It has proven to be a brutal, chilling insight into domestic violence and its lonely, hidden horrors. It is hard to imagine television more powerful this year than the conclusion of Big Little Lies.
If you read the book Big Little Lies, then what happens in the final moments of the HBO adaptation did not surprise you. Even if you didn’t read the book (for the record, I did not), you still may have found it pretty obvious to learn that the man who raped Jane (Shailene Woodley) and the person who ultimately dies at that school fundraiser is the same person: Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård), the abusive husband of Celeste (Nicole Kidman).
Because of course, it’s Perry. Once the finale reveals that Max, one of Celeste and Perry’s twins, was actually the one who choked Amabella, the narrative finger points pretty clearly at the idea that Perry is responsible for inflicting pain on both Jane and Celeste. “Violence could be in his DNA, given who his Dad is,” says Jane at one point, causing Celeste to physically jump. And given the volatility of the relationship between Celeste and her husband, it’s inevitable that the whole situation will boil over in some hideous, violent and public way.
The most deft shift the finale pulls off is the way it leads us to believe, initially, that Celeste must have killed Perry, then, with the jolt of Jane’s realization that Perry raped her, turns our attention to “Jane who’s probably got a gun.” But then the finale says: Nope. Someone else did this. And it was Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz).
The gang of five females evidently decides to insist it was an accident, which, in a way, it was. We don’t hear what all of them are saying when they’re interrogated by police, but we do hear from the female investigator who is not buying any of it. “I’m so sick of these lies,” she says. Her partner points out that even if Perry didn’t slip on his own and fell because Celeste pushed him, what’s the difference? It’s still self-defense and it’s not her fault. “That’s what’s bugging me,” she says. “Why lie?”
The note that Big Little Lies ends on says that when a woman is genuinely bugged about something, there’s no way she can let it go. But it also speaks to the fierce way that women rally around each other in a crisis and push petty rivalries to the side for the sake of each other and their children.
“You Get What You Need” has (rightfully) received stellar reviews across the board for how well it wrapped up seven episodes. But the finale’s brilliance has also inspired demands for another season of Big Little Lies, even though it was never intended to be anything more than a mini-series, and even though its season covered just about everything that happened in the Liane Moriarty novel that inspired it. Big Little Lies was so good, the argument still goes.
Honestly, so sad it is over. Big Little Lies was fantastic. But, please, don’t ruin it with another season.