This Big Little Lies review contains spoilers.
Big Little Lies Season 2, Episode 4
The Big Secret may not be the cause of every hardship in the lives of the The Monterey Five, but it certainly doesn’t make dealing with the other traumas life throws their way any easier. In “She Knows,” the lingering trauma of Perry’s death looms large in the form of the ever-suspicious Mary Louise, but it is far from the only problem Renata, Madeline, Bonnie, Celeste, and Jane have to deal with.
Bonnie, Renata, and Madeline are really facing hardships that have nothing to do with the secret surrounding Perry’s death, even if they are made more difficult to process because of that trauma. First, we have Bonnie, whose mother suffers a stroke at Amabella’s party, horrifically collapsing to the ground while the family thanks Renata for hosting. It’s a scary moment, realistic in the unpredictability of it, and it will no doubt lead Bonnie to make some major choices in all aspects of her life moving forward.
Faced with the reality of her mother’s mortality, and perhaps at least partially buying into her father’s totally unfair accusation that Bonnie’s behavior caused her mother’s stroke, Bonnie may decide to take action to alleviate the bad vibes that have come from The Secret. While Bonnie seems to have been doing much better the last few eps, Bonnie’s mothers vision of Bonnie drowning will probably shake Bonnie’s already unstable resolve when it comes to keeping the secret of Perry’s death.
Renata also has been dealing with a problem that has nothing to do with The Secret: Gordon’s crimes have resulted in the family having to declare bankruptcy, a process we see begin to play out in “She Knows.” The court begins to take everything, from Renata’s jewelry and car to their house. As the episode goes on, however, we see the one thing that Renata has lost that she may truly never be able to forgive Gordon for: her dreams about the kinds of opportunities she would be able to provide for her child.
It’s unclear what Renata and Gordon’s financial situation actually looks like here. Will they have to move out of Monterey? How much money does Renata make at her own job? Odds are, Amabella is going to have far more financial privilege than most kids in the world, but it’s still an affecting moment to see the “self-made” Renata tear up as she watches the sweety Amabella dance. Reality is: Amabella is probably going to be fine—kids tend to be far more adaptable than adults—and, if she has issues, it’s probably going to stem from Gordon and Renata’s increasingly volatile relationship. Renata is crying for Amabella here, but she is crying for herself, too.
Meanwhile, Madeline is still trying to move forward with Ed following the reveal of last year’s infidelity, but he is not meeting her halfway. Madeline suggests going away together to some kind of couples retreat, dancing together during Amabella’s disco party, and tries to initiate sex in the middle of the night, but Ed is still punishing her. Madeline is nothing if not able to articulate her needs, asking him to leave now if that is his plan. He tells her that he is still here, but Madeline calls him on his bullshit. He may be here physically, but he checked out emotionally perhaps even prior to the reveal of Madeline’s infidelity—a point Ed seems to genuinely consider.
Jane continues to grow closer to Corey, bringing him along to Amabella’s birthday and introducing him to all of her friends. Perhaps most tellingly, she informs him of her sexual assault, which says a lot about what she hopes to have with him; it’s a huge expression of vulnerability and trust. For his part, Corey handles it so well, simply taking Jane’s hand and sitting with her.
While Jane may be starting to open up with Corey, her friends are still the people she goes to when she needs to discuss most things—especially Celeste. We see the two friends out at a bar, Jane confessing to Celeste that she still has flashbacks to her rape that keep her from being physically intimate with Corey sometimes in even the most low-pressure situations. She gently asks Celeste if Perry ever raped her, which Celeste quickly denies. This may be true to Celeste—she still fails to think of herself as a “victim”—but we saw how violent Perry could get with his wife. Domestic abuse and sexual violence can be complicated, but Perry used his power to hurt Celeste again and again. She is a survivor.
Celeste may be forced to confront her struggles more directly soon, as Mary Louise is making moves to get custory of the twins. While I don’t think Mary Louise is going about this the right way—Celeste needs support, and taking the boys away from their mother will cause even more duress in their already grief-filled young lives—I do see Mary Louise’s points.
Celeste is not OK. She woke up driving into a guard rail last episode, not remembering how she got into the car. This week, she brings a guy home from the bar, and doesn’t even remember doing it because she is high on Ambien. In the last two episodes, she has demonstrated violent behavior that she can’t control towards both her own son and Mary Louise.
That being said, if Mary Louise wants whats best for the boys, she wouldn’t take them away from their mother without trying other solutions first. This is an extreme solution to a problem that will only cause more problems. While I don’t doubt that this move is at least partially motivated by concern for the twins, it seems more motivated by her desire to punish Celeste for the death of her son. Mary Louise may not know what exactly happened to Perry, but she doesn’t seem to think that Celeste is sad or angry enough about his death, judging her way of coping with complex grief as suspicious, as wrong, as deserving of punishment.
Life doesn’t lob hardships one at a time at you; often, another ball is thrown at you when you are already juggling more than you can handle. Privilege, of all varieties, tends to mean that you have more hands to juggle those balls, but even the uber privileged Monterey Five can only handle so much before they drop everything.
The pace of this episode feels a bit off. Mary Louise informs the others she has found a unit in Jane’s complex, moves in, and runs into Jane multiple times over the course of the episode.
Nathan is the worst. Don’t physically assault people, dude. (And don’t do it back, Ed.)
Mary Louise’s reaction to meeting Bonnie is that she would have remembered meeting her before because she is so beautiful, which is real. I do appreciate Mary Louise’s honesty.
The detective is getting very suspicious, but, honestly, at this point, it feels like she can just sit back and let these women self-combust without applying much pressure beyond saying hi whenever she goes out for a coffee run.
It’s sad that Celeste taking home a hot dude from the bar happens in such a terrible way when this could have been such a vital step in Celeste’s healing.
Poor Celeste’s therapist. That woman puts up with a lot. (Though it seems like Madeline and Ed stopped going to her after one session.)
OK, that disco party was epic.
That Ziggy Stardust costume! Jane really is the best mom.