Sunday, July 14, 2019

REVIEW: 'Big Little Lies' - Celeste's Character Is Questioned in Court While Madeline Fights for Ed's Love in 'The Bad Mother'

HBO's Big Little Lies - Episode 2.06 "The Bad Mother"

Celeste is blindsided by Mary Louise. Renata learns that Gordon's missteps are more than financial. Bonnie contemplates a solution to her mother's suffering and her own ongoing guilt. Ed entertains an unusual proposition from Tori, before catching Madeline in an unguarded moment. The Monterey Five feel the pressure of increased scrutiny of Perry's death.

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.

"The Bad Mother" was directed by Andrea Arnold with story by David E. Kelley & Liane Moriarty and teleplay by David E. Kelley

Over the last few episodes, it has been hard to get a strong read on what exactly this season has been building towards in its final act. There was absolutely the sense that something big was on the horizon. And yet, every little tease could either be seen as hugely important or completely inconsequential. And now, this hour snaps everything into focus in a very crucial way. Sure, there are some moments where it feels like the show is just trying to fill the hour and keep the personal lives of some of the peripheral characters full as it heads into the final beats of the season. The main action has largely shifted into courtroom drama. That's something that David E. Kelley has a ton of experience with as well. It lends a ton of credibility to the onscreen depiction of this child custody case. But again, the audience is left to wonder if the conclusion of that custody battle and Elizabeth's fate are the big looming questions for the season. They are not. Sure, this hour sets up that a big confrontation is coming between Celeste and Mary Louise. Their face offs in court will finally delve into Mary Louise's own past and her ability to be a parent to Max and Josh. That comes after the hour overwhelmingly mines Celeste's own life to determine if she can still be seen as a fit parent. The judge is even willing to issue her own ruling after these two days of testimony. And yes, those scenes of Celeste on the stand are powerful. It's more than her just answering questions about the suspicious details of her husband's death. That's what has the Monterey Five so worried at the moment. They fear that the walls are finally closing in on them. One of them has to cut a deal because it's inevitable that Detective Quinlan will learn the truth. This hour finally confirms that she doesn't buy the cover-up story given by the Monterey Five. She knows the logistics don't line up with an accidental fall down the stairs. She and Mary Louise are armed in that belief. They are trying to get justice for this man whom the Monterey Five see as a monster who deserved the precise punishment that he got. Of course, that may not be for them to decide. And now, they may have to deal with those consequences. Ed knows that Madeline is still keeping something from him. He sees that as the reason why he can no longer trust her. She manages to earn some good will back. It's not because she is honest though. She does that simply by living in the moment. She is corny and sentimental about the life they have together. It surprisingly works as well. This may be a marriage that could end in a happy place. That's not the same fate that could befall the rest of the Monterey Five. Perry is dead and Celeste's sex life is put under heavy scrutiny in court. Bonnie admits that she was willing to settle for Nathan as her husband even though she's not in love with him. Jane feels betrayed by Corey because he talked to the police even though he didn't share anything damaging to them. And Renata learns that Gordon has been having sex with the nanny. That only adds to the bankruptcy drama. All of these issues are boiling up at this point and will have serious, longterm consequences. It seems impossible that they will all be able to maintain their lives moving forward. But again, the show has to pull the trigger on that in the finale.

Right now, the show is working extremely hard to explain some of the character decisions that were made in the past. Celeste is on the stand trying to talk about her own issues. She is seeking help. She has been in therapy for awhile. She wants to believe that she has made progress. And yet, that may not be true given all of the evidence provided about her actions this season. She may just be looking for a new outlet to release her anger now that Perry is gone. That's not healthy and that is pointed out repeatedly to her. Sure, it runs the risk of being demeaning and demoralizing. She breaks down and wants to lash out. She sees the importance of fighting for herself because her lawyer may not be up to the task. It's Madeline who motivates Celeste into taking the stand again. It's the judge who asks the follow-up questions. And now, Celeste sees the value in getting to question Mary Louise herself even though that could blow up in her face. Jane confronts Mary Louise here. She wants to know how she could possibly do that to a person she fundamentally believes is a good mother. Instead, Mary Louise may just be stirring up drama and sowing dissent amongst this community. She wants them to know that they aren't as smart or cunning as they believe themselves to be. And yes, that may very well be true. That guilt is getting the better of some of them. Bonnie has been struggling with it all season long. She was the one who actually pushed Perry down the stairs. She makes her confession here. She dreams of standing up in court and declaring herself to be the killer. It's an impulse she has in order to be the savior Celeste needs when she is faced with those specific accusations. She doesn't make that confession though. Nor does she follow her mother's wishes to kill her. She is certainly tempted to do so. She even asks the doctor about it. But it's ultimately more important that she has that honest and brutal conversation with her mother. Sure, it retroactively does a better job at explaining Bonnie's motivations for pushing Perry down the stairs than any previous episode of the show. That should be seen as a very significant criticism. And yet, its inclusion here helps better flesh out this world. This season has been exploring the idea of troubled parenting and the lingering repercussions of trauma. Bonnie has held onto all of this resentment and repression because of the extreme and volatile childhood she had because of her mother. She resents her for so much of her life. She wants to forgive her though. She is still there at her bedside every single day. That is significant as well. There is even the suggestion that Elizabeth is aware enough to understand it all too. That makes that moment land wonderfully well. Bonnie finally gets the truth off her chest. It could be freeing. Or not. The finale will tell the audience which outcome to expect. It's bound to shake up a few of the characters' lives at least.