HBO’s newest miniseries, Big Little Lies, just ended earlier this month, and it couldn't be more of a hot topic. The show, which is adapted from a novel by Liane Moriarty, explores a central thematic mystery: a murder at an ostentatious fundraiser thrown by the Otter Bay Elementary School in Monterey, California. The details of this murder are slowly unraveled as the main drama, in which three mothers are painted as prime suspects in the murder. The mothers' lives are intertwined because their children all attend the same elite elementary school. Their stories appear to be glazed with perfection, but as the series progresses it becomes increasingly more evident that their lives are anything but picture–perfect.
Perhaps the most moving plotline is told between Nicole Kidman’s character and her husband, played by Alexander Skarsgård. At the shows beginning, Kidman and Skarsgård appear to have the most ideal of relationships: a beautiful home, darling children, happiness and a shared, undying passion after years of marriage. As the plot develops, though, their refined arrangement begins to crumble, and their passion transforms into volatility and abuse. Skarsgård, unable to control his anger and insecurities, physically assaults his wife when they’re in private. Then, as soon as one of their children darts into the room, the two disturbingly revert back to their previous façade of perfection.
It’s clear that the show was trying to be anything but another Desperate Housewives, but unfortunately, it seems to be exactly that. While Big Little Lies is certainly elevated above Desperate Housewives in both sophistication and aesthetic, it too, at times, devolves into cheap gossip. Any and all exposition is given by other parents of Otter Bay students, whose collective role in the plot development is actually pretty inconsequential. They’re mere pawns, and it doesn’t quite make sense that these uninvolved outsiders would have had access to the very internal details of the main characters’ personal lives. It is this cheap cop–out that brings the show closest to its suburban soap–opera counterparts.
That being said, many touching and intriguing plots shine through the distracting gossip of the investigation room. Laura Dern plays the type–A Silicon Valley executive, Renata Klein, who goes absolutely berserk when it is revealed that her daughter, Amabella, has been physically bullied at school. However, when Amabella is strangled on the first day of school, she names the new kid, Ziggy, as the culprit. Ziggy is the son of Woodley’s character, and when Ziggy denies any involvement with the crime, Woodley defends her son and ignites an all–out war between Witherspoon and Dern. The show employs many of these shocking plot lines to keep you hooked and entertained, slipping hints about death and murder into the dialogue to keep you on your toes.
Though the plot line may take some uninspired and flashy turns at times, the show is undeniably entertaining. It was directed by Jean–Marc Vallée, the man behind Dallas Buyers Club, and he definitely brings his same touch to this television series. The cinematography is breathtaking, glossy, captivating and embellished by a fantastic soundtrack. It’s a good drama, and it’s pleasing to both the eye and ear. Catch it on HBO, and do your best to dodge all the spoilers flooding the web.