Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Big Little Lies 1x02 Review: “Serious Mothering” (Murder? What Murder?) [Guest Poster: Nora Williamson]

“Serious Mothering”
Original Airdate: February 26, 2017

The second episode of Big Little Lies, “Serious Mothering,” is even better than the first. The premiere had to set up the intrigue of the murder, but the second episode lets us get more acquainted with the characters in the beautiful Monterey community. The actual investigation seems to be on the backburner. We still see what some fellow parents and the principal have to say about the main characters in their interrogations, but it’s not as often as it was in the first episode. Those interactions had been a bit clunky in the premiere, but now flow easily throughout the story.

There is a lot going on with the characters, so let's break it down.


Reese Witherspoon is brilliant as Madeline and my opinion on that has not changed. What has changed is how I feel about Madeline as a character. On “Somebody’s Dead,” she’s a bit much to take. Madeline is a tour de force for sure, but she also kind of annoying.

Madeline is causing trouble again on this episode, but this time I’m liking her a lot more for it. But first, we see Madeline staring out at the ocean quietly, sipping coffee. It’s nice to see Madeline in a calm, quiet moment. There aren’t many with her. The serenity doesn’t last long. The recipients of Madeline’s wrath range from the parking attendant at Chloe’s school to the yoga teacher who tells Madeline that she might consider the pre-menopausal class.

Although it’s funny to see Madeline’s little bursts of rage, I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of it. Now, she’s even involving Chloe in one of her cage matches. Madeline is loyal, though, especially to her new friend Jane. In a discussion with Ed, we see why Madeline is so quick to befriend her. She was also a young, single mother who didn’t have any help. We haven’t seen Madeline act anything but chummy with Celeste, so we can assume that there isn’t tension there.

What’s interesting is the conversation Madeline and Celeste have about their husbands and their sex lives. We have seen what kind of sex Celeste has (more on that later) but we have barely seen Madeline and Ed as a couple. One of my biggest complaints about the first episode is that Adam Scott didn’t have anything to do. He’s one of my favorite actors and yet, Ed could have been played by anyone.

The scene when Madeline comes home and dances with Ed is really great. It’s not only good to see them as a couple, but to also see Madeline appreciate him. I have a feeling Ed does a lot but doesn’t always get credit for much. Ed and Madeline don’t have a ton of chemistry, but I definitely see them as a couple.

Ed’s scene with Madeline’s ex, Nathan, is one of my favorites. It’s the first time we really see Nathan have interactions with someone other than Madeline. I love how Ed handles himself and also threatens Nathan without really saying much.

I’m still holding out for more of Bonnie. I was waiting for an ugly confrontation between Madeline and Bonnie about Bonnie helping Abigail get on birth control. However, I thought that Madeline did well by keeping her cool but still giving Bonnie a stern warning.

Overall, Madeline became my favorite character during “Serious Mothering.” She is certainly flawed and obviously loves drama (“I love my grudges. I tend to them like pets.”) but I think she has a caring, sensible side to her. She makes a scene better with her presence.


Well, we certainly see a lot more of Celeste in “Serious Mothering.” She seems like she has it all. Gorgeous husband, adorable (but kind of creepy) twins, AND a full-time nanny, even though she’s a full-time mom. We know that Celeste is definitely in an abusive relationship, but it’s not one that we normally see portrayed.

Celeste hits Perry back, although her punches don’t do any damage. Perry apologizes right away and the two have angry sex. Celeste divulges a little of her secret to Madeline, which Madeline calls “twisted.” We know that this is something that has been going on for a while because Celeste is not surprised when Perry snaps and hits her. She brings up going to counseling again. How many times have they gone?

The most dramatic scene in “Serious Mothering” is when Perry and Celeste are driving the kids to school and Celeste tells him that they can only drop the kids off. Perry is upset because he thought he’d be able to go in and meet the teacher. Perry barely raises his voice but the looks he gives and the tone he uses is so menacing. For me, it is the tensest scene of the show because it really is such a small thing and yet, I can see Perry seething. I feared for Celeste, although it seems like Perry and Celeste don’t fight in front of the kids.

Speaking of the kids, we still don’t know who choked Renata’s daughter, Amabelle. It could be Ziggy, but I’m going to guess that it’s one of the twins. Also, the twins have taken home the classroom hippo and Celeste asks in passing about Harry the Hippo’s missing leg. Considering that the twins come from a violent home, I’m guessing that they’re picking up on more than Celeste and Perry realize.


Oh, Renata. She makes a bad situation worse by inviting everyone in the first grade to Amabelle’s birthday except for Ziggy. Of course, this infuriates Madeline, who comes up with a plan to invite a bunch of first-graders to see Frozen on Ice on the same day. It’s petty of Madeline, especially because Ziggy isn’t her kid, but I think Madeline is always looking for a way to annoy Renata.

Renata doesn’t seem to have a lot of support from her husband. He always says the wrong thing, which makes her walk away from him in disbelief. Renata struggles with being a working mom and she knows that that makes her unlikeable. I thought that maybe Renata was blowing things a little out of proportion about there being alliances between the working moms and the stay-at-home-moms. But we hear from Madeline that she only works part-time so that she “can reign over the working moms.”

We can see that Renata is trying to have it all, but becomes frustrated easily. As much as I like Madeline, I do have a soft spot for Renata. There’s just something about her that I like.

I enjoy the scene where Renata runs into Celeste and Madeline while they’re having drinks. She comes off as kind of fake, but also like she’s trying to smooth things over from the tension from earlier in the day.

It doesn’t work.

Renata and Madeline’s war will escalate, but will it have anything to do with the murder?


With the premiere, I found it hard to believe how quickly Madeline and Jane became friends. However, after Madeline tells Ed that she sees herself in Jane, it makes more sense. They also share a nice scene when Jane breaks down after being called to the principal’s office about Ziggy.

We still don’t know what or who Jane is running from, but I’m certain that Ziggy’s dad wasn’t simply a one-night stand. Jane still interests me, but I find her plot on “Serious Mothering” to be less compelling than the other storylines. That being said, I love Ziggy. He is the cutest. It’s also good to see that he and Chloe are actually friends and not just paired together because Madeline wants it that way.

Overall, “Serious Mothering” is another great episode of Big Little Lies. The plots that are going on with these women are so involving that it’s hard to remember that someone has actually been murdered. The women on this show continue to intrigue, and I’m counting down the days until the next episode.


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