The gorgeous views. The sultry soundtrack. The truly perfect font. The Big Little Lies opening credits start and doesn't it just feel good to be back in Monterey? When the HBO drama announced that it would be continuing the story of five women brought together by friendship, elementary school drama, and, oh yeah, murder, many people scoffed. Season 1, which ended with Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), and Renata (Laura Dern), fighting off Celeste's abusive husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), until Bonnie finally pushed him down a flight of stairs to his death, told the complete story of Liane Moriarty's novel. Was there story left to tell? Was this going to be a case of too much of a good thing? The first season was incredible, but do we need to go back? Based on the first episode, the answers to those questions: So much story, definitely not, and YES. Big Little Lies Season 2 starts off just as strong as Season 1, there's nothing to worry about here.
There is, however, a lot for our characters to worry about. The lie they told about what happened at the school fundraiser — that Perry slipped — to protect Bonnie (could Bonnie have just claimed self-defense? Definitely. That situation adds a whole other layer to the proceedings) is eating away at the ladies, who the local gossip mill has dubbed "The Monterey Five" — some much faster than others.
Bonnie is clearly doing the worst. She's so withdrawn, in fact, that even her husband, Nathan (James Tupper), a man with a very small emotional range, is worried. She's barely speaking, going out for two hour runs, staring at the ocean, all very troublesome things. Nathan's so worried that when he comes across Ed (Adam Scott), he asks him to talk to his wife. Ed points out that when you're asking the husband of your ex-wife to talk to your current wife, things are bad. That conversation, like so many between Nathan and Ed, does not end well.
When Bonnie doesn't show up for a meeting with the other Monterey Five to discuss their new moniker and whether or not the police are still investigating them (Renata has a contact who says the case is as good as closed), Madeline goes to see her. She's worried, too! But Bonnie has no time for how Madeline feels. She's grappling with the fact that she killed a man and is completely alone in that. Madeline tries to explain that she has the support of the rest of the ladies, but it doesn't feel that way to Bonnie. (It should be noted that Madeline is the one who started the lie about how Perry died, and the other women followed suit; Bonnie remains upset they just didn't tell the truth.)
Things are bleak over at the Carlson house. Perry may be dead, but his ghost is haunting them. Well, not literally — that would be a very different show. But metaphorically? Perry's everywhere. It's especially true for Celeste. Coping with her grief is proving to be a struggle. When Jane asks her if she's happy her husband's dead, her response is "it's complicated." That's, like, the definition of an understatement.
Celeste's having intense nightmares about Perry, which sends her back to the couch of everyone's favorite shrink, Dr. Reisman (Amanda Weigert). Reisman tells Celeste that Perry always wanted Celeste to feel like she was to blame, and he's doing that even in death. Being asked to let go of Perry is a lot for Celeste to take in. And, hi, the woman has enough to deal with: Her mother-in-law is in town!
Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) has come from San Francisco to help out with the twins, but she's much less helpful than she is terrifying. Of course, she acts the part, a kindly grandmother wearing sweater sets and cooking homemade meals, but there's something else going on behind those teeth (hm, who does that remind you of?). As loving as she is to her grandsons, she'll cut you down should she see fit.
A true queen of passive-aggressiveness, her current target is Madeline Martha Mackenzie. During their first run in, Mary Louise tells Madeline that she's very short and she finds "little people to be untrustworthy." When they cross paths later, while Mary Louise is looking over apartment rentals at the same real estate company where Madeline now works, Madeline asks her to apologize. She does but explains that she had a friend once who was tiny with a big personality that hid her vapidness, and Madeline reminds her of that friend. Reese Witherspoon's facial reaction to that moment is so good it could cure acne, probably. Honestly, there should be a museum built where they just play both of these Witherspoon-Streep scenes on a loop because they deserve to be worshipped for the rest of eternity.
With Celeste, Mary Louise is much less cruel, though she is suspicious of her daughter-in-law. She knows there's more to the story than anyone's telling her. During a standout scene, Mary Louise is trying to explain to her grandsons that they're allowed to be angry. That this whole thing is unfair--to her, Perry is the greatest human to ever walk the earth. When she's angry and wants to scream, she screams. And then Mary Louise lets out the most guttural, heart-wrenching scream you can imagine right there at the dinner table. It's Meryl Streep clearing her voice before giving her thank you speech before her inevitable Emmy win.
Mary Louise wants to know why Celeste isn't angrier. All signs point to her finding out exactly why before the season is over.
Meanwhile, there are some non-murder and lies storylines brewing in Monterey. Not only is Madeline battling Mary Louise, but she's also going to war with her daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton), who announces to her parents that she isn't going to college ("The planet is dying, mom. God forbid I don't study Lysistrata" is so perfectly pretentious). Madeline's baffled as to why her daughter would throw away her life, and this argument is definitely not over.
Elsewhere, Jane's started a new job at the aquarium. She still isn't taking the money Celeste's been sending her for Ziggy (Iain Armitage), but she has struck up a friendship with a cute but weird co-worker Corey (Douglas Smith). And Renata, god bless her, is back to casually threatening the Otter Bay administration, specifically Amabella's (Ivy George) new second grade teacher (Mo McRae) on the first day of school. She doesn't miss a beat. When she's done with that, she's busy donning a gorgeous red gown and power posing in front of her pool for a magazine photo shoot about Women in Power, while singing Diana Ross. You can go ahead and put that scene in the museum, too.
The episode, however, ends on an ominous note. Just as Bonnie is pacing in front of the police station, Celeste is having another one of her nightmares. This time, the Monterey Five, still in their Audrey Hepburn outfits, are put in a lineup while Perry steps up to pick one of them out. Celeste wakes up screaming that she'll kill him. Unfortunately, Mary Louise is there to pick up the pieces.