Big Little Lies Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: Kill Me

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
In the most shocking moment of season 2 of Big Little Lies so far, Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) mom, Elizabeth Howard (Crystal Fox) raspily tells her daughter to kill her. She’s been in the hospital since having a stroke at Amabella’s (Ivy George) birthday party, and now she wants to die. Or does she? Elizabeth’s barely-above-a-whisper demand — “kill me” — can mean a few things: She knows Bonnie has killed someone, and she’s calling her out on it. She wants to die, since it’s clear she isn’t getting better. She is warning Bonnie that her own life is in danger. But as the episode ends, it isn’t clear which is true, and left me wondering: Did Bonnie just...kill her mom?
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Needless to say, Bonnie is not okay. Her mom is not okay and maybe dead. What about the others? Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) told Ed (Adam Scott) last week that she wasn’t okay. Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is in the midst of a custody battle and going up against the vengeful Mary Louise (Meryl Streep). Jane is worried that Ziggy (Ian Armitage) is becoming like Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) after a violent incident at school, which is the opposite of okay. Renata (Laura Dern) has been stripped of her magazine feature about women in power, the only light in her life, which makes her squarely Not Okay. So they’re all not okay — in fact, I’d say they’re all a little unhinged, just like Chloe (Darby Camp) said. At this point, there are more dirty little secrets than the All-American Rejects song.
And it turns out the guy with the biggest secret of all is the one we (or at least I) was least expecting. What was sweet surfer Corey (Douglas Smith) doing at the Monterey Police Department in the middle of the night? Is that why he’s been so interested in Jane? In the words of Renata Klein: Fuck. Or rather, FUCK!
Bonnie Carlson
Water, waves, death — these are the images haunting Bonnie and her mom and also me, at this point. Elizabeth isn’t really getting better, but she does speak at times. Her few choice words are somehow even more gutting to Bonnie than her long spiritual spiels, though. And the worse her mom gets, the more her dad, Martin Howard (Martin Donovan) begins to blame Bonnie for her condition. While it’s been clear that Bonnie has a tumultuous relationship with her parents, more vivid flashbacks to her youth reveal the painful past. Her mother used to be a violent alcoholic, and would often go on drunken rants in front of little Bon. Sometimes, she emotionally and physically abused her. Her dad isn’t in these flashbacks, which means he wasn’t around to protect his daughter, something she still resents to this day. The absence of her father in her childhood could be why Bonnie is sticking with Nathan (Ed Tupper), even though she isn’t fully invested in the relationship. She wants Sky (Chloe Coleman) to have a proper father figure. She also wants Sky to have a happy, healthy mom, but she’s still working on that part.
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Renata Klein
After hearing that she won’t be included in the woman in power piece, Renata makes an effort to reassert herself. She decides to go up against the most powerful woman in Monterey right now: Mary Louise. Seated in the Klein’s half-empty home, drinking tea, Mary Louise absolutely obliterates any chance of Renata’s “Leave Celeste Alone!” ambush when she methodically, and diabolically, uses Renata’s self-made motto against her. She reminds the working mother of all the moments in her daughter’s life she’s missed, all the memories she’s traded to buy bigger boats and flat screen TVs, all to have it taken away because of her fuck-up husband. Mary Louise isn’t wrong, and that’s what makes her words so evil. (Also is just me or has Streep’s Mary Louise accent gone to a totally new place? She enunciates words with such insincerity and mouth thickness that it makes me squirm — it’s incredible.) The conversation sticks with Renata, who plans a mother-daughter day for her and Amabella. She’s righting her wrongs, but even Amabella’s sus over it: “This is because we are broke, isn’t it? And that we have to move?“
This is the third of Celeste’s friends to try to take on Mary Louise, after Madeline and Jane. None of them have ended the conversation-turned-confrontation on top. It’s clear where Perry got his cunning ability to manipulate and degrade others.
Celeste Wright
Celeste is trying out some radical honesty with Max and Josh (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti). She tells them up front that their grandma wants her to live with them, but the boys want to stay in their house with their mom. Of course they do! This is the only home they’ve known, and their last connection to their father. (I am a little confused how Celeste can still afford this home since she hasn’t been working, and it’s been over a year since his death.) Her moment of honesty with them comes after another lash-out, which makes me reluctantly agree with Mary Louise: Celeste needs anger management. She needs to continue to go to therapy; she needs to go to anger management; and she needs to stop self-harming. Although, based on her night with the bartender and her flashbacks to bathroom sex with another man, she might not be the one causing bruises on her arms and wrists. If Celeste is sleeping with other men, like Dr. Andrea Reisman (Robin Weigert) suggested, then good for her! I just hope she is being strategic about it since Mary Louise is currently building a case to prove she is an unfit mother. Based on these flashbacks, there’s room for judgement.
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Speaking of the case: Celeste is struggling not only with Mary Louise’s constant jabs, but also with her lawyer Katie Richmond, played by Poorna Jagannathan, who may look familiar to The Night Of fans. Katie’s instructs her not to react to her mother-in-law in front of the judge, but it’s getting increasingly difficult for her to remain level-headed. Mary Louise offers joint custody, but Celeste refuses. As if things couldn’t get worse for her, she’s warned that Perry’s death is going to come up during the custody trial because Mary Louise’s lawyer is working with the police. All the other moms are on the witness list and could be called up for questioning about Celeste as a mother. Just as easily, they could be asked about that night and their lie.
Is is why Mary Louise is seeking custody? Is it all a ruse for her to find out what really happened to her son? The gang has an emergency midnight meeting to strategize, but basically, they’re all freaking out.
Jane
After the twins and Ziggy are suspended for beating up a bully together (brother bonding), Jane, Celeste, and Corey take them on a day trip. Jane is finally comfortable around Corey, introducing him to her friends in episode 4, and now, in episode 5, initiating an intimate moment with him at his extremely fratty apartment. The moment ends in tears of frustration on Jane’s end, but it’s an overall sweet experience because it revealed Corey’s understanding of Jane’s complicated past. She isn’t totally broken — she’s Jane! She’s tough, but she is vulnerable. However, by the end of the episode, her vulnerability reaches new heights when we see Corey go to the police station at night. Did he enter their relationship as an informant for the police? Looking back, there are some clues to support that theory: When they first talk on the beach, he subtly has her confirm she’s one of the Monterey Five; he learns about her past and that Ziggy’s father raped her; he learns that Ziggy’s brothers are Celeste’s sons, thus that Perry is the one who assaulted her; he sees how close Jane is with the other women, and how often they slip away to whisper conspiratorially. If this is true, that sucks. Was he only there for her to get information? It breaks my heart.
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Madeline Martha Mackezie
Despite their healing couple’s retreat, and Madeline’s very off-key rendition of “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman),” things at the Mackenzie house are still not great. Madeline promises to never cheat on Ed again and to only make “new mistakes” in the future, if he’ll stick around. I, like Abigail (Kathryn Newton), do believe he will stick around, even if it’s mostly to help raise Chloe. Family first.
And family first is a mantra that Madeline will live and breathe by, goddammit, especially when she runs into Mary Louise while getting ice cream with Abigail (yes — this is the scene, although no ice cream is actually thrown). Madeline hasn’t been able to confront Perry’s mom since she delivered the court documents, and she has some words to share ahead of the trial: “What you’re doing is indecent. Trying to take those boys away from their mother? What’s wrong with you? Huh? Huh?”
The Husbands
Ed and Nathan continue to (almost literally) butt heads, but they may have found a solution to their near-constant hostility. After crossing paths on a run, Ed gives a peace-offering of sorts: “Can’t we be comfortable not liking each other?” Nathan scoffs at the suggestion, calling Ed a “nut fuck,” but as much as Nathan tries to come off as tough, I think he really needs a friend right now. It’s unfortunate timing because Ed’s on the defensive thanks to Madeline’s infidelity and has no room for his unfaithful wife’s ex-husband in his life, much less his inner circle. But as the two continue to drift farther from each other and their wives, they are getting closer to their children, and it’s really sweet to see the brief moments of Good Dad Behaviour. I sort of teared up when Chloe came and gave Ed a hug in the kitchen, and went Nathan took Sky by the hospital to see her grandma.
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In a world of Gordons, be an Ed/Nate.
Carpool Gossip
I’d love for Renata to teach law. When she tells Madeline, “That’s perjury, babe,” I really felt like she could cameo on the upcoming Legally Blonde reboot. Wait, Reese — let’s make this happen.
Uh, is Ed gonna sleep with Tori? Have a threesome with Tori and Joseph Bachman (Santiago Cabrera)?
If the ending montage is anything like the final two episodes of the season, then we better buckle up.
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