“It's over, it's over, it's over, it's over…” are the final words sung in the penultimate episode of Big Little Lies, “The Bad Mother.” It’s a warning, both literally and theoretically. The final episode of the season approaches, and with no plans for a season 3, this journey with the modern Stepford Wives turned Real Housewives of Monterey is about to end forever. Within the show, it warns the potential end of a few other things, too: Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) mother’s life, Ed (Adam Scott) and Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) marriage, Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) custody of her children, Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) trust in Corey (Douglas Smith), and Renata’s (Laura Dern) life as a self-made and respected businesswoman. The times are a-changing in the absolute bleakest ways possible. The walls, and waves, are closing in on the women and their lie, and soon it’s going to be so tight that someone’s going to have to burst out.
But besides the impending doom and promises of drowning, this episode reminded me a lot of a show I used to be obsessed with: Lie to Me. That show taught me that politicians lie, men lie, and women lie — and that the only person who can really tell when someone is telling the truth is Cal Lightman (Tim Roth). When we see Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) looking at and examining videos from the night Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) died alongside her new best friend, Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey), I feel like she is channeling Lightman. She stares at Celeste’s confession with a furrowed brow, hoping to spot a glimmer of guilt. But she hasn’t just watched Celeste’s — now we know that in the opening flashback scenes of the episode, cut between taped interviews from the women, the person rewatching those tapes was not a detective, but Miss AARP Nancy Drew herself, Mary Louise.
Gearing up for next week’s allegedly hopeful finale, I, too, will embody Cal Lightman, and predict which of the Monterey Five is the closest to breaking their pact and spilling the lie.
Mary Louise has been moving her chess pieces this whole time to build a case against Celeste. The case, we all thought, was about custody of the twins. But, did we really think that was it? We all knew that Mary Louise has been collecting information and making enemies since she’s come to town, and she’s finally ready to show all her cards with the help of her snake-y lawyer (Denis O'Hare).
The first hearing is brutal, just like Mary Louise wanted. She wants to break Celeste. I really think she might have even been drugging her with Ambien she stole out of Celeste’s bathroom. Remember when we saw her snooping? She’s playing the long con to set her daughter-in-law up for murder. The women, all in attendance, quickly realize how out-of-hand this is getting. They all close their eyes at one point, as photos, taken either by a private investigator hired by Mary Louise or by the police, of Celeste’s recent sexual partners flash on-screen. During a debrief after day one, Madeline tells Celeste to stay strong, but the fire in her eyes is gone. She is on trial for murder, not custody.
The fire doesn’t return until the last few minutes of the episode, after Celeste has been embarrassed, exposed, and utterly torn down at the hands of her sons’ grandmother. She stands up — defying the wishes of her soft-spoken and loyal, but not nearly aggressive enough lawyer Katie (Poorna Jagannathan) — and announces that she is taking over the board.
“I would like to call a witness,” she tells the judge. She’s bringing in a character witness against Mary Louise, a total wildcard move. “I am entitled to participate in my own defense,” she says, after reiterating that she is an attorney. “It is my fight your honor, I ask that you let me wage it.”
Now, who could this staunchly anti-Mary Louise figure be? I have a few guesses.
Perry’s dad. Back in episode 4, Mary Louise told Celeste that her ex-husband blamed her for the death of Perry’s brother and after they split, he started a new family without her. It sounds like he would be against the idea of her taking care of two young boys yet again. This is my top guess. (This character better by played by Stellan Skarsgård.)
Dr. Andrea Reisman (Robin Weigert ). Celeste had a bit of a falling out with her therapist, but if she allows her to break client confidentiality, then she could share damning evidence against Perry — possibly including new information about how much Mary Louise know about the abuse.
Jane Chapman. She could have been recording her previous conversations with Mary Louise, or been using Ziggy (Iain Armitage) as a spy, beating Mary Louise at her own game. Jane owes Celeste.
Someone random. I don’t see this happening. It’s the last episode — it has to be someone the show hinted at before.
Will she confess to the lie?
I really hope Celeste wins custody of her kids with her surprise witness, and that she shoos her monster-in-law and her oddly-shaped glasses out of Monterey for good. That said, this week did not go well. Throughout the season, I would not have guessed that Celeste would be the one to crack and give up the lie, but after this week’s episode, I can’t imagine that the thought hadn't crossed her mind. What if Celeste shows up to the courthouse drunk or on Ambien? Will the lies just pour out before she can stop them?
Bonnie! Our sweet yoga teacher has really been through some shit in her childhood. This season we’ve learned that all these women had really rough childhoods. Jane was barely an adult when she was raped, Celeste didn’t have a relationship with her parents, Madeline was scarred by seeing her dad cheating on her mom, Renata was poor (the worst scenario for her, personally), and now we know that Bonnie was physically and mentally abused by her mother.
“It looks like it’s time,” Bonnie tells her mom, Elizabeth (Crystal Fox), who is still in a coma. (She opens her eyes and talks only in Bonnie’s blurry daydreams.) Bonnie confronts her mother by reading a poem she has written. In it, she lists all the things she resents about her mother in true Kat Stratford fashion (albeit a much darker, more intense topic). She resents her for all the sex she used to have when she was 13 to prove to herself that she was loved, how she wants to beat “the shit” out of everyone, how she settled for a relationship with a man she doesn’t love, and how she killed a man.”I was pushing you,” she says, through tears. “I was killing you.”
We don’t see Bonnie or her mom again this episode. Elizabeth may be dead, and Bonnie’s conscience may be cleared of one death, but heavy with another.
Will she confess to the lie?
I mean, as if the season hasn’t been teasing this since day one. I would be disappointed if anyone but her tells the lie. How unsatisfying would that be if Renata just blurted out the lie after Bonnie’s been beating herself up about it? I personally think someone might find her little “I Hate My Mom” journal at the hospital and that will be the final nail in the lie’s coffin.
Madeline Martha Mackenzie
God, Madeline really drank her bitch juice this week and I love it. When she tells Bonnie, who is going through a LOT right now, to fuck off because she’s “so tired of taking care of [her] and [her] fucking feelings” the whole lie almost becomes unhinged, like Madeline herself. We learned this season that Madeline is the initial creator of the lie. She immediately spits it out after Bonnie pushes Perry down the stairs, and it has been her calling card ever since.
Bonnie and Madeline kiss and make up fast enough for them all to rally behind Celeste at her extremely dramatic and blush-inducing first day at court, but Madeline and Ed continue to stay in exist in a weird purgatory. Madeline wants to tell Ed the secret and the lie to mend their marriage and rebuild trust, but Renata shuts down the idea. The anxiety behind the lie bubbles up in a bizarre 27 Dresses cosplay moment where Madeline dances around in her old wedding dress.
Will she confess to the lie?
I don’t think she’ll tell the police, especially since she is the one that came up with the lie, but I think she will tell Ed. And probably Abigail (Kathryn Newton). But Abigail probably already knows. Teenagers.
Corey (Douglas Smith) isn’t a cop! We can breathe easy. But, that doesn’t mean actual cops aren’t hot on Jane’s trail. Corey tells Jane, who ignores him for the rest of the episode after their confrontation (but hopefully she doesn’t ice him out for the rest of the season!), that Detective Quinlan is confident that one of the five moms is coming to crack. And with that opening, she’ll solve the cast. He tells her that Quinlan knows about the rape, and about Ziggy. This is bad! Paired with Celeste’s court hearing, the Monterey Five need to watch their backs.
But Jane’s confrontation pales in comparison to her volatile conversation with Mary Louise. Remember, these two almost-relatives are neighbors, which means Jane is just a few doors down from Mary Louise’s incredulous stares and behaviors. But this time it’s Jane who approaches Perry’s mom, and it’s Jane who demands answers until the tables turn. “Ziggy told me you purchased a gun,” Mary Louise says coldly. “Did you plan to use it on my son?” Then, Jane snaps. This stand-off between the two has been a long time coming, but as Mary Louise slams the door and turns up her music to drown out Jane’s screaming and banging, I started to get mad at Jane. She is acting so guilty. Doesn’t she realize every interaction with Mary Louise is going to be used as evidence? Just be cool!
Will she confess to the lie?
No. She is the most satisfied from the murder. She’ll deal with the lump of guilt in the throat for the rest of her life because it’s better than living in fear.
Let’s do a quick Renata “fuck” count. After learning, in front of a room of people in bankruptcy court, that Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) had been sleeping with Amabella’s (Ivy George) nanny, Renata has a well-deserved meltdown on the car ride home. She says “fuck” 11 times. Let’s revisit her expletive-filled monologue:
“Shut up the fuck up for the rest of your fucked up fucking life, do you hear me? I don’t want to hear one fucking word from your fucking fucked up twerp mouth about why you fucked up. No matter what fucked up excuse you come up with, you fucking fuck shit! Fuckhead!!!! The fucking nanny?”
To recap: Gordon is a cheat, and a cheater, and likely a sexual harasser.
Will she confess to the lie?
No. Definitely not. These friends are all she has right now.
For being dead, Perry played a huge part in this week’s episode. The custody case, led by his vengeful mother, is less about Mary Louise’s grandchildren and more about her late child. The ghost of Perry still haunts the daily lives of these women.
Ed has been having his own low-key meet-ups. Namely, he met up with Tori, the woman who approached him at the bar last episode, and the wife of the theater teacher Madeline slept with. This time, she’s asking Ed to have a one-night stand or, hey, maybe even a full-blown affair, to help him get over Madeline’s infidelity. So much for Ed being all about “truth and honesty.”
Nate isn’t really in the episode, except when he stops by the hospital with Skye and notices Bonnie’s green book ’o’ secrets. As the audience, we know that Bonnie doesn’t love him — doesn’t even really like him. Poor Nate! Maybe he and Ed can bond over broken marriages at the local pub. Please just be friends.
-Remember when Celeste’s therapist asked if she self-harmed? Now we know that the mysterious bruises are probably from her experiences with the other men in her life. I thought that was obvious, but a colleague thought that the court appearances showed that Celeste does self-harm, the way she grabs her own wrists when she’s nervous. Either way, it’s an external reminder of her inner struggles.
-How dark was that stuff with Bonnie’s mom? When she imagines suffocating her? Suffocating is kind of like drowning...does this mean Bonnie will “drown” her mom, instead of herself?