Big Little Lies Season 2 Episode 1 Review: What Have They Done?

Big Little Lies was one of the most talked-about TV dramas of 2017. Now, it’s back for a second season, with Meryl Streep joining a cast packed with A-list actors. Catch up on the series and watch the new episode via the NOW TV Entertainment Pass. Spoilers ahead for episode 1 and all of season 1.

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Big Little Lies season 2 has a tough job to do. The first season was a wonderfully self-contained affair, telling a story that stood on its own two feet. Whilst many would have been happy with just one season, the sheer success of the show has brought a follow-up. 

‘What Have They Done?’ isn’t the most plot-driven hour of TV, but is packed with great character moments and some stellar acting. The episode starts with the “Monterey 5” trying to go about their lives as normal in the wake of Perry’s highly deserved death. This is complicated by the addition Meryl Streep as Mary Louise - Perry’s ice-cold mother - who’s determined to get to the bottom of her son’s death.

Streep is excellent here, and it’s a role that reminds you why she’s so highly regarded. She’s utterly convincing as a politely controlling and manipulative woman, who undermines everyone she meets in a way they don’t even notice. Whilst we’ve only seen a glimpse of her at this point, you get the impression that even if she knew the true Perry, she wouldn’t care. He’s her son, after all. 

Elsewhere, Renata (Laura Dern), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) are all gearing up for their kids to start school properly, with some wonderfully cringe-inducing scenes reminding us that everyone in the world of Big Little Lies has at least 2 faces, with some having 3 or 4.

Laura Dern continues to impress as the highly ambitious Renata, with her character continuing to have the best lines in the show. As she reminds her daughter’s teacher that she was bullied in the previous term, it’s easy to be reminded that these characters are still out to enhance their kids’ prospects and consequently their own standings in the community. 

Madeline faces a different problem in the shape of her daughter, who wants to skip college in favour of working for an environmental charity. This infuriates Madeline, who didn’t go to college herself, with the idea that what these kids do affects the reputations of their mothers in this affluent area once again being brought to the forefront.

Madeline was also part of the episode’s best scene, her face-off with Mary Louise, who calls her short then pronounces her mistrust for short people. This shakes Madeline to the point of wearing tall heels the next day, something that Mary Louise doesn’t let slip. The dynamic between these two promises to escalate the next few weeks, especially when Mary Louise finds how what happened to Perry.

You can watch Big Little Lies every Monday at 9pm on Sky Atlantic, which is exclusive to Sky TV. 

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