During its first season, Big Little Lies was one of the most interesting and popular shows on HBO. Based on the book by Liane Moriarty, the series focused on a group of women from Monterey, California. In season one, the main focus was their interactions as everything built up to a murder. The finale gave us plenty of reveals, with the biggest being that it was Perry Wright, husband of Celeste, who was killed.
With no sequel to the book and the notion that season one was a “limited series,” nobody expected a second season. But when something is popular, networks often want more. That second season is now behind us and it was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. In that vein, we’ve selected five aspects of the season that worked and five that didn’t.
10 Worked: The Music
Opening credit sequences don’t get nearly the shine they used to a few decades ago. Some shows don’t feature them at all. Big Little Lies did and it was a weekly highlight. Set to the incredible “Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka, the opening credits were a major part of every episode. It is an addictive song that sets the tone for the rest of the soundtrack.
Season two kept the trend going as it provided viewers with great music in each episode. They blended folk, alternative rock, funk, and some soul in ways that perfectly fit the series. The music is so good that the Big Little Lies playlist on Spotify has over 600,000 followers.
9 Didn’t Work: The Disappearing Coffee Shop
This may sound like a weird thing to question, but it’s something that bugged a lot of the audience. During season one, Madeline, Jane, and Celeste spent a lot of time conversing at a coffee shop called Blue Blues Cafe. It was a fixture of the show and one of the locations we saw most often. But in season two, it’s randomly gone.
The most frustrating bit is that it is never mentioned. That’s kind of crazy considering Jane was on a date with the owner, Tom, in the finale of season one when Perry was killed. Tom isn’t even brought up this season. Reportedly, the new director of the series simply may have wanted to change locations but it would’ve helped to have some explanation for it in the show.
8 Worked: Renata’s Outbursts
Though we didn’t get as much cohesion among the women dubbed the “Monterey Five” as we expected, some of their side journeys were a ton of fun. Renata had to deal with the fact that her husband Gordon lost their fortune and basically made them poor. Along the way, she also discovered that he had been unfaithful with their nanny.
While this side plot wasn’t always fulfilling, we loved watching Renata go off in almost every episode. She’d freak out and scream at her husband or anyone in her path in hilarious fashion. From stuffing paper into her husband’s mouth after she uncovers his infidelity to smashing up his toys in the finale, she was always explosive.
7 Didn’t Work: Lack of Kathryn Newton
Kathryn Newton plays Abigail Carlson, the daughter of Madeline. She’s a big part of season one and the struggle she has with her mother is a constant source of drama. Newton was promoted to the main cast for season two, yet she is almost a non-factor. In the premiere, she fights with her mom because she doesn’t want to go to college. That plot thread is dropped quickly and that’s about it for Abigail.
One of the main reasons this was so disappointing was how talented Newton is. She’s kind of everywhere now, from Pokemon Detective Pikachu to Blockers to Netflix’s The Society. She’s a good actress who should have been better utilized in this series. The episodes would’ve benefitted from it.
6 Worked: Sassy Ed
A lot of people see Adam Scott, who plays Ed Mackenzie, and think of him as this mild-mannered nerdy guy who is unintimidating. Basically his character from Parks and Recreation. But when Ed found out that Madeline cheated on him, it sparked him to go on a rampage of sass.
Ed spends a handful of episodes just verbally cutting through almost everyone he comes into contact with. Madeline, Nathan, and even Celeste aren’t safe from him. It gave Ed more to do this season, showed us a different side of Adam Scott, and was consistently entertaining.
5 Didn’t Work: Jane And Corey
The courtship of Jane and Tom was pretty cute in season one. The coffee shop owner was friendly with the ladies and protected them when Gordon threatened them. Finally seeing them on a date together felt like it was worth the wait and getting more of that in season two was something to look forward to.
Instead, Tom wasn’t in the season at all and Jane was given another love interest in her co-worker at the aquarium, Corey. Their relationship just never clicked and felt kind of rushed. The actors seemed to lack the chemistry that was needed to make the relationship an on-screen success. It was an unsatisfying tale.
4 Work: Meryl Streep
When you add Meryl Streep to a cast, the show or film will get something of a boost. For all the faults season two of Big Little Lies had, Streep’s portrayal of Mary Louise Wright was fantastic. After a single episode, fans were taking to social media to say she had already wrapped up an Emmy win.
Streep brought a lot to the role. You knew that Mary Louise was wrong, yet you felt sympathy for her at times. She went toe to toe with the talented actresses on the show across the board. But watching her alongside Nicole Kidman in some of their emotional scenes was a sight to behold.
3 Didn’t Work: Bonnie’s Storyline
Bonnie, played by the very talented Zoe Kravtiz, kind of came from out of nowhere in season one. She wasn’t given nearly as much TV time as the other four core women, so when it was revealed that she pushed Perry down the stairs and killed him, it came as a shock. Getting to know more about Bonnie and see her deal with the fallout was a storyline with a ton of potential.
To start season two, we saw Bonnie close herself off from her friends and husband because of what she did. The follow-up to that was to bring her parents into the mix and give us a weird story where her abusive mom was guided by strange visions. Anytime the show cut to Bonnie and her mother, especially once her mom goes to the hospital, the show dragged. You could almost hear collective audiences groaning across the world.
2 Worked: The Acting
Big Little Lies racked up the accolades in season one. That was especially true when it came to the acting categories. Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Alexander Skarsgård all won acting trophies at the Emmys and Golden Globes, while Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley had nominations. Nothing changed in season two.
The acting on this series was still stellar across the board. All of those actors may find themselves nominated again. You can throw in Kravitz, Streep, and Scott because they were all strong. Even when the writing had us questioning our decision to watch this second season, the actors gave it their all.
1 Didn’t Work: Not Enough Murder Investigation
Bonnie shoving Perry down a flight of stairs and killing him wasn’t as big of a deal in season two as it should have been. We were told early on that Detective Adrienne Quinlan was hot on the heels of the Monterey Five. When she partnered up with Mary Louise, who was out to find the truth about her son’s death, things looked bleak for Bonnie, Madeline, and the rest of the ladies.
However, the final few episodes put the focus almost solely on the custody battle between Mary Louise and Celeste. It made for good drama, but it wasn’t what the show needed. Detective Quinlan is barely even present in those last handful of episodes. The Monterey Five walk into the police station to come clean as the show ends, but it didn’t feel like the pressing issue it needed to as the show wrapped up.
NEXT: Big Little Lies: 5 Differences From The Book (& 5 Things Kept The Same)