streep certainly fired things up a bit. 

Streep joined the cast as Mary Louise Wright, the meddling monster-in-law of Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman). The iconic actress effectively turned a one-note villain into a transfixing one, almost certainly earning her an Emmy nomination. 

Kidman also delivered a solid performance as we saw her character battle Streep’s in the final episode courtroom showdown. 

Reese Witherspoon’s character, Madeline, struggled to save her marriage when her husband, Ed (Adam Scott), discovered she had been cheating on him. 

Zoe Kravitz, who plays Bonnie, delivered an amazing soliloquy when she confessed that she pushed Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) because she wanted to push her mother instead. It almost makes up for the fact that they left her character staring at the white walls of her mother’s hospital room most of the season. 

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WE CAN’T @lauradern #BLL2

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Laura Dern was unhinged in her truly masterful performance, portraying the strong emotions of Renata Klein. The excessive amount of gifs and memes floating around social media — thanks to Dern — ensures that no one will forget the laughs she gave us in season 2. We can still picture her tapping on the glass in the prison when visiting her husband, Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling), screaming, “I will not-not be rich!” 

The cast truly delivered, but they could only do so much with the script they were given.

‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 lacked a well-developed plot

Season 2 simply stewed on old problems from season 1. 

Madeline dealt with the fallout and repercussions of her affair, which we witnessed in season 1. And, we see the same conversation about trust and communication over and over again from Madeline and Ed. 

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that’s perjury, babe

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Bonnie struggled with her internal conflict of pushing Celeste’s husband to his death. And, her character had more monologues and more backstory, but not much more distinction. 

Celeste continued to grapple with the lasting effects of her abusive relationship with her husband, even after his death. 

In season 1, we saw Jane (Shailene Woodley) flee to Monterey to run from her attacker, only to find him standing right in front of her. With the death of Perry Wright, we thought things would be different in season 2. However, his mother took his place in dredging up Jane’s feelings from his abuse. 

With the exception of Renata, who was the only character who explored a new storyline with her looming bankruptcy, it seems as though reflecting on season 1 became the plot of season 2. This ultimately left viewers wanting more than just flashbacks from the first season (and Laura Dern swinging a baseball bat — although we loved that scene). 

The HBO drama struggled with the style of 2 different directors

The show was also met with criticism because of how choppy it appeared. And, it is possible that the season felt this way because of internal issues. 

When the producers approached Andrea Arnold about directing season 2 of Big Little Lies, they told her she would have the creative freedom to do what she pleased. However, according to a number of sources, the control was handed over to the director of season 1, Jean-Marc Vallée, in late 2018, so that the series could seem more cohesive. A team of editors then took Arnold’s work, spliced it, and filmed reshoots to match the style of the original. This left us with bits and pieces of each director’s work, which lacked in the cohesiveness showrunner, David E. Kelley was going for.

While we loved the cast of season 2, we will have to re-watch season 1 of Big Little Lies to really get back that feeling we were aching for.