by Nathaniel R
Top Ten MVPs of Big Little Lies. Episode 2 "Serious Mothering"
In episode 2 we learn that Celeste's husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) is abusive and even their love life is violent. Meanwhile Renata and Madeline get into a screaming match in a restaurant over an upcoming children's party, and Madeline's two husbands -- the ex Nathan (James Tupper) and the current Ed (Adam Scott) -- rub each other the wrong way.
A list of ten wonderments from this installment after the jump...
10 Harry the Hippo
09 "Mommy and Her Boys"
That scene where the first grade teacher introduces Harry the Hippo to the classroom is bliss. The kids all seem both too old for it and totally into it depending on the split second and/or the kid in question, We can only hope that Harry the Hippo -- who we are assured LOVES being touched, a trait not shared by several of the cast members -- becomes yet another object of tension between the moms and a projection device for all the amazing child actors this show found.
The first episode did a brilliant job introducing all the moms and this one passes the torch quite passively aggressively to the husbands. Ed objects to Madeline's sole possessive "my daughter" and Perry makes a tetchy comment about being excluded:
You wanted that moment all to yourself, mommy and her boys".
Future aside: What if these twins playing Nicole Kidman's boys grow up to be actressexuals? Are they going to be so weirded out that a literal screen goddess was constantly hugging them and playing with their hair when they were kids?
That's enough naughty boy.
09 Phone Sex
Truth time: I'm not entirely sure what to make of Nicole Kidman's performance in this series thus far. Possibly too opaque? I'm both into it and not, which is unusual for me with Nic'. This scene when she flashes her boobs, but then sees the bruise her husband left and goes cold and then, just as abruptly, switches to maternal with him, is rich with psychosexual drama. "Mommy and her boys" includes her husband.
I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets.
You want 'em. Reese has got 'em.
06 Clap Off
This brilliant gesture! Ed is an old reliable but sometimes he just can't with his relentless wife. He claps off the light and shuts down the scene faster than the cut to black edit when Madeline shrilly asks "did you hear me?"
05 'Getting her drink on with the girls'
Not quite a rival for the "incident" scene in the first episode but this night out is a terrific script moment. It begins with Madeline and Celeste having a cagey but fundamentally honest conversation about fights with their husbands (the total puzzlement on Reese's face at the notion of make-up sex after a fight!!!) when Renata, overacting her buzz, enters to invite them to a fundraiser.
See, Madeline has tended to this particular grudge more than any other and this pet is now a monstrous beast. A "friendly" conversation turns profane and threatening.
Actually in my graduate thesis I coined the term 'helicopter parent.' These gems... they're fucking kamikazes.
04. The Principle
Can we have a round of applause for P.J. Byrne as Principle Nippal. Though the interview scenes are grating as a structural device they do emphasize one rich point of this series' circus of characters: everyone thinks they're personally above the drama but they're all part of the narcissistic circus.
03. Ensemble Cast Blocking
Bless Jean-Marc Vallée for his insistence on cramming multiple characters into shots. This is a lost art in movies, let alone television, and it can often yield hugely rich rewards in terms of both acting and story dynamics: The Harry the Hippo scene manages to cram all the key children into one shot (and thus we see multiple characterizations as they respond); Every meal time scene in the Mackenzie house benefits from the wide shots with Reese always at the head of the table which cleverly only has one side to make every scene about both Madeline's feelings about her entire brood and their feelings about her; Plus it's just fun to watch actors play with each other in the moment as in the coffee house scenes.
02. Madeline's Potty Mouth
Very early in this episode Reese lays into her coworker at the theater with the following speech on the phone:
I'm a lady and I've never said this to anyone in my entire life but I'm going to say it to you. You can go fuck yourself on the head!!!"
"On the head?" Other things she's surely never said to anyone in her life being a lady (yeah right) that we hear in this episode alone.
Get laid, bitch.
C**t, why don't you get fucked.
01. Adam Scott
He's on fire with three dimensions in each scene, so much lived-in history, so incisive about how his patience has been frayed, so much left unsaid even when he's laying it all out there in the beachside monologue or his chest-puffing (sans puffing) rehearsed threat to Madeline's ex later in the episode. Male actors never get any credit for being great in female vehicles but Scott deserves it (think Parks & Recreation, Bachelorette, etcetera... he's always amazing with women). Name a better male performance you've seen recently within a female centric drama than his.