Meryl Streep is basically the reason Big Little Lies needed a second season. The book, written by Liane Moriarty, ended exactly how the first season did, and the story technically didn't have to keep unfolding. But would you turn down a chance to see Meryl Streep playing a timid-yet-evil mother sparring with Reese Witherspoon? I didn't think so.
Streep, who plays the late Perry's (Alexander Skarsgard) mother Mary-Louise, is one of the first faces we see on last night's season premiere, and she's easily the most memorable. This isn't to say Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley aren't a delight to have back on our screens. They so seamlessly return to the somewhat petty hustle and bustle of Monterey, CA that it's like we never left, plus we also got an amazing shot of Dern lip-syncing during a photoshoot. Still, the moment I won't be forgetting for some time? The scream.
Towards the end of the episode 1, "What Have They Done?", Meryl Streep unleashes what is easily the most scene-stealing performance of the premiere. Prompted by one of Celeste's (Kidman) twins saying they miss their dead father, Mary-Louise launches into a monologue about her late son Perry that ends with a triumphant roar.
"The other day I was with some friends and their sons were not a patch on your dad, not a patch," she begins. "I felt so angry that their mediocre secondary pudgy balding middle-management sons were still alive and my Perry, my Perry...I just wanted to scream. So you know what I did? I did scream. Wanna hear?"
And then...she lets it rip. It's piercing, and guttural, and should qualify Streep for an Emmy, so jarring is it coming from a character who has proven herself to be so quietly suspicious.
Celeste reacts how you might expect: With shock that turns into a frantic need to calm Mary-Louise down, but the mother simply laughs.
"My grief is too loud for you?" she says. "We should scream. We should scream and beat our breasts and tear our hair."
And then she asks the question that has no good answer: "Don't you feel angry?"
It's clear the now-dubbed "Monterey Five" don't know how to feel about the events of last season's finale, but Mary-Louise? She's going to find out.