This Big Little Lies article contains minor spoilers for Season 2, Episode 1.
In many ways, Big Little Lies Season 2 sees the world of The Monterey Five at least superficially unchanged since the horrific events of Big Little Lies Season 1. The one major change, however? The arrival of Mary Louise Wright (played by national treasure Meryl Streep), the mother of the late Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard), mother-in-law to Celeste (Nicole Kidman), and grandmother to twins Max and Josh. As the lies Celeste, Madeline, Renata, Bonnie, and Jane begin to unravel in Season 2, no doubt Mary Louise will be there to pick up the threads and tug.
So far, we don’t know much about Mary Louise past her relationships to the characters we already know from Season 1. We know she lives in San Francisco, where Perry, Josh, and Max visited her not to long ago, as referenced in the Season 2 premiere. We know she has been spending a fair amount of time with Celeste, Josh, and Max since Perry’s death, though has yet to make the move to Monterey permanent. That seems poised to change…
In the Season 2 premiere, we see Mary Louise make moves to find a permanent home in Monterey. Madeline finds her at her real estate office looking for a local rental. While Celeste cannot stop singing her praises as a comfort and help to both herself and her sons, Madeline is immediately suspicious of Mary Louise, and it’s not hard to see why. Upon their first meeting in Season 2 (it’s implied that the two have met before, which makes sense as Celeste and Madeline have been friends for a while), Mary Louise belittles Madeline’s height and calls her untrustworthy, all with a polite veneer that suggests Mary Louise is practiced in passive aggressive emotional terrorism.
Later, Mary Louise apologizes to Madeline for having treated her so harshly, blaming it on a school friend she once had who betrayed her and whom Madeline reminds her of, but it’s a terrible apology and one gets the impression that Mary Louise’s estimation of Madeline’s character has not improved at all.
Generally and understandably, Mary Louise is a grieving mother, devastated by the death of her son. She unleashes a scream at the dinner table to communicate to Celeste and the boys just how much pain she is. The more frightening part of that, frankly, pretty healthy expression of grief, is the rant that follows, in which Mary Louise outlines the injustice of Perry being dead when so many of her friend’s sons are pudgier, less professionally successful, and generally less impressive than her son was.
It’s unclear if Mary Louise knew anything about Perry’s abusive ways, or how much of that behavior was learned from his own upbringing. It seems unlikely that Mary Louise would not be at least somewhat aware of Perry’s violent tendencies, even if she was and is in denial about them. The viewer is left wondering if Perry learned his violent behavior from his own father. We had already begun to see how Max and Josh were effected by Perry’s examples, even if they didn’t see the worst of his violence against Celeste and other women, with Max choking Amabella in school last year.
The preview for the rest of Big Little Lies Season 2 suggests that Mary Louise is only going to get bolder in her grief-stricken inquiries into Perry’s death. As the end of the Season 2 premiere suggests, she is never too far from Celeste, bursting into her room when Celeste has awoken from her nightmare, having been close enough to hear Celeste’s outburst that she will kill someone (Perry, specifically, but Mary Louise doesn’t seem to know that… yet).
As Celeste continues to process her own anger and relief over Perry’s death, and hopefully begins to forgive herself for the violence that was never her fault, Mary Louise will presumably not like that. She is already questioning why Celeste isn’t more outwardly angry about Perry’s death. She is a powder keg, waiting to blow. Will The Monterey Five be taken out in the blast or is there another way out of these cycles of violence?