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Big Little Lies Season 2, Episode 1 recap: The 5 takeaways from What Have They Done?

Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap
Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap. See below. Pic credit: HBO

Tonight Big Little Lies returns with a second season that puts all the women in positions of looking over their shoulders.

For those who don’t remember, at the end of last season, the show revealed a major twist that Celeste’s husband Perry was the one who raped Jane.

This revelation happened at a fundraiser where all the women had to defend themselves against Perry before Bonnie ended the scuffle by pushing him down a flight of stairs and killing him.

This week, the now termed “Monterey 5” have to deal with the consequences of lying about the unfortunate night, and everyone seems to be dealing with the trauma in their own way.

Also, Meryl Streep makes a huge splash this episode by stealing almost every scene given to her.

Here are five takeaways from Big Little Lies Season 2, episode 1!

Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap: Bonnie is affected the most. Pic credit: HBO

#1 Bonnie is the most affected  by Perry’s death

The second season of Big Little Lies finds Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) back from a trip to Tahoe and very dealing with PTSD following Perry’s murder and the subsequent secrecy surrounding it. In the words of Nathan, “Bonnie has mentally left the building.”

She doesn’t know how to forgive herself for the part she played in Perry’s death is frustrated with Madeline for not allowing her to turn herself in.

This turn of events caused her to shut herself off from everyone, even the other women who shared in the tragic experience. Nathan finds himself at a loss as to how to pull her out of this numbed wall she has built, and he asks Madeleine’s husband, Ed, for advice on how to talk to Bonnie.

Out of all the women, Bonnie has taken this experience the hardest because “she killed someone, and she’s very angry at herself.” She lost her sense of connection to everyone around her, including her child.

Bonnie’s lack of speech in this episode speaks volumes, as she seems unable to communicate with anyone, but her inner battle rages on as she flashes back to what is probably the worst experience of her life.

Bonnie’s complex character build up in this episode will make for a fascinating second season. As she battles her inner demons, will she triumph over them or will they be her ultimate downfall?

Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap Jane
Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap: Jane confronted by a coworker. Pic credit: HBO

#2 Jane feels like she owes Celeste

Jane seems to be the most well-adjusted of the women in spite of the horrific encounter they shared. This could be due to Perry raping her, and her subsequent trauma in the first season. As someone who was more directly impacted by Perry’s abuse and harassment, in a sense, his death allowed her to put her monster to bed.

This season of Big Little Lies shows her dancing on the beach, working a new job at a pet store, and still rocking mom life with Ziggy. Jane still has struggles, though.

When she is dancing on the beach, one of her co-workers tells her she may need to quit because people are cautious with whom they trust their children in Monterey, and they do a lot of things for kids at the pet store.

He even goes so far as to ask if she’s on the spectrum. He also says she’s, “one of the Monterey Five.”

At the bewildered look on her face, he explains he heard from another coworker that, “she was there the night that guy tripped and died.” After this conversation, she and Madeleine, Celeste, and Renata all meet at the beach to discuss it.

Bonnie is noticeably absent. All of the women are forced to acknowledge that the case is not closed in the town’s minds, as people continue to gossip.

Later in the episode, Jane meets with Celeste, and over wine, viewers discover Celeste has been sending Jane checks which Jane has not been cashing.

When Celeste pointedly asks her why Jane responds that it is “rape money,” and she is not okay accepting it. Celeste insists that Ziggy is entitled to some of Perry’s estate.

Jane explains that she feels guilty for even considering sleeping with another man’s husband. This moment gives Celeste pause, but it’s obvious Jane is beating herself up enough without any need for help.

Jane also continues her passion for drawing and is seen sketching a very dark picture of Perry. It is undeniable from her conversation with Celeste that she still blames herself for being raped.

Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap Madeline
Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap: Madeline fights with Abigail. Pic credit: HBO

#3 Madeline is still living vicariously through her daughter

Given the trauma all the women experienced at the end of last season, it appears Madeline has not changed much. She’s still the ferocious bite-sized firecracker everyone knew for better and worse. And sadly her drama issues with her daughter Abigail have reached new heights this episode.

Madeline and Nathan attempt to talk to a recruiter about Abigail’s future in education. Abigail then drops a massive bombshell on both of them. She has no intention of attending college.

This pronouncement sparks a gigantic confrontation between the both of them about her choice.

Later in the episode — after confronting Bonnie, who has shut down from trauma — Madeline makes a poor choice to confront her daughter as well and chastise her for not going to college.

Literally mouthing the words, “You are going because I say so.” Madeline then tops her stance with an exclamation mark conveying that she will force her to go because Madeline feels like her life has been pointless because she did not.

It’s hard to fully grasp whether one should be frustrated by Madeline this early in the season. She does not seem to have changed at all despite the significant life event of killing a person. One might even say that it would humble someone to a degree.

But it’s possible she is showing signs of anger towards Abigail because she does not want her to end up in a hard place — like being a wanted murderer.

Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap Mary Louise
Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap: Meryl Streep steals it all. Pic credit: HBO

#4 Mary Louise is one angry mother

Meryl Streep is an absolute force of nature this episode — and it’s only the first week. Her character, Mary Louise, makes every situation magnificently uncomfortable in the most enthralling way.

From the start of the episode, we learn she spent the majority of her time with Celeste now that her son Perry has died, and unfortunately for the Monterey 5, Celeste is having nightmares and talking in her sleep about all their secrets. This makes Mary Louise curious, and she starts passive-aggressively hunting for clues.

And she does so most of the episode by poking at Madeline, commenting on her height and correlating it to people who are unpleasant or erratic — in Madeline’s case, she is not entirely wrong.

Still, after poking the grizzly bear that is Madeline, Mary Louise insinuates that she believes Madeline knows something because she has a bad vibe about her.

Much later in the episode, Meryl Streep shows once again why she is one of the best actresses ever to live. During a dinner with Celeste and the grandchildren, the two kids keep lashing out at each other.

After Celeste intervenes, Mary Louise begins a long uncomfortable rant about the boys just being angry their father died, and that she too is angry.

To make matters weirder, she describes an event to Celeste and the kids that led her to want to scream. She then asks everyone at the table if they’d like hear it — and Meryl Streep lets out the most terrifying blood-curdling scream that should never be used at a dinner table… ever.

It’s a beautiful, uncomfortable, and revealing character moment that could only be executed by the confident hands of Streep.

Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap Celeste
Big Little Lies Season 2 episode 1 recap: Celeste seeks counsel for nightmares. Pic credit: HBO

#5 Celeste is having nightmares

Celeste is very obviously dealing with Battered Woman Syndrome. She has constant nightmares that wake her up screaming and crying, on top of a strange sense of grief for Perry and who he was in the beginning.

This episode shows flashbacks of Perry before the abuse truly began, and explains why she stayed with him for so long.

No woman sets out to be with an abusive man, and Celeste is no exception. She is grieving, but the question remains, what is she grieving for? Is Celeste lamenting what could have been? Grieving the part she played in Perry’s death? Grieving that she chose that specific time to leave him? Or all of the above?

As stated before, this episode brings in Meryl Streep as her mother-in-law Mary Louise who has some suspicion that her son Perry’s death was no accident.

Mary Louise is not convinced that Celeste’s grief is genuine, and her suspicions grow stronger when Celeste doesn’t appear to be angry that Perry is gone.

This episode also has a touching scene between Celeste and her counselor when Celeste is explaining that she regrets choosing that night to tell Perry she was going to leave him. Maybe if she had chosen a different night, he would not have died.

In response, her counselor says, “His message lives on even in death.” When Celeste asks what message, her counselor simply and powerfully responds, “That you are to blame.”

The episode ends with Celeste having another nightmare. This one features all of the women in a police lineup at the precinct with Perry coming forward to identify his murderers. When she sees him, she screams, “I’ll kill you!”

On this note, she wakes herself up, and Mary Louise comes to check on her. While comforting her, the episode ends on these strong words from Mary Louise to Celeste, “Who exactly are we going to kill?”

Final Thoughts

This episode was a decent return for the show, which mostly focused on the characters and the repercussions of Perry’s death. That said, the only nitpick about this first episode is the stakes feel low considering what happened and where season one left off.

It made it seem like the women were being hunted — which they probably are, but that aspect was only slightly felt through interrogation footage.

That said, the Big Little Lies Season 2 premiere contained all the things we know and love from the first season, including fantastic performances and character moments.

And with the incredible addition of Meryl Streep, this should be a worthy return for a show that began as a one-off season.

Big Little Lies Season 2 airs Sundays on HBO at 9/8c.


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