Is Big Little Lies Setting Up The Great Mystery Of Bonnie?

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
“What have you done — this time?” It’s one of the last questions we hear in Big Little Lies season 2 episode “The Tell-Tale Hearts.” While usually someone as “wanting,” to use Mary Louise Wright’s (Meryl Streep) phrasing, as Martha Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) would be the one asked such an accusatory question in Monterey, that isn’t the case here. Instead, it’s poor broken Bonnie Carlson (Zoe Kravitz), the woman being swallowed by guilt for murdering Perry Weight (Alexander Skarsgård). The person raising the question is Bonnie’s mom, BLL new addition Elizabeth Howard (Crystal Fox).
While viewers don’t need Bonnie to answer her mother’s question — at least we know the fatal truth she’s hiding — we are left with another huge mystery: What did Bonnie do before we ever met her? Because no one says “this time” with that level of foreboding doom if there aren't any skeletons rolling around in the back of the closet. It’s possible the HBO drama will reveal those long-hidden demons over the next five episodes — they have already started planting the seeds.
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The first two episodes of Big Little Lies' second season are already more invested in Bonnie’s internal world than all of its first season combined. In the season 2 premiere, we see the former carefree yoga teacher consumed by not only remorse, but resentment. Bonnie is angry that on the night she pushed a violent Perry to his death, she followed Madeline’s lie and said he just slipped. Now, Bonnie can’t share her emotional dead weight with anyone, not even her husband (who happens to be Madeline’s first husband).
According to her mother, however, this isolating situation may be Bonnie’s ultimate wish fulfillment. During a walk in “Hearts,” Elizabeth calls son-in-law Nathan (James Tupper) a “complete dolt” and “dumb as a rock” when it comes to emotional social intelligence. “I often wonder if that’s why you married him,” Elizabeth continues. In Mrs. Howard’s eyes, her daughter’s self-imposed emotional solitude doesn’t end there. By choosing to live in Monterey, of all places, Bonnie is surrounded by people who do not “get” her, have no interest in doing so, and look nothing like her, Elizabeth points out. “Is that why you’re here?,” she asks. “Because we all know how fond you are of your walls.”
As other Big Little Lies storylines have proven, this isn’t a show where emotional walls exist without reason. Madeline is sabotaging her current marriage with Ed (Adam Scott) after the disaster of her first one (“Divorce creates trauma,” a shockingly emotionally astute Nathan sputters in “Heart”). Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) leaned into her perfect facade to hide the secrets of her abusive marriage. There must be a reason for Bonnie’s gigantic emotional barricades and her mother’s uneasy “what did you do now”-y interrogations.
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The Liane Moriatry book the HBO series is based off of would suggest BLL is about to delve into the fact Book that Bonnie’s father was abusive. However, “Tale-Tell Hearts” appears to be much more focused on Bonnie’s difficult relationship with her mother. During dinner, Bonnie stares at Elizabeth as she downs a glass of wine. Bonnie’s dad Martin (Martin Donovan) subtly motions to his daughter as if to say, “Don’t even go there.” Bonnie accepts the advice with a knowing eyebrow raise. It’s a chummy familial moment — one the very raw at the moment Bonnie likely wouldn’t fake. After all, seconds later, she needles her mom for “drinking again,” adding, “One glass is fine… 100 not so much.”
This is a woman who would seemingly have no issue calling out her dad if he were an abuser. So it’s possible the TV series’ deep-seated Howard family issues may be connected to Elizabeth instead. After the family matriarch drops some healing goods on her daughter’s bedside table — a feather, a bone, and a crystal are included — Bonnie immediately rejects the items the next day. “I don’t want any of that in my family’s life,” she choppily says. Does she have a bad prior experience?
There's also the possibility water is at the root of this family drama. “I have been having visions lately, Bonnie. I know you’ve had some too. They are strong. And, baby, somebody’s drowning,” Elizabeth says to close out her “Hearts” introduction. “I see lots of water and somebody’s drowning.” This is as true a statement as it can be when supposedly psychic visions are being tossed around. As you can spot early in the episode, when Elizabeth reaches for her daughter in the Carlson backyard, she sees a few flashes of watery blue — like someone drowning.
Is this really a vision? Or a shared memory Elizabeth forgot during her “100 glasses of wine” period? Now that Big Little Lies actually cares about Bonnie, it seems we’ll find out.
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