Game of Thrones demanded that I get HBO for a few months so I’ve also been checking out some other HBO shows in the meantime and my fiance started watching Big Little Lies. Up front, I had the impression that it was a corny Desperate Housewives clone but as I dove into it, it became much different.
We follow the lives of a handful of women in Monterey, CA. They all have secrets but the story starts mundane, as Jane (Shailene Woodley) moves into town with her son Ziggy. There’s immediately a controversy, as it appears Ziggy may be bullying a young girl, whose mother (Laura Dern) doesn’t take it lightly. We also have Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) who is trying to raise two daughters with her second husband (Adam Scott). Her ex-husband (James Tupper) has re-married as well (Zoe Kravitz). Lastly we have Celeste (Nicole Kidman) who is in a violent and disturbing marriage (with Alexander Skarsgard).
Now here’s the kicker. While the story begins with schoolyard feuds and PTA meetings, it’s immediately apparent that something happens and someone is murdered. So throughout this journey, slowly bits are revealed about the victim and the killer.
This show’s mystery is extremely compelling, with each episode slowly revealing how everyone in the show might become a killer. No one is beyond scrutiny and everyone has reasons, so you have absolutely no idea how the show will end. They do a perfect job of leading you down false paths and keeping you guessing, I was literally on the edge of my seat in the season’s climax.
Why you care about this, though, is the absolutely incredible cast, with some of the best female talent in the business right now. All of them show a jaw-dropping range, making this story both believable and terrifying. Nicole Kidman probably gets the most to do, emotionally, though Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley have standout moments as well. The caliber of performance here is Oscar-worthy, which is why it’s unsurprising that this show nabbed over 10 Emmy nominations.
The show is also beautifully paced, never a wasted moment. At only seven episodes, it grabs you and doesn’t let go, yet still manages to give you some incredible development for our leads. It’s just the right amount and absolutely satisfying.
In terms of our supporting characters, I want to shout out two of the husbands of the show, notably Alexander Skarsgard who is absolutely terrifying and then a dramatic turn from Adam Scott (who I knew from Parks and Rec and the movie Step Brothers). Everyone from top to bottom is believable here and gives their all.
What doesn’t work?
After all the buildup, the climax of the story didn’t have quite the punch I was expecting. I think a more mainstream story might’ve tried to twist and surprise you, which this doesn’t quite do. Some of you might feel letdown by the ultimate payoff.
Also in its effort to keep you guessing, there are some storylines that really don’t develop, as they’re basically just red herrings.
I wrote this off at the beginning but this show’s stellar cast and captivating mystery won me over, resulting in one of my favorite television experiences in recent years. I was literally on the edge of my seat, engaged in a way that very few shows can pull off. If you have HBO and want an absolute rollercoaster, binge Big Little Lies now and you’ll thank me later.