The centerpiece of the penultimate episode of HBO’s second season of “Big Little Lies,” titled “The Bad Mother,” transformed into a high-class but nonetheless rather soap-opera-y courtroom grilling of Nicole Kidman’s Celeste at the behest of her needling, vindictive mother-in-law Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) who wants guardianship of her twin grandsons.
As Celeste uncomfortably answered questions about her many “sins” — her violent sexual relationship with Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), her fuzzy-headed over-reliance on Ambien, her recent anonymous sexual encounters with strangers apparently captured in photos by a private eye hired by Mary Louise — Kidman went deep to pull out an emotionally draining portrait a woman who is being unfairly judged after being victimized in a horrible marriage.
Celeste also seems to have hired a very ineffectual lawyer who barely made a dent with her objections as Mary Louise’s hired gun of an attorney (the terrific character actor Denis O’Hare) kept on picking at her raw wounds and lingering guilt, suggesting she was the bad mother. But that title also refers Zoe Kravitz’s Bonnie and the childhood suffering she endured at the hands of her own abusive mother, who is currently in and out of a stroke-related coma.
In episode 6, Streep was mainly a stoic figure, save for when Shailene Woodley’s Jane — the mother of her third grandchild, Ziggy (Iain Armitage) — pleaded with her to show mercy for Celeste. Otherwise, she was a silent observer in court, oh so subtly making accusatory facial expressions as she stared at her daughter-in-law as she tried to honestly explain her recent harmful actions to herself and possibly her sons.
But you know who really is going to turn out to be the bad mother? Not to spoil anything but it is probably someone whose initials are M.L. Celeste as we know is an attorney, and next week, the tables will be turned as Streep will take the stand to defend her character’s own fitness as a mother as Celeste relies on her legal prowess to dig into her maternal rival’s own imperfect past (check out the finale preview above).
After all, rapist Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) picked up his violent streak and twisted sexuality from someone. Also, Mary Louise’s other son, Raymond, died when Perry was 5 in some sort of accident under her supervision. Oh, her husband also left her after that happened. The sound we will be hearing next week is the rattling of many closeted skeletons — or another eardrum-rattling scream emitted from the world’s greatest actress.
So how do you think this semi-satisfying second helping of the Monterey Five will play out? Share your thoughts in the comments section and answer the poll below.