Whether by guilty pleasure or genuine appreciation, HBO’s soapy limited series “Big Little Lies” has been one of the most talked-about shows of the spring. And now, after many slow drives along the Bixby Bridge, Motown-adjacent song cues and waves crashing on the Monterey coast, the series is over.
All along, David E. Kelley’s drama (based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 bestseller) promised us a murder, and on Sunday its victim and perpetrator were revealed. Although for all the petulant, privileged behavior on view for seven episodes, it’s hard not to relate to one of voices from the series’ long, flashed-forward investigation: “One dead? We definitely got off light.”
Here are six highlights (so, obviously, spoiler alert):
1. The monster is slain: Though statistically speaking all odds pointed to Nicole Kidman’s Celeste as the finale’s victim, Alexander Skarsgård’s abusive “monster” Perry met a just end Sunday night. After Perry learned of Celeste’s beachfront apartment and plans to leave him, he confronted her again at Trivia Night, which led to a violent scuffle between the two of them along with Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon). Finally, it was Zoe Kravitz’s Bonnie who stepped in and shoved Perry backward down a flight of concrete stairs and what looked like some pointy rebar — but if you read the book you knew this part.
As a side note, though Perry had to go, it was nice to see Skarsgård conjure just the tiniest bit of Eric from “True Blood” as he swaggered in Elvis circa “68 Comeback Special” leathers.
2. Ziggy was framed. A key question behind the drama and backbiting among the parents at Otter Bay Elementary was the bullying of Renata’s daugher Amabella at the apparent hands of Jane’s son. In a nod toward the cyclical nature of abuse, one of Celeste and Perry’s twins Max was in fact at fault all along, and Ziggy had been covering for a scared Amabella. Fences with Renata (Laura Dern) were eventually mended. “They bully, it’s human nature,” Woodley’s Jane said to Celeste as she broke the news. “They grow out of it.” Celeste’s answer marked the closest thing to a public acknowledgment of her situation: “Sometimes, they don’t.”
3. A requiem for Adam Scott’s beard: Hidden behind a wreath of facial hair that squared off half of his head for most of the series, Adam Scott’s Ed finally dispensed with his beard for the Elvis & Audrey Trivia Night, which featured precious little trivia. Ever the romantic, Ed opted to dress as the fresh-faced “Blue Hawaii” Elvis to sing his 1970 hit, “The Wonder of You.” If there’s any justice, however, there’s a montage of a turbulent Pacific amid footage of Ed pensively taking clippers to his face on a cutting room floor somewhere. (Also, drinking a triple-vodka before karaoke really will help you sound like Ricky Nelson. That’s just science.)
4. Someone needs to brush up on their Emmy speeches. Awards voters love limited series prestige dramas, and this show’s star-studded cast offered some tough choices. Multiple names will most likely come up on nomination day, but smart money is on Kidman, who was at the top of her game with her steely portrayal of a victim of domestic abuse.
5. Tom the cafe owner steps up. Jane didn’t have to go stag at Trivia Night as the delicately bearded Tom (Joseph Cross) built up the nerve to ask her out after kicking out a furious Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling), who was looking more comically tech-wealth than usual with his distressed leather jacket and glasses wedged onto his forehead. If this weren’t enough to set Tom’s credentials as down-to-earth dating material, he rode a bike to pick her up for Trivia Night, and Ziggy approved. But it evidently wasn’t enough to earn Tom a spot at the season ending frolic on the beach, and speaking of ...
6. You can’t always get what you want? Maybe elsewhere on HBO. The series closed in maybe the most moneyed Monterey manner possible with a happily-ever-after beach picnic, chilled white wine and much thoughtful consideration of the ocean over a wispy cover of the Rolling Stones classic hit. Sure, Madeline will evidently just keep her affair a secret from Ed for the rest of their lives, Bonnie will carry a measure of guilt for killing Perry and Ziggy will still spend years pointing at Mom during verses of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” — but just look at that view. Getting what you need isn’t so bad.
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