Need a quick catch up? Be sure to check out our recap of last week’s episode
This recap contains spoilers
Each episode of HBO’s Big Little Lies carefully and slowly digs up the deepest and darkest secrets that Monterey has to offer. With only two episodes left to go (!!!), I can’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied when I see the show’s credits roll each week. As I’m sure so many other viewers and fans are feeling too: We just want more!
Thankfully, Episode 5 gave us a little more drama, answers, and sets up for the rest of the series. In “Once Bitten,” we get better insight into the confrontations of each character’s private trauma and public demons. In Celeste’s case, it’s the violence within her marriage; for Jane, it’s Ziggy’s father; and for Madeline, it’s an affair.
Madeline’s affair is an interesting twist that I wasn’t expecting. This wasn’t in the book, so it’s surprising to see this character’s story unfold this way. With Madeline’s sass and her need for control, it’s interesting to see her unguarded in a way that nearly exposes her secret rendezvous, which could’ve jeopardized her family.
We saw in previous episodes glimpses of a lingering flirtation between Madeline and play director, Joseph, as well as a passionate scene of the two cheating on their respective spouses. In this episode, though, Madeline is a bit thrown off by the tension she feels with him as they continue to work on the play and seems a bit bothered when he shows up unannounced while she is getting coffee with the girls. After he insists that the two go for a drive to talk things out, they’re involved in a near-fatal car accident that puts Joseph in the hospital. It’s a harsh reality check for their relationship and a bit of a metaphor for the show as a whole. Just as a bystander witnessing a collision, the scenes in Big Little Lies are hard to watch but you can’t stop looking.
Remarkably, though, Madeline and Joseph’s near death scene remains a backdrop to those with Celeste and Perry. The couple is still deeply troubled and trapped in one helluva violent marriage. And when Celeste attends a therapy session alone while Perry is out of town, it’s a relief to see her begin to come clean about her domestic life. Question by question, the therapist pushes and prods and pulls the truth out of Celeste, who, at first, repeatedly denies the abuse, maybe fearing that saying it out loud will make it all too real, or that confiding in the therapist is somehow disloyal to Perry.
The therapist ended the session by recommending the two start planning for a way out for Celeste. On first glance, when I see Celeste with both her sons at an airport, that’s exactly what I thought she was doing. But then Perry appears from a terminal, surprised to see his family waiting, and embraces Celeste as he cries into her shoulder. We know that Celeste acknowledges that her marriage is a toxic relationship, but she’s in denial that Perry is the real source of the problem. I’m beginning to wonder just how bad the abuse will have to get before she decides it’s too much.
Meanwhile, we see Jane at target practice, which ultimately worries Madeline and Celeste as they begin to wonder if maybe encouraging her to meet up with Ziggy’s father was a bad idea. And when Madeline confesses the plan to Ed, he is firmly against it (obviously), pointing out the potential danger, and Madeline agrees. But that doesn’t stop Jane from taking the road trip, unbeknownst to the others. We see her make the drive to Saint Luis Obispo to attend an appointment with interior designer Saxon Banks/Baker (?). Despite her gun practice, Jane doesn’t shoot him but instead runs out of his office in a fit of rage and panic. Did she just meet the rapist? Or is Saxon not the one? Nothing is certain.
Unfortunately, this is not the only dilemma Jane has to confront in this episode. Bullying is still a huge problem at Otter Bay School and continues to follow Ziggy. Word of Amabella’s ambiguous bite marks and quiet demeanor get back to her parents, and Renata is furious and worried for her child. She’s relentless in assuming Ziggy is the culprit, but Jane, Ziggy’s teacher, and Ziggy’s therapist all disagree. There’s no real resolution for the time being, but Jane notes that a third-party will be sitting in during the classes to observe Amabella and Ziggy’s interactions with one another. My fingers are crossed that this will finally bring out the truth. For Jane’s sake, I hope that the real classroom bully is caught soon so we can get to the real meat of the series: the murder!
All of our favorite characters are quickly becoming more unhinged, and all the chaos within the picture-perfect beachfront mansions of Monterey is likely to make the series’ murder plot that much more climatic. The murder has been given so much build-up that it’s likely to be an explosive last few episodes.
I wouldn’t exactly say we’re much closer to uncovering the truth about the murder as we are to the elusive school bully, or the fate of Celeste and Perry, or anything really. If anything, I feel as though each episode pulls me away from the answers I should be seeking out. While it’s frustrating, to say the least, I have a feeling that the rest of this series (and its finale) will be worth the wait.