Big Little Lies turned into a television sensation, no doubt. Of course television is really the only industry where women flourish. Big Little Lies was cast with actresses who have mostly done movies and not television. Seeing them in a long series, and I would add Oprah in Henrietta Lacks to this, is a reminder of how valuable they are, especially now.
The question of whether they should have a second season seemed to draw mixed reactions. Some, like our ADTV crew here, thought it was perfect as is, and a second season risks ruining the perfect first season. We saw this with True Detective, but we also saw The Affair move on well past the point where it should have ended but it was such a compelling story that they kept it going, driving the story in many different directions – he ends up in Paris doing what again? Her daughter is what again? Who is the father again?
But the reason I think Big Little Lies should have a second season is that so much of the story has shifted with David E. Kelley’s adaptation. In reality, the Liane Moriarty story is just the spine of it. Kelley really pushed it in a different direction, and changed the characters in many ways. I will lay out what I think could be done with each character. This will have spoilers from the book, in case you haven’t read it (which you should, it’s great).
The other reason to push for a Season Two is that why should we say no to an opportunity for these actresses to work again in a climate where there are too few roles for women? So why not take a chance? Even if it fails, there is always Season 1 to cling to (“Cling to that.”)
1. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon). In the book she never has an affair with any “Joseph.” There isn’t even a Joseph in the book at all, nor is there a puppet show. That is all made up. The “I want more” scene? Totally new. The Celeste (Nicole Kidman) being the lawyer in that scene? Totally made up. The stuff with Madeline’s husband lusting after women the way he silently does? Not there. Her husband is just a good guy in the book. Witherspoon’s Madeline has a whole different storyline of explosive repressed sexuality, the kind that doesn’t exist with her husband. It seems a side of Witherspoon as an actress we haven’t really seen. She’s usually the buttoned up type but here, she’s having sex in cars and on desks. Who wouldn’t want to see this whole thing explored more? Her relationship with her husband opens a whole other can of worms. In the book she’s really a kind of frazzled busy body with ex-husband resentments. The beautiful thing about the book which isn’t really explored is Madeline’s relationship with Bonnie, which evolves out of that resentment and sends a powerful message about women helping other women rather than warring with them. And that brings us to:
2. Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) As the only woman of color in the cast, Bonnie’s back story is actually both interesting as written in the book and could be expanded to include the experience of being a black woman in an inter-racial relationship in a mostly white town. In the book Bonnie comes from a domestic violence childhood where she had to watch her mother being abused. That is why she pushes Perry off the steps to his death. Hinted at but not fully explored in the show. I could watch Bonnie pick leaves off a leafy plant for two hours, seriously. But there is a lot more to the story between Bonnie and Madeline that was left on the table.
3. Celeste and Perry’s money. In the book, Celeste spends a lot of Perry’s money and it becomes a plot point because Celeste pays $100,000 to have Madeline’s daughter take down her virginity pledge and pretends it’s a donor in the mid-west. She also leaves a big chunk of Perry’s money to Jane once it’s discovered that Jane’s rapist was Perry and Ziggy is the half brother of Celeste’s twins. Celeste’s storyline in the book had nowhere to go but her story in the series does — as a lawyer and newly single mom she could be struggling both with her son’s violent tendencies and the ghosts of her abusive husband as she tries to become a full blown lawyer again. Perhaps not quite as compelling as what we saw in Season 1 but there is potential there for more, not to mention integrating Ziggy and Jane into her family.
4. That brings us to Jane and where her story could go. Like Celeste, her storyline also collapses by the end of the book because she ends up with Tom and that’s that. In the book, her trauma isn’t as paralyzing as it is on the series and thus, her story as a new couple with Tom takes her to a different level of being. But she doesn’t belong there, in that town, with those people and that’s potentially a point of conflict.
5. Renata (Laura Dern) really didn’t have much of a story in the series except as the mother of poor Amabella. But in the book there is a French nanny and an affair. So that’s a potential thing that could happen. These women compete with their children at the elementary school and there are fundraisers and bake sales and PTA’s and through all of that there is the potential for Renata to try to exert superiority and for Madeline or others to challenge her. Plus it’s Dern! More Dern! I want more!
Not going to lie, Celeste and Jane have the least interesting ends because their stories are mostly resolved so there would have to be something introduced that would push in a different direction, like Perry’s rich parents contest Jane’s taking Perry’s money, or a scandal about Perry threatens Celeste’s career, or an abusive dick moves into town and causes more chaos…
I would be willing to sacrifice the perfection of Season One for the chance to see these actresses back for a second season. I’m not seeing much of a downside.