Did we need more Big Little Lies? Originally designed as a one-and-done, the glossy, juicy limited series from HBO, based on the book by Liane Moriarty, achieved huge success in 2017 in terms of both viewership and awards. So, needed or not, we’re getting more—more Reese, more Nicole, more windswept shots of the California coast, more impeccably curated playlists emitting from Sonos speakers, and LOTS more of Laura Dern wearing a Gucci fanny pack and zestfully hissing lines like “I will not not be rich!”
We’re also getting more Zoë Kravitz, whose small role as Bonnie has been substantially expanded here, following the huge impact her character had in the climax of the preceding season. This time ’round, Bonnie’s story is the most compelling of the ensemble, as she grapples with what happened at the end of season one and the substantial differences between her and the other women of Monterey. The only cast member who’s been relatively sidelined—at least, in the first three episodes—is Shailene Woodley’s single mother Jane, although her scene with son Ziggy, in which she explains the nature of his biological father, is the emotional high point in the early going of season two. Importantly, Woodley also runs neck-and-neck with cast member Adam Scott for “most improved hair.”
Mary Louise saves her most venomous barbs for Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline character. “You are very short,” she informs Madeline matter-of-factly. “I find little people to be untrustworthy.” These lines, of course, are ridiculous on the page (writer David E. Kelley is back on script duty, realizing a story he and Moriarty devised together), but it’s no surprise that Streep is able to sell them. And that’s ultimately the fun of Big Little Lies 2: The Streepening, which seems to have much lower stakes than the first season. The show’s soapiest elements are ramped up, and there’s no overarching mystery to frame the story (at least, not yet), so we’re ultimately hanging out in a very beautiful, very moneyed part of the world and watching exquisitely coiffed people say atrocious things to one another from behind zeppelin-sized glasses of chardonnay.
If that’s your Gucci fanny pack, then Big Little Lies won’t disappoint. I should perhaps warn you that I found the first episode to be kind of a disaster, but the season finds firmer footing in episodes two and three, as new director Andrea Arnold (Wuthering Heights, American Honey) locates the proper balance between camp and melodrama. Where the show will go in the remainder of season two remains to be seen—marital discord seems to be the gas of the plot engine so far—but with the traumatic events of season one in the rearview and Streep and Kravitz helping grip the tiller, Bigger Littler Lies could be a dishy good time.
Big Little Lies’ season two premieres on HBO this Sunday, June 9.