Warning: Finale spoilers are discussed below!
I think we can all agree that HBO’s adaptation of Big Little Lies ended pretty perfectly. Seven economical episodes, great pacing, gorgeous scenery, a spectacular cast, and an emotionally fraught storyline made it one of the best miniseries of the year. As someone who hadn’t ready Liane Moriarty‘s novel, the surprising ending of Bonnie being Perry’s killer (more or less) wrapped things up incredibly well. Bonnie, who had always been an object of the male gaze, turned the tables with some keen observation and a chance to save a group of women who had never shown her any love. It was wonderful, and director Jean-Marc Vallée agrees, telling Vulture that as for this miniseries, “…this is the perfect ending. There is no way; there’s no reason to make a Season 2. That was meant to be a one-time deal, and it’s finishing in a way where it’s for the audience to imagine what can happen. If we do a Season 2, we’ll break that beautiful thing and spoil it.”
This all makes sense; it was all of these things. But both Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman have expressed the fantastic experience they had making Big Little Lies, and Witherspoon in particular has mentioned the possibility of a second season. As Vanity Fair reports, Witherspoon addressed it directly in an Instagram Live video on Friday, encouraging fans to ask Moriarty to write new stories for these characters. Since both Witherspoon and Kidman are also producers for the series, they could make it happen. (And yes this is big money for HBO, but they certainly have it — Big Little Lies was also a big hit for them).
I am usually firmly on the side of “let the miniseries be a miniseries,” but when it comes to Big Little Lies I think there is a rare and huge potential for more — knowing full well that these in-demand movie actresses probably can’t devote the time to another season even if they want to, but you never know! It could be like Sherlock and happen every few years.
The main reason is that this story was always about more than the murder. Big Little Lies was structured so that even though we knew a murder takes place, we didn’t know the perpetrator or the victim. It was an interesting and ultimately satisfying way to tell that story, though I would argue that the series didn’t need that structure. The “Greek Chorus” was the weakest aspect of the show (inserting too much camp and nonsense into what was a very heart-wrenching portrait of abuse). David E. Kelley set up the finale’s tension, regarding all of its leads and their tangled, complicated lives, in a way that was ratcheted up enough that we didn’t need to have the specific knowledge of a murder to know that something bad was going to happen. Jane’s Chekovian gun (which never went off!) was enough to prime that pump without the village idiots speculating about things that (as became very clear) they knew nothing about.
What made Big Little Lies so engrossing, then, wasn’t the murder itself but the performances that gave so much depth to its lead characters. Nicole Kidman‘s Celeste was absolutely devastating, and there’s so much left to explore with what happens to her now in a Perry-less world, as she tries to teach her sons (particularly Max) how to be better men than their father. But the character with the most going on is still Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) — did she tell Ed (Adam Scott) about her infidelity? Is everything truly fine between her and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) now? What new parenting decision that her ex makes will send her off the rails again?
Frankly, if Big Little Lies just turned into Ms. Madeline’s Monterey Mysteries I would still watch every single episode. There’s so much to be mined from that town and its denizens (Will Gordon and Tom be next year’s Feud? Will Laura Dern‘s Renata ever be accepted by the stay at home moms? Is anyone going to ever clue Ed in to anything? How does Shailene Woodley‘s Jane afford to live in Monterey on a part-time salary? Will we ever find out why someone would name their child Amabella?)
So much of the miniseries’ greatness came from Vallée’s sumptuous, golden hour-timed direction (not to mention the beach town real estate porn), but there was also something great and rare about a show that fully devoted itself to three (and arguably five) women and their uniquely female stories. If a second season could hone in on a theme as deeply affecting as what Celeste and Jane went through at the hands of Alexander Skarsgård‘s Perry, and how the bonds of friendship saved them both, then it should be full-steam ahead. Of course, that’s not an easy thing to ask for. Seeing all of those women uniting to attack Perry and get their stories straight to protect their futures (shown in the happy scenes at the beach) is something that is impossible to top. And yet, there is still the opportunity to create other, smaller moments of triumph for each characters, as well as great storylines for women that go beyond tales of marriage and motherhood, yet include them, and are ultimately about positive female friendships.
Would you not want to explore more of Jane finding a way to move forward now that her abuser has been slain? Or Celeste going back to the law which she loves? Or Madeline doing absolutely anything, because she is fantastic? Every character in the story, truthfully, still has so much left to talk about that even as the finale came to a close it was clear that a second season could go in any direction.
Vallée suggests that it’s for viewers to imagine the future here, and yet, I want to see more. That said, what we don’t need is more of the investigation, despite that sound of the lighter clicking and the dubious detective thinking the women were lying. It’s the mistake Broadchurch made with its second season, which was supposed to focus on others in the town, and instead got bogged down by a trial that nobody cared to see. Perry’s story is closed, and we shouldn’t return to it in any tangible way. But as far as where things can go from here, the lies aren’t the limit, they’re just the start — let’s hope, anyway.