Big Little Lies season 2 episode 2 review: The show feels fresh, but somewhat trapped in season 1

Big Little Lies has never been more aptly named than in season 2 episode 2, ‘Tell-Tale Hearts’, which saw multiple long-simmering untruths boil over.

The Monterey Five were put in tight spots by generations on both sides, as gossip spread amongst their children at school and mothers probed into their personal lives. Let’s assess each of the storylines this week:

Madeleine

Despite coming from a comedy acting background and being surrounded on the cast by women with a collective truckload of awards, Adam Scott has been giving incredible performances every week in Big Little Lies.

He was particularly great in this instalment, giving such an authentic reaction to Madeleine’s (Reese Witherspoon) infidelity, his voice and demeanour measured but his hands visibly shaking. There was something grotesque about how undramatically he learned the truth from his daughter – a sudden shunt off the rails for the family, whose problems are now way bigger than Abigail’s college education.

Renata

Renata (Laura Dern) is probably the most enjoyable character in the show right now, as while the rest of the leads are entrapped in the past, she’s entering a brand new storyline.

I loved the unabashed sincerity with which she declared “I will not, not be rich!” here, her husband’s shady business dealings threatening her own career and reputation. Dumb husbands are dragged around like toddlers in Big Little Lies, and it doesn’t look like Renata is ready to cut Gordon loose yet. The daydream scene with Renata being laughed out of court was a fun little device in episode 2, and it would be good to see the show play with reality like this more.

Celeste and Jane

The children tend to act more grown up than the adults in Big Little Lies, and this week Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) efforts to keep the truth about Ziggy’s father secret from their children looked foolish, the kids taking the news in their stride.

A greater concern for the pair ought to be Mary-Louise (Meryl Streep) who refuses to believe ill of her son Perry and is probably going to compel the investigation into her son’s death to re-open. I’m not sure where the show is going with this whole ‘Mary-Louise gaslighting Celeste’ thing, but Streep is priceless and it’s a consistent delight to watch Mary-Louise and Madeleine go at it.

Bonnie

I just don’t buy Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) and Nathan’s relationship, so it’s hard to really feel any type of way about it encountering obstacles.

Still, Crystal Fox was a welcome interpolation this week, playing Bonnie’s mother and calling out the Monterey residents propensity to talk around a subject.

The writing still feels fresh in Big Little Lies season 2, which is starting to feel like a very, very high quality soap opera, but I’m starting to question its decision to pick the action back up right where we left it in season 1. Granted, we’re only two episodes in, but we’re at risk of getting mired in the fallout from S1’s events, these new episodes feeling more like a coda to them. Then again, the show may be preoccupied with what happened in its past, but aren’t we all?

Big Little Lies is shown on HBO in the US and simulcast in the UK on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV.