Editor's Note: To get us all caught up for Sunday's 4th episode (we'll start covering the series as it airs now), and so that I can get to "Feud" and the latest episode of "Pfandom," I'm handing over the reigns to episode 3 to our new contributor Spencer Coile for a fresh set of eyes.
Top Ten MVPs of Big Little Lies. Episode 3 "Living The Dream"
In the third episode, Madeline finds out that her oldest daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton) wants to move in with her dad (James Tupper) and Bonnie. Celeste and Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) attempt to give a another go at counseling. And after a botched family tree project leads Ziggy (Iain Armitage) to ask who his father is, Jane reveals to Madeline that Ziggy was the resut of forced sex with a man supposedly named Saxton Banks.
"Living The Dream" is Big Little Lies' finest installment thus far, and a list of the episode's major players follows after the jump...
10 Chloe: Playlist Extraordinaire
Using a playlist (on a flash-drive, no less!) to woo Abigail into letting her have her old bedroom? She truly is Madeline's daughter, that little schemer.
09 Avenue Q
For a brief second, we witness as the cast of this community theater production sing through one of the musical's most memorable numbers, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." And across the country, musical theater fans rejoiced. Whether or not Madeline can save it is yet to be determined, but I surely hope we see more in the coming weeks!
08 "I saw erections."
There is still so much that we don't know about Bonnie. Her dancing makes for just another layer to this enigmatic woman. Would it be too easy to chalk her up as merely a free spirit, caught up in the moment when Renata invites her out onto the dance floor? The way she lithes, gyrates, and shimmies, all eyes are on her-- it is truly hard to look away, mothers and fathers alike.
But... you don't have cancer.
07 Ed Mackenzie, the Madeline Whisperer
Nathaniel has already written extensively about Ed and Adam Scott's performance of Ed, so I will just add that Ed truly is the perfect foil to Madeline's eccentricities. He is calming and oh-so loving.
Because I'm still in love with you... on this harvest moon
06 "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young
The episode ends with the each woman utterly disillusioned. Celeste softly cries into her husband's shoulder. Madeline sits in her daughter's now empty bedroom. Jane has finally revealed her long-time secret. No on is living the dream here, yet as Neil Young croons in the background, we see that it certainly isn't from a lack of trying.
What did you say?
05 Iain Armitage as Ziggy Chapman
I'm a tad cautious when it comes to child actors. Fortunately, Armitage is nothing short of revelatory as Ziggy. He clearly has shades of darkness that come through in this latest episode-- particularly when he loses his cool when Jane will not allow him to put his unnamed father on his family tree. There is such a maturity to Ziggy that is both admirable, yet intriguing. Is he hiding something? Am I perhaps reading too much into his performance? Who knows, tune in next time!
04 The Counseling Session
Amidst the twists and turns that come from multiple different storylines, Vallée manages to find time for six minutes of pure acting bliss. As Celeste and Perry sit down for their couple's counseling session, they begin by immediately lying to their counselor. No, of course Perry doesn't hit her. The incredulity they imbue right off the bat demonstrates repeated history from the two; they have clearly done this before. But as the stakes are raised, tears begin to fall, and both Celeste and Perry admit to their wrongdoings. Perry is abusive, but he has his reasons. But, more devastatingly, Celeste has her reasons for allowing it to continue. But perhaps they both already knew that.
03 The Many Faces of Reese Witherspoon
Those comparing Witherspoon's performance to her portrayal of Tracy Flick in Election or to any of her past performances are doing her work on Big Little Lies a massive injustice. Madeline Martha Mackenize is a creation that is completely unique from anything Witherspoon has done in the past, and a role she was born to play. One scene that remains etched in the mind is the PTA meeting, where the camera is held on Witherspoon's face (pictured above). In just fifteen seconds, she says so much without saying a single word. All of her doubts, her disappointment in losing Abigail are brought to the forefront, and all we can do is watch her struggle to remain cool, calm, and confident. Madeline may not be perfect, but Witherspoon certainly is.
02 Party Bus
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, holding glasses of champagne, singing along to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" (which is brilliantly utilized, considering the title of the episode). Need I say more?
You're dead in this town.
01 Renata's Leopard Jumper
Laura Dern has been bringing her a-game to the role of Renata Klein, queen bitch of Monterey, California. And "Living The Dream" brings to life many of her insecurities, yet many of her strengths at the same time. Clearly, Renata is not a bad person. As witnessed through her phone call with Madeline to her pleas to feel wanted by her husband, she is willing to lay her heart on the line for those she loves-- notably, Amabella. And this all culminates to her daughter's birthday party, where she is dressed spectacularly in one of the series' most iconic looks. As she parades around ensuring everything is perfect, we bear witness to some of Dern's finest work: that of fashion guru, cool mom, and kick-ass dancer all wrapped into one.
The war is raging and all is glorious.