This recap contains spoilers
Liane Moriarty’s 2014 bestselling book Big Little Lies was a fan favorite amongst avid readers and book clubbers everywhere. On February 19, HBO filled some pretty big shoes with the premiere of the 7-episode miniseries of the same name. With an all-star cast consisting of Divergent‘s Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon (who once played Cheryl Strayed in the 2014 drama Wild) and Nicole Kidman and clear murder mystery brewing, the television adaptation is cut out to be no different.
In the series opener, “Somebody’s Dead,” watchers are given small glimpses into the lives of one group of gossiping mothers, as well as those present at a school-trivia-night-turned-crime-scene. Police interview witnesses, giving tidbits on each mother in question, luring viewers into an immediate murder investigation.
Here are two things we know so far: First, the mothers of the chit-chatting Monterey suburb are quick to pick sides and start trouble with one another, with each woman’s seemingly idyllic life painting out to be not as picturesque behind closed doors as they appear in public. Secondly, someone is dead, just as episode’s title lets on.
In the series premiere, the school year is just about to start for the first-graders of this affluent California community. Each child’s mother is present to mingle, gossip, and choose sides when drama ensues amongst the women and their kiddos, and will eventually—we think—lead to the murder.
While both the show and book highlight a number of different mothers as suspects, the show has so far focused mainly on a core group of three women: Jane (portrayed by Woodley), Madeline (portrayed by Witherspoon), and Celeste (portrayed by Kidman). Jane, a young mother who is new to the area, is fast to make friends with Madeline, a pot-stirring queen bee. The two immediately join forces on Orientation Day with their tots in tow—Jane’s son, Ziggy, and Madeline’s youngest daughter Chloe).
Madeline wastes no time showing the new girl in town the ropes, introducing her to her best friend Celeste, a mother of twin boys whose hot and heavy (albeit secretive) marriage is an even hotter topic amongst the other parents of the town. All seems to be going smoothly until Renata (portrayed by Laura Dern) accuses Ziggy of choking her daughter, Amabella. While we can’t say for sure that the truth is revealed in the first episode, Ziggy is quick to deny it, and Jane believes him, much to Renata’s dismay.
This playground problem is just the foundation of what’s to come. There’s tension that builds amongst the mothers on and off of school grounds, as they are quickly divided into two groups: moms who work, and moms who are solely mothers.
Madeline draws the line early on that her children are her number one priority, ultimately butting heads with Renata, who has so far given off a very career-driven vibe. Without any big outside work, Madeline worries to her husband, Ed (portrayed by Adam Scott), about who she’ll become as her children grow up and grow away from her. Personally, I think it’s nice to see this emotional side of her—it’s a real contrast to the tense attitude we see her give to the other moms earlier on in the episode, including her ex-husband’s new wife, Bonnie (portrayed by Zoë Kravitz).
Perhaps the biggest question of Episode 1 lies in the reality of Celeste’s marriage. While presumably perfect, we see that her husband, Perry (portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård), has a violent side that only gets worse as the show goes on. As witnessed in clips of future episodes, we notice the two are unable to keep their hands off one another, and not in a good way.
By the looks of it, it appears the show is setting up to reveal some sort of abuse within Celeste’s marriage, but this isn’t the only suspicion viewers are given so far. As the episode progresses, I couldn’t help but wonder about Jane’s past. Where is Ziggy’s father? And what is Jane hiding about her past that she doesn’t want the other mothers to know? We see her sleep with a gun beneath her pillow, but no explanation is given… yet.
One of the witnesses giving their testimony to the police also stated that the murder at hand all began with the choking incident involving Ziggy and Renata’s daughter. While Amabella easily points out Ziggy as the culprit, he firmly stands up for himself more than once in this episode. And much like Jane, I believe him. But if Ziggy didn’t do it, who did? And how will this tie into the rest of the story?
While viewers are ultimately left with more questions than answers, Big Little Lies has already proven to be a highly-anticipated show that will keep us on the edge of our seats.