Sunday, July 7, 2019

REVIEW: 'Big Little Lies' - Celeste and Jane Deal With Their Children After an Incident at School in 'Kill Me'

HBO's Big Little Lies - Episode 2.05 "Kill Me"

Renata deals with the fallout from Gordon's legal troubles and attempts to help Celeste. Bonnie relives painful memories from her past.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's Big Little Lies.

"Kill Me" was directed by Andrea Arnold with story by David E. Kelley & Liane Moriarty and teleplay by David E. Kelley

The Greek chorus was one of the few elements the creative team chose not to bring back for the second season. It was a structural device that was annoying and drew heavy criticism. And yet, its broad purpose is still being felt in the storytelling choices of this season. In the first year, those elements really introduced the idea that the audience should be looking at every action with suspicion. Any of the choices the characters made could eventually boil up to explain how they were capable of murder. As such, it was a continual guessing game to see whose narrative best fit that conclusion. Those elements are absolutely at play this year as well. However, it's not teasing towards a murder. Right now, the mystery of the season is saying that this is all building to something that might happen or not. That is much more broadly defined and has allowed the drive of the season to be less focused. That could be very beneficial and rewarding to those audience members who just want to focus on the character interactions and the individual lives of the Monterey Five. It doesn't always have to be building to something huge and life-changing. That's the narrative hook of the show though. The Monterey Five got that moniker because they were the five witnesses to a death that was either an accident or murder. And now, the show has been teasing how that central secret has been terrifying their lives. It has meant they have all been constantly looking over their shoulders. The show has presented ample reasons for them to be concerned as well. But again, it's all a lingering question of just how consequential any given action may turn out to be in the end. Does Detective Quinlan showing up in random places signal something greater about what she may infer about the women? Or does it just portray the small world quality of this community and the lingering fears the Monterey Five carry with them every day? Those questions are constantly being asked. The show is perhaps being a little too vague and just blindly asking the audience to remain engaged with the hope that it will all lead to something significant. That may or may not include Elizabeth's visions of Bonnie drowning. That may or may not include Bonnie constantly wanting to go to the police and tell the truth. That may or may not include Celeste's friends being called to testify in her custody case and have to provide answers about the night Perry died on the record. That may or may not include Corey being at the police station for some reason. These are all elements the show has included in rapid succession in order to make everyone curious about what may actually be going on. There may not be anything nefarious happening at all. These could all be pure coincidences. It just plays differently in the minds of those with something to be guilty about. That could be a fascinating direction for the show to pursue. But it also makes it a struggle to really be engaged in the moment because those teases embody so much of the storytelling right now. The show is more than capable of being consequential when the story demands it. Celeste is fighting to keep her children after Mary Louise sues for custody. Ziggy, Josh and Max are suspended for three days after getting into a fight at school. These are big moments that have ramifications. But they remain in service of something that remains obliquely on the horizon.

There is only incremental progress when it comes to the custody battle as well. Mary Louise and Celeste both have their lawyers. They appear in front of a judge. It's fascinating how those two characters remain at the center of the drama instead of allowing the outsiders trained in this specific world to take over. Mary Louise and Celeste are dictating what their responses will be to each other. Mary Louise understands that Celeste is well-liked in the community and has friends who will rush to her rescue. She won't let herself be bullied though. She sees her actions as being the best for the children. They may not be safe in Celeste's care until she gets proper treatment. And yes, it's clear that the show aspires for the same volatility in this specific family as the first season had. Celeste has just lost her sparing partner in Perry. That absence has created a vacuum. Part of it has been taken up by Mary Louise and this custody fight. But Celeste continues to lash out in interesting ways that could make her life more complicated moving forward. She was willing to say that she was the one who pushed Perry down the stairs. That was her immediate reaction in the aftermath of her husband's death. That is heard for the first time at the start of this episode. Now, specific details about that night are still shrouded in secrecy. That too can be very annoying. Plus, it's fascinating to see how Madeline is willing to change and reflect on her personal drive when it comes to her marriage to Ed but remains steadfast in the need to strengthen the secret amongst her friends. She has learned her lesson when it comes to infidelity. She wants to earn his trust back. She doesn't know if she can even trust herself though. They remain committed as a family. A marriage takes so much more than that though. She may be right in saying that infidelity may not be the betrayal that ultimately destroys this relationship. Instead, it may come from the truth being exposed elsewhere about what she was willing to do to protect her friends. Or perhaps life won't implode for this couple at all. The temptation is still always present. Any moment could see Madeline or Ed moving outside of this marriage in order to get momentary satisfaction. That hasn't happened yet though. In fact, personal intimacy can be so difficult to navigate for so many people. Renata doesn't want to put up with her husband in any regard because of all that she has lost because of the bankruptcy. Jane wants to be intimate with Corey but continues to be traumatized by what Perry did to her. Everyone is now trying to put their focus on the kids and making sure that they are taken care of during this uncertain time. But the kids themselves feel the constant need to be supportive of their parents who need the love and attention even more. That too is an inverse of what should naturally happen and again could spell disaster at some point in the final episodes.