Two Guys on Big Little Lies

When it comes to streaming shows and TV series, Stuart and I can’t agree on anything. For example, I loved Stranger Things season three but he said, “I’m barely interested enough to hate it.” Wow! That’s quite a difference of opinion, right? Well, in HBO’s Big Little Lies, we finally found something we can agree on. Stuart described the popular series as an “absurdly plotted mess.” He added, “If any of the characters behaved the way people really do, then there wouldn’t be any story at all.” His critique resonated with me so I decided to take a closer look at what he’s getting at with that comment.

“Meryl Streep is Amazing!”

I couldn’t agree more. The veteran actress is an amazing addition to the cast and for all the right reasons. She plays Mary Louise Wright, mother of Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård). After the death of her son in season one, Mary Louise has come to Monterey to find out what happened. She’s skeptical of the women’s story as to what caused the fall that killed Perry, and she shares this skepticism right away.

There are enough clues to suggest that Mary Louise is the reason her son hated women. As vile as she is, she’s also the master of delivering sarcastic digs under a thin veneer of civility. Streep’s acting chops allows her to make these passive-aggressive attacks sound as natural as they are hurtful. Plus, I can’t help but take a little bit of delight in watching the effect this has on the other characters.

“No One in Monterey Should Name Anything”

Stuart wasn’t just being grumpy when he said that. He actually has a point. Most of the characters have some rather normal names such as Madeline, Jane, Bonnie, and Ed. Alongside those characters are a Renata, which sounds like the name of a yacht. Then there’s Amabella. Yes, you read that correctly; it’s Amabella with an “m.” (She’s Renata’s daughter so I guess we can say there’s a bad-naming gene in that family.) There’s also Ziggy, which is more like a cartoon character’s name than that of a real person, at least in my opinion.

Speaking of names, Stuart also took issue with Meryl Streep’s character’s name, Mary Louise Wright. Mary Louise is Meryl’s real name. He added, “It reinforces the idea that the writers can’t and shouldn’t name anything.” That’s funny, because I think the writers naming Streep’s character after Streep was likely a strategic tactic to help the veteran actress identify with and cement herself into the role. By all accounts, it seems to have worked. She steals every scene she’s in.

“That Therapist Should Lose Her License!”

Stuart “The Hammer” Sweet hit the nail on the head here. Dr. Amanda Reisman (Robin Weigert) seems unnecessarily confrontational with her patients; but then again, I’ve never spoken with a therapist. (I’m sure Stuart and a long list of my ex-girlfriends would say I need to.) Then again, Dr. Reisman might be practicing a type of controversial practice known as “attack therapy.” Its works pretty much like it sounds: highly confrontational interactions between patient and therapist. That might explain Dr. Reisman’s abrasiveness.

Then Stuart Said…

…“If anyone who supposedly has a law degree acted like a lawyer, it wouldn’t be a problem.” He’s referring to Celeste (Nicole Kidman) allowing Mary Louise to stay with her and her sons while she’s in Monterey. His belief that Celeste, a lawyer herself, should have had enough foresight to get a restraining order against Mary Louise. This would keep the toxic Mary Louise away from Celeste and her twin sons Josh and Max Wright (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti). He also said that that Celeste’s lawyer also doesn’t act like a lawyer either.

Okay, here’s the thing. Even the best attorney can do a horrible job of representing themselves. It’s because they’re so emotionally attached to the outcome that they think like an emotional person instead of a detached attorney. While we’re on the subject of detached attorney’s, that exactly how Celeste’s lawyer comes across, so I don’t see what’s Stuart’s getting at with that one. Most importantly, if Celeste would’ve gotten a restraining order against Mary Louise, the show might be boring because we wouldn’t have the dramatic plot points involving both of them.

Stuart Dislikes the Ladies’ Dishonesty

Boy does he! Stuart said, “If they (the ‘Monterey five’) had just been honest from the beginning, this wouldn’t be a problem.” Well, he’s right. One would like to believe that had the ladies been honest with the police about what happened at the end of season one, they wouldn’t be haunted by a police detective and their own personal demons. There also wouldn’t be a crazy mother-in-law coming to town to stir up all kinds of trouble. There also wouldn’t be a show.

Has Stuart completely forgotten that this series is called Big Little Lies? It’s about the lies people tell themselves and others, and how those untruths are like acid that eats away at everything good in their lives. If they would’ve been honest from the beginning, there would be no season two and frankly, there should be a season two. Like most viewers, I believe that the story was too big even for the just the book it’s based on.

Stuart Also Said…

…“If (the characters) just didn’t give into the toxic parts of their lives, it wouldn’t be a problem.” Well, I can’t argue that these characters have some toxic aspects to their lives and personalities. Here are just a few examples:

  • Celeste is nearly as physically abusive to others as her deceased husband was to her.
  • Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) is unfaithful to her husband Ed (Adam Scott).
  • Ed is doing more harm than good in his way of “dealing with” his wife’s infidelity. (He’s a “passive-aggressive weasel with too much wit and no compassion,” according to Stuart.)
  • The greed of Gordon Klein (Jeffrey Nordling) put his family’s financial future in jeopardy.
  • Renata Klein’s (Laura Dern) burning desire to “not not be rich” might be what fueled Gordon’s risky financial decision.

Yes, there’s a lot of toxicity in the lives of nearly every Big Little Lies character, but that’s the show’s appeal. Call it schadenfreude if you must, but there’s something devilishly satisfying in seeing what really goes on behind the scenes of some people’s “perfect” lives. I want to see these people’s high and mighty lives unravel, and I admittedly take a sadistic pleasure in it when they do. Could this be what keeps me coming back for more each week?

Well, I Knew It Couldn’t Last

I started out this post agreeing with Stuart. I really did. The further he got into his Big Little Lies critique, the more I found myself pulling away from him. Oh well. I guess it’s like the old saying, “All good things come to end.” And speaking of ends, I’m not looking forward to the end of the show’s current season. I’m glad that HBO still offers weekly TV series instead of adopting the series dump model that leads to binge-watching. As far as I’m concerned, that’s still the best way to stream.

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.