Big Little Lies season 2 episode 6 ‘The Bad Mother’ review: Does Celeste have dirt on Mary-Louise?

Courtroom drama dominates the season's penultimate episode

I’m such a sucker for courtroom drama that I’ll accept pretty much any show pivoting toward it, as Big Little Lies appears to be as we head into next week’s season finale.

This penultimate episode, ‘The Bad Mother’, set up for a showdown between Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Mary-Louise (Meryl Streep), with Celeste announcing her decision to cross-examine her own mother-in-law. This episode demonstrated how progress against slut-shaming hasn’t made it as far as the courts, where promiscuity and sexual deviance are still presented as evidence of bad character. It’s complicated, Celeste continues to plead, still at a loss as to how to explain to people who haven’t experienced it how violence can be both frightening and sexy.

Celeste must be a demanding role for Kidman, who’s basically had to remain on the verge of tears for the best part of two seasons now. Celeste managed not to be provoked by Mary-Louise’s lawyer this week, but his characterisation of her lifestyle was still damaging and looked to have lost her custody of her children.

But wait! An eleventh hour witness call! Celeste’s decision to compel Mary-Louise to take the stand with regards to her fitness as a guardian was sudden and seems foolish given the paragon of virtue Mary-Louise has presented herself as. This can surely only mean, then, that Celeste has new information about her. Are we about to hear exactly how the monster that was Perry was made?

Renata in ‘Big Little Lies’

The rest of the Monterey Five took a backseat somewhat to allow for the twist and turns of the court hearing in season 2 episode 6, though there were a couple of key developments. Renata and Gordon finally look to be done, thanks to the ‘unspecified services’ of his secretary that came out during the bankruptcy filing, leaving Renata’s story arc wide open hereon.

Bonnie, meanwhile, said goodbye (?) to her fading mother. The episode’s most moving scene was a nice twist on the ‘deathbed admission of love’ trope, Bonnie instead using the opportunity to let her mother know just how lousy she’d been as a parent. The moment helped explain Bonnie’s moment of anger atop the staircase last season, and hopefully will give her some closure and allow the character to be at least 75% less mopey in season 3.

Ed in ‘Big Little Lies’

Madeleine felt duty bound to tell Ed about the true nature of Perry’s death, while Jane distanced herself from Corey once more (which was probably a smart move as I’m still not convinced he’s what he claims to be).

Lies both big and little are unravelling, it seems, and the stakes are high heading into the season finale. A prediction: Celeste will successfully thwart Mary-Louise’s attempts to take her kids from her, but the hearing will still have served to get the investigation into Perry’s death reopened.

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