big little questions

9 Lingering Questions About Big Little Lies’ Second Season

Photo: HBO

The Monterey Five have walked into the police station together, seemingly answering the question looming over the second season of Big Little Lies: Yes, they would confess, because getting away with the murder of a noted rapist and abuser was eating away at Bonnie’s soul. (Everyone else seemed fine!) But many a mystery still remains, and here at Vulture we will not let these mysteries go. Instead, we will investigate all our lingering questions with a degree of obsession matched only by Detective Quinlan’s devotion to lurking around these Otter Bay moms until somebody cracks, damn it! So slide in your car, turn up the music on your radio — it’s gotta be diegetic or it doesn’t count, so make sure someone sees you press “play” — and come drive over some winding, narrow bridges that might seem like they’re going to have something to do with the plot but turn out to be regular bridges while all the important car crashes happened on totally different roads.

Where were all the lies?

I am not a TV title literalist. Veep was sometimes at its finest and funniest when Selina Meyer was out of office entirely; Jane Gloriana Villanueva kept up her straight-out-of-a-telenovela twists and turns long after she lost her virginity. That said: The show is called Big Little Lies and this season had zero big lies and maybe two extremely small and barely consequential lies! The highest-stakes lie all season was, what? Gordon pretending he wasn’t screwing the nanny? Did he even lie about that? Or did he just keep it a secret and then fess up the second he was found out? (All due respect to Gordon and his selfless contributions to the Renata Gif Generator that was season two of this series.)

Did everybody just drop what they were doing in the middle of the night because Bonnie texted them to go to the police station immediately?

This season, we learned that Jane had never had sex before Perry raped her and that she hadn’t been intimate with anybody since then. So after the (extremely improbable but sure, whatever) encouragement from her second-grade son, Jane’s PTSD miraculously just … stops being a problem … and she has sex with Corey. Good for you, Jane! Despite what the slut-shaming attorneys of Monterey family court would tell you, consensual sex among adults is A-OK.

So are we to believe that in the midst of this very significant, intense tryst that Jane just … peaces out because Bonnie says it’s time to come clean? What? And does Madeline lie to her husband, like, 30 seconds after their Midsommar-themed vow-renewal ceremony about what she’s up to, or does she confess to him speedy-quick before peeling out of the house to go to the cops? Also, who is watching Celeste’s twins and Ziggy?

Are we really supposed to believe Celeste, who just secured custody of her children, is going to jeopardize her family life because Bonnie feels weird still?

When Celeste said “the lie is the friendship” to Madeline, I felt that. Do most of these women have anything tying themselves to one another besides this? Does it really seem like any of them would be down to fess up to obstructing justice because Bonnie’s soul is crumbling away under the withering gaze of the only detective who still thinks Perry didn’t just slip?

Wait, is Celeste supposed to be Australian?

Or is she just a vaguely affected American? Nicole Kidman slides into her real accent so often I honestly am not sure if it is an intentional choice or just a distracting mistake. This season I started to think, Oh, maybe Celeste just isn’t American, that would explain a lot, like her general isolation and why she doesn’t have family nearby who she could’ve turned to when Perry became abusive, etc. But she was never so Australian that I could commit to that theory completely. Does anyone know?

What would this season have been like if director Andrea Arnold’s direction hadn’t reportedly been undermined?

The meta-mystery of the season is honestly more interesting than its actual “mystery” (were we ever really concerned that the show would take Celeste’s kids away from her and give them to Mary Louise?), and leaves us to imagine an alternate version of season two that would probably have been more coherent and less likely to inspire you to say “Wait, what?” approximately six times per episode.

Then again, it is hard to imagine that even this phantom season of BLL would have addressed all the weaknesses of the season, like for instance how it did not really have what one might call stakes. Probably even Arnold’s version of the show would’ve left several main characters off in their own lonely silos, fantasizing about doing yet another murder (Bonnie) or trying to get comfortable with dating as a rape survivor (Jane). But I choose to believe it would have had the ice-cream-throwing scene. Let us hope it one day surfaces on the internet so we can all cherish it forever.

So is Abigail going to college or what?

I was led to believe that this was the central event of Madeline’s life! Is it just not important now that her husband knows she hooked up with the theater director? Is Abigail going to do whatever tech-douche thing she was describing in obnoxious, vague terms (for-profit housing for the homeless, I think) or get her real-estate license or …?

Did Perry lie to Celeste about how his brother died?

Because that would be so much more interesting. Imagine if that was just something Perry told Celeste to make her see him as a sympathetic person whose violence was justified — and then imagine Mary Louise shattering that myth, in court or in one of her late-night “Oh, hi, just popping by to completely upend your life!” visits. That would be a big lie of the sort the name of the show would suggest we are due!

Because we technically never find out — Mary Louise does not deny this version of events, but maybe she is covering for her son to protect him even in death? — I think it’s more compelling to believe that Perry made it up, and I’m going to believe that over here in my corner where Amabella is still curled up in the fetal position. You are all welcome to join me.

This show’s impulse to tie up all its abusers and victims in neat little cycles of violence, in addition to being inaccurate (the evidence suggests that victims of abuse are not more likely than any other person to become abusers themselves), also makes for dull storytelling. We already had the story of “the person who witnessed abuse became an abuser” last season, when a son of Perry’s reenacted his dad’s behavior on Amabella in school.

Where did approximately half of the characters and problems from the start of the season go? Did they drive off that bridge and fall to their untimely deaths?

It was great talking to you that one time, teacher whose name I can’t remember whose sole endeavor all season was to terrify the already-scarred Amabella by telling her that Charlotte’s Web is actually about climate change, an existential threat that will surely kill her entire generation! (Love to see a show introduce a black character only to do whatever the TV-writing equivalent of ghosting him is, like, two episodes in, especially when one of the only other black characters has been unconscious for nearly half the season.) Nice to see you poking your head in through some doorways, Chloe, who once reigned as the show’s precocious and improbably sophisticated DJ and now only appears periodically to remind us that Ed and Madeline’s marriage matters to at least one person besides the two of them! And let’s not forget Abigail, whose teenage rebellion dropped from “Gonna sell my virginity on the internet because virginity is a social construct and, like, honestly why not” to “While it would require me to take out zero loans and I could fill out the common app in two hours, I do not want to go to college” and was then dropped from the plot like so much thrown ice cream.

Did Otter Bay educators ever figure out how they’re going to teach young children about climate change?

What was the follow-up to Madeline’s impassioned speech at the ad hoc Golden Bell Award–winning assembly? Are we just supposed to wait until Renata rises again and makes good on her promise to buy a fucking polar bear for every kid in this school?

9 Lingering Questions About Big Little Lies’ Second Season