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Big Little Lies Episode 2 Review

Updated on February 26, 2017

Birthday Party Massacre

As parents, we like to delude ourselves into the condescending mindset that our children are oblivious to the traumas or avoidance of such in our lives. In Episode 2 of HBO's exceptional translation of Big Little Lies, Ziggy Chapman (Iain Armitage), the son of outcast Jane (Shailene Woodley) asks repeatedly "why did we move here?". She placates him with silence but she can't stifle his inquisitive nature. This veracious nuance along with many others is what David E. Kelly is so good at capturing.

We are now in the aftermath of the strangling incident at the Monteray school and it has instigated a firestorm of suspicion within the community. Even in a tacit yoga class, the loquacious Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) can't withhold her silence from the Avenue Q. petition which is the centerpiece of her existence. It's very resonant when Madeline states she "doesn't like to be touched." It's clear why Witherspoon chose this project to produce, she has a meaty, flamboyant role of the resident Chatty Cathy to explore.

Whereas Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) was the neglected member of the trio last week, her storyline is starting to simmer with domestic turmoil now. Her May-December romance with the younger Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) is mostly a gloss surface over a domineering core where he'll abuse her before engaging in heedless, vigorous sex. I can foresee how this track could culminate in a tragicomic ending.

Adam Scott is truly transcendent and obstinate in this episode as he pours out his heart about "how he will not be anybody's runner-up". His performances in the past have been predicated on his blind arrogance but in this show, he is ferociously, emotionally naked and we can relate to his frustration over his wife's incessant envy for his ex-husband.

I love the mordantly funny extortion scene where Madeline blackmails Renata (Laura Dern) into a polemic walk-out on her daughter's birthday party. The birthday party and its attendance is the only minor event in her stratosphere that she can control and she loves lording it over her minions. Later she bracingly says "I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets." It's an insightful observation on her tyranny.

Another award-caliber scene is the halcyon rendezvous with Ed (Scott) and Nathan (James Tupper) which quickly, organically spirals from a mediation into a battle of passive-aggressive barbs at each other's masculinity. Overall, this is another episode that vaults through the commonplace, petty trials of parenthood with fomenting clarity.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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