Some major spoilers for the show may be discussed!
Take a New York Times best-selling novel and adapt it for the small screen. Add an award winning director plus a Hollywood A-list cast, and what do you get?…high expectations. Did Big Little Lies live up to the hype that surrounded it? Absolutely! Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Big Little Lies takes place amongst the nouveau rich of the Californian town of Monterey where beautiful houses juxtapose ugly lives. The premise of the show is a murder mystery, however, it deviates from the traditional “who killed ‘x’ and why?” chase that we see again and again. Instead, ‘who’ was murdered, ‘how’ they were murdered and ‘why’ is only revealed in the final episode, though the clues are there for those looking. Given the murder mystery genre is saturated, the deviation from the usual pattern is refreshing.
Big Little Lies focusses on the lives of five women; Celeste, Madeline, Jane, Renata and Bonnie. All five women have kids in the same first-grade class and the dynamics between these women are volatile. Celeste, Madeline and Jane are all friends. Renata is a career-driven mother who accuses Jane’s son of bullying her daughter. Meanwhile, Bonnie is married to Madeline’s ex-husband and is the stepmother of Madeline’s eldest daughter. By having well-written female characters with complex relationships, Big Little Lies has the scope to explore a myriad of topics from working mothers to abuse to tension amongst blended families. In an industry where the under-representation and objectification of women is pronounced, it is refreshing and promising to see a TV show where all the lead actors are female and there is significant depth to their characters. Despite the overarching murder mystery, what really drives Big Little Lies are the dynamic relationship between these women and the tensions that are played out amongst them.
Given the calibre of the cast, brilliant acting was to be expected. However, it must be said that Nicole Kidman was phenomenal as Celeste, demonstrating why she remains one of the leading ladies of Hollywood.
My major issue with the series was the final episode. The final episode posed the challenges of having to portray many characters’ perspectives in a short amount of time. Having spent six episodes invested in the major questions, I felt the final episode under-delivered in regards to the answers we’d been waiting for. Too much time was dedicated to creating tension between Madeline and Joseph when in the end we are given no closure as to whether Madeline’s marriage survives the revelation of the affair. Additionally, muted confessions by the primary characters do not serve the story and waste precious time that could have been better used. Meanwhile, important revelations such as the reveal of who raped Jane is hardly given any screen time, and again the fallout from such a revelation is hardly explored. The final episode fails to provide a sense of closure as we are given insufficient answers to the questions that have haunted us in the previous episodes. Show writer David E. Kelley said himself that “life doesn’t serve up closure very often.” I guess a lack of closure must also extend to the TV series we watch as well, particularly given that a second season is unlikely.
Riveting, engaging and intelligent. Big Little Lies is most likely one the best TV series we will see this year, and for the most part, it was brilliantly executed.