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S02E03: The End of the World
HBO  ·  50 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: June 23, 2019

Directed by: Andrea Arnold  |  Written by: David E. Kelley

Official synopsis: Bonnie clashes with her mother and remembers traumatic incidents from her childhood. Amabella has an anxiety attack during a lesson about climate change. Renata hires a child psychologist and finds out Amabella is worried about the planet dying, her father going to jail, and Renata’s mental state. Renata blames Gordon for it and confronts Principal Nippal and Mr. Perkins about teaching second graders about climate change. She also tells her husband to sell his expensive train set since they have lost all of their money. Mary Louise approaches Jane at work and requests for a paternity test be done, which Jane refuses. Mary Louise then lurks in the parking lot of Jane’s apartment to take a look at Ziggy. She finds similarities between Ziggy and Perry’s twin brother, who died as a child, but refuses to accept the fact that Perry was abusive and a rapist. To save their marriage, Madeline and Ed visit Celeste’s therapist. During a parents meeting at Otter Bay Elementary, Madeline breaks down while speaking. Jane and Corey go on a date, but she is unable to be intimate with him.

Episode Recap
Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by Rebecca Nicholson for The Guardian (June 24, 2019)

It seems we’ve arrived at the “Tell me about your childhood…” section of the group therapy session that is Big Little Lies: Season two. And since the shrink on duty is the astute Dr Reisman (an Emmy-worthy Robin Weigert), you know it’s gonna be a good’un. Bonnie went first, flashing back to a troubling memory of her mother abruptly dunking her head in a pool because “we have to be able to hold our breath underwater, baby”. Err … do we? As a metaphor for Bonnie’s drowning mental state, it wasn’t particularly subtle, but it did offer some intriguing insight into their as-yet underwritten relationship. It’s going to take more than a few hours of spiritual yoga practice to bring this mother and daughter inner peace.

Next up Madeline, who recalled that time, aged three or four, when she walked in on her father “having sex with a woman that wasn’t my mom”. Ooof. Even Celeste was wincing in sympathy. Plenty for Dr Reisman to get stuck into, then. Oh, did you assume Streep’s mother-in-law from hell would be serving up this season’s hottest tea? While Mary Louise continued to speak her mind, it was “Madame Shrink”, as Madeline likes to call her, who forced the most discomforting realisations. Could Madeline’s own academic insecurities be at the root of her frustration with her college-dropout daughter? Makes sense. Plus that comparison of domestic violence survivors to soldiers struggling to adjust to peacetime sounded spot on, even if Celeste remains sceptical. Mary Louise’s attention was, mercifully, focused elsewhere, with her attempting to rouse some police interest in her son’s death. That means Perpetually Unimpressed Detective from season one is back and she’s still got no time for these boring rich people with their boring-rich-people problems. The mouth said, “I have personally worked very hard to be mindful of your unspeakable pain,” but the eyes said, “How long till lunch?”.

So it was onto the next stop; an unannounced visit at Jane’s workplace where Mary Louise bluntly requested that little Ziggy be subjected to a paternity test before running down the greatest hits of victim blaming: “Were you drinking?” Check. “You must have tempted him.” Check. “Mixed signals?” Check and check. Miraculously Jane kept her cool, but then herein lies the brilliance of both the Big Little Lies script and Streep’s performance: Even in the midst of their antagonism, some fleeting and achingly beautiful moments of mutual understanding pass between these women; moments in which it’s clear they’re are all just mothers acting out of love for their sons. Or maybe Jane was riding too high on her new romance with Corey from the aquarium to be brought down by pettiness. Monterey does have an array of perfect date spots with giant wine glasses and cosy fire pits; it’s about time they were put to use.

On the plus side, this may mean an end to all Jane’s manic-pixie-dream-dancing in the surf with her vintage iPod. (I can only assume this was some kind of Monterey mating ritual?) On the downside, heartbreak looms. Clearly Jane’s new beau is either a) a serial killer b) an undercover cop whose work ethic puts Perpetually Unimpressed Detective to shame or c) Dead Perry’s long-lost half-brother. Not that any of these scenarios would be darker that what’s currently going down between Celeste and the ghost of her abusive dead husband, right before our eyes. Big Little Lies has long danced rather gracefully around the murky issue of abuse entangled with sexual desire, but are they actually going there now? Really going there? Yes, yes they are.

Notes and observations
  • If Jane had dodged Corey’s kiss-lunge any more energetically, she’d have fallen into the path of an oncoming bus – which would have been a bold way to tie up her storyline.
  • Was that moment when Bo Peep removed her prosthetic teeth a foreshadowing of Streep’s season finale showstopper? Let’s hope so!
  • “You would have jumped into that pool and pulled me out.” Celeste’s sweet words to Madeline are also a neat call-back to that other pool incident.
  • We’ve got Amabella’s “no-cost spared” birthday party to look forward to. Can’t wait.
  • Renata coined a new swear this week, by combining a cute word for a cat with another of her four-letter favourites. Sadly it’s too rude to reproduce here.
  • We got a slightly better view of the exterior of Jane and Ziggy’s supposedly humble beachfront condo this week. It definitely costs at least $2m.
  • “Counselling is certainly indicated … Perhaps for the entire family” Oooh, Renata gets a sick burn from the ER doctor – but he has a point. Maybe Dr Reisman could fit them in?
  • Guest Cast: P.J. Byrne (Principal Warren Nippal), Merrin Dungey (Detective Adrienne Quinlan), Crystal Fox (Elizabeth Howard), Ivy George (Amabella Klein), Mo McRae (Michael Perkins), Douglas Smith (Corey Brockfield), Robin Weigert (Dr. Amanda Reisman), Gia Carides (Melissa), Chloe Coleman (Skye Carlson), Kelen Coleman (Harper Stimson), Mykal-Michelle Harris (Young Bonnie), Khalilah Joi (Young Elizabeth), Kerri Kenney (Dr. Belinda Shea), Sunday Rose Kidman-Urban (School Child), Faith Margaret Kidman-Urban (School Child), Lauren Lakis (Yvonne), Michael Laskin (Dr. Howard Feldman), Asher McDonell (3-Year-Old Max), Brayden McDonell (3-Year-Old Josh), Eliza Shin (Vice Principal Coolidge), Joel Spence (Matt), Larry Sullivan (Oren Berg), Jessica Villalba (Nurse), Alan Godshaw (Concerned Parent), Mark Heidelberger (Concerned Parent), Larisa Kazanskaya (Concerned Parent), Michelle Lenhardt (Concerned Parent), Talon Tears (Concerned Parent)