We Don’t Need Another Season of ‘Big Little Lies’

“It’s not TV, it’s HBO” has been a strong marketing phrase used for nearly three decades. The confidence that HBO shows in the material it produces is not surprising, given that the network often produces high-quality, challenging material that often reaches the same cultural relevance as films. Although it has produced a number of the most influential drama shows ever made, HBO’s success is epitomized by several critically acclaimed limited event series. While these shows are often sharper in scope due to their contained narratives, several have been successful enough to inspire continuations. As successful as its first iteration was, Big Little Lies does not need to return for a third season.

big-little-lies-season-2-poster

Big Little Lies

Drama

Comedy

Release Date

February 1, 2017

Cast

Nicole Kidman , Reese Witherspoon , Shailene Woodley , Laura Dern , Adam Scott , Alexander Skarsgard , James Tupper , Zoe Kravitz

Main Genre

Drama

Seasons

2

Studio

HBO

‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 Was a Big Disappointment

Based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies examines the dehumanizing effects of abuse and sexism upon a tightly-knit community of wealthy women in Monterey, California. Told partially in flashback, Big Little Lies explores the relationship between the retired lawyer Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) and her abusive husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) in the weeks leading up to his murder. While its non-linear narrative evoked strong “water cooler” effects, the first season of Big Little Lies perfectly paired human drama with a compelling mystery. An excellent performance from Kidman served as a strong emotional hook as the story took its shocking twists and turns.

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While Celeste’s acknowledgment of her own trauma was the show’s most critical point of focus, Big Little Lies succeeded due to the strong focus on its ensemble. Within the first season, Celeste befriends single mother Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), yoga instructor Bonnie Carlson (Zoë Kravitz), popular socialite Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), and wealthy mother Renata Klein (Laura Dern). Despite the differences in their experiences, these women eventually bond over their shared mental health struggles and come to each other’s aid in the unraveling of the story's main mystery. Although many prestigious television shows could be accused of needlessly setting up “strong woman characters” against each other, Big Little Lies celebrated the power of female unity.

Big Little Lies was a heralded cultural phenomenon that won eight Primetime Emmy Awards, including Best Limited Series. Although it signified the potential for future HBO “event series” that starred well-known film actors, Big Little Lies was renewed for an immensely underwhelming second season. Without a strong basis in source material like its predecessor, the narrative of Big Little Lies’ second season felt disjointed and awkward. The tone was also decidedly off. While the first season had managed to weave in elements of satire when dealing with the privilege inherent to high-class California families, Big Little Lies Season 2 often leaned into melodrama. Even a scene-stealing performance by Meryl Streep as Perry's vindictive mother, Mary Louise, couldn’t prevent Big Little Lies’ second installment from feeling like a significant disappointment.

‘Big Little Lies’ Already Has a Satisfying Conclusion

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While the first season of Big Little Lies utilized the strong framing device of Perry’s murder, the second season spent more time fleshing out the supporting characters and their relationships. The dynamic between Madeline and her husband Ed (Adam Scott) was given more screen time after he unwittingly discovered her affairs; more time was also paid to Jane’s counseling of her son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), who begins to discover the type of man his father really was. Unfortunately, Big Little Lies never justified continuing the story beyond its natural conclusion. It was disappointing for a show once committed to showing female friendships to descend into conflicts between the characters over petty grievances.

Despite how vapid the story felt in comparison, the second season of Big Little Lies served as a definitive conclusion to the story. Forcing Mary Louise to admit to her son’s grievous misdeeds was a strong way to show how abusers are enabled, and made the completion of Celeste’s custody battle more satisfying. While Bonnie decides to admit to the role that she played in the crime, having her accompanied by the other members of the “Monterey Five” as she ventures to the police station to make a statement is a powerful concluding moment. While the uneven quality was enough to prevent Big Little Lies from being one of HBO’s greatest drama shows of all time, it was at least able to end on a respectable note.

‘Big Little Lies’ Was Chaotic Behind-The-Scenes

We Don't Need Another Season of ‘Big Little Lies’

Given how conclusive the second season was, Kidman’s recent comments that a third season of Big Little Lies may be in the works are very surprising. The second season didn’t offer any potential directions for a new story to take, as it more or less served the purpose of solidifying the first season’s conclusion. The ambiguity of Bonnie’s fate was a rather bold creative choice that left the audience to interpret the ending in different ways; contradicting that by taking a firm direction in a third season could potentially unravel one of Season 2's true highlights. Although the second season introduced a new storyline centering on the college decisions made by Madeline and Nathan’s daughter, Abigail (Kathryn Newton), it never seemed interesting enough to justify a continuation. The potential of a third season is also dimmed given that the second season of Big Little Lies was a chaotic production that sparked backlash towards HBO. Despite being initially promised creative control by the network, filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s vision was subject to significant studio-mandated changes.

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Limited event shows do have the potential to be expanded, as both True Detective and Fargo succeeded by embracing the anthology format. However, Kidman’s comments suggest that the show would only return with the previous seasons’ cast. While Big Little Lies was certainly a significant achievement, HBO is better suited to focusing on other female-fronted drama shows. Big Little Lies should be remembered as a show that kicked off a new wave of diverse storytelling, not a franchise in itself.

Big Little Lies is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

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