Big Little Lies saved its juiciest Season 2 twist for July 12. That's when Indiewire published a report that seemed to confirm weeks of whispers and speculation: director Andrea Arnold, who has been noticeably absent from any press surrounding HBO's starriest show, lost creative control of Big Little Lies after production was completed in favor of Season 1 director and executive producer Jean-Marc Vallée, who oversaw the final edit. (Said HBO in a statement: "There wouldn't be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself.")

Based on the Indiewire report, the alleged backstage battle between Arnold, Vallée, and writer and executive producer David E. Kelley featured all the intrigue of what made Big Little Lies such a cultural touchstone in Season 1: the way men underestimate women and push them aside when it fits their needs, the tiny lies and mistruths that snowball into something far worse, and the lurid thrill of gossip and rumor. If only some of that spilled on screen. Because while Season 2 of HBO's prestige soap opera has certainly featured a few notable standout moments — among them, everything Laura Dern has done, including, "I will not not be rich!" — so much of the show's last six episodes has bucked up against the creeping sense that none of this even needed to exist. Unless the ultimate goal was to simply put Meryl Streep, added to the cast to play the scheming and impossible mother of the abusive Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), into a scene with [insert Oscar-nominated or -winning actress here], Big Little Lies Season 2 has come off as every bit extraneous as Season 1 was essential.

To recap what's happened before the finale: picking up after the events of Season 1, when Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) pushed Perry to his death after the abusive husband attacked his wife, Celeste (Nicole Kidman), and her friends, Big Little Lies found the Monterey Five (as they've become known) trying to keep together as the lie they told police eats at their collective soul. (Spurred by Reese Witherspoon's Madeline, the women agreed to say Perry slipped and wasn't pushed.) Into this web of deceit steps Streep's Mary Louise, who knows the Five are not telling the truth and thinks Celeste is an unfit mother. The last half of the season has turned into a custody battle for Celeste's twin boys — which will culminate in a courtroom drama this Sunday during the finale.

And that's basically it. Big Little Lies hasn't been without its pleasures — every single thing Renata (Dern) has said to trash her terrible husband, Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling), is meme fodder of the highest caliber — but not much has happened in the story and now it's over. Perhaps forever, too, since Season 3 looks doubtful (though if HBOMAX's decision to reboot Gossip Girl is any indication, WarnerMedia will not let a good IP lie dormant for very long). So how does Big Little Lies Season 2 end? Ahead, some thoughtful speculation.

Meryl Streep, <em>Big Little Lies</em>Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

Celeste will retain custody of her children by revealing Mary Louise acted poorly after her son died.

Earlier this season, Mary Louise revealed Perry had a brother, Raymond, who died when they were young boys. "Right after the accident, right after we lost Raymond, I was sure I would not be able to go on. I was never sure about anything in my whole life, that I wouldn't go on, but I did. Because of Perry. And so will you, because of the boys," Mary Louise told Celeste. The guess here is that Perry had spoken with Celeste about Raymond's death and his mother's response far more than the show has let on so far. With Mary Louise about to get cross-examined by her daughter-in-law (sure!), expect it to play out a little like this:

Madeline will reveal to everyone that she was behind the decision to lie about Perry's death and go to jail for a brief period

What are we to make of Madeline? The instigator behind so much during Season 1 has been muted in Season 2 — dealing with the emotional fallout of her infidelity after her husband, Ed (Adam Scott), found out. So much of Madeline's arc has focused on her desire to tell the truth, all while she's hiding her biggest secret of all: that Perry was pushed to his death and everyone lied about it because of her actions. So it stands to reason that this will all come to a head in the season finale, with Madeline confessing to the lie about Perry, thus resolving her storylines with both Ed and Bonnie (who has called out Madeline for forcing the group to hide the truth).

Renata will start a new business — and it will be awesome

Renata has lost everything this season and been brought to the brink by Gordon's failures and crimes. It forced her to embark on a bit of self-reflection — of how when she was young and poor, she vowed to never allow her daughter to go through the same hardships. Do we really think she's just going to roll over and allow Gordon to take those dreams away? Doubtful! Expect Renata to be thriving in some kind of Season 2 epilogue, with a new business that we're sure will be as successful as her first.


Bonnie will move away

Whether Arnold or Vallée or Kelley or original Big Little Lies novel writer Liane Moriarty is the ultimate author of Season 2, it's clear none of them really know what to do with Bonnie. This season has seen her role expanded upon — with Bonnie's abusive mother coming into the fold to add more trauma to the character's tortured life. But it hasn't really worked and only further underscored the show's blind spot with regard to Bonnie's race, which has received few mentions and little interrogation within the larger themes of the storytelling. So, what will the creators do with a character they have little feel for, even after two seasons? Send her out of town to heal and find peace with her own daughter — leaving behind her husband, Nathan (James Tupper), who is only not the worst man on the show because Gordon exists.

Principal Nippal will keep smoking

Can you blame him?

Big Little Lies airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. Need HBO? Add it through Hulu or through Amazon.