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Recap: Mary Louise Goes All Boomer Grandma, Unveils Her Grand Plan, and Shakes Up the 'Big Little Lies' Universe in 'She Knows'

By Roxana Hadadi | TV | July 1, 2019 |

By Roxana Hadadi | TV | July 1, 2019 |


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“Let’s get clean, shall we?” Mary Louise asks her grandsons, but her question isn’t exactly innocuous, is it? Mary Louise couldn’t get more righteous if she tried: She says “I will not forsake what I know Perry would want me to do for them” with the mania of a true believer. This woman is going to ruin her daughter-in-law’s life in pursuit of “saving” her grandsons, and the zeal with which she does this is frightening. I have no sympathy in my heart for Mary Louise, although her son is dead. What I have instead is concern for the boys who are now in her care, because as much as Celeste fears that they will grow up to be like their father, being in the custody of Mary Louise certainly isn’t going to help things.

But Celeste tried, didn’t she? THAT SLAP! When I was watching the screener for this episode and THAT SLAP happened, I pushed myself away from my coffee table and basically recreated the Jake Gyllenhaal geeking out over Sean Paul moment:

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That was me! But then Mary Louise asked whether THAT SLAP was “foreplay,” and I WAS SHOOK. In fact, I transitioned into another Jake Gyllenhaal talking about Sean Paul moment:

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Because in that moment, I should have known. I should have guessed that Mary Louise would not allow herself to be pushed around by Celeste. Perry certainly didn’t, so why should his mother?

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AND EVEN STILL, that wasn’t everything that happened in this episode! The title of the episode, “She Knows,” could also apply to Bonnie’s mother, couldn’t it? Since Elizabeth has arrived in Monterey, she’s been warning Bonnie about her visions, about her glimpses—and now, after she suffers a seizure and a stroke, we know what she sees: Bonnie, floating face-down in the ocean, possibly dead. Does this sync up with what we know of Bonnie so far, the woman who is simultaneously entranced with and horrified by the water? The woman who has a memory of her mother ignoring her fears and throwing her into a pool, but who willingly walked into the ocean, fully clothed, just as recently as last week’s episode “The End of the World”? I’m not sure if Bonnie will really die this season; Elizabeth’s vision seems so obvious as to be a misdirect. And I honestly hope the season wouldn’t give us so much grief and guilt from Zoë Kravitz’s character only to end up killing her off. But who knows! I’m not sure! Anything could happen, I suppose!

Speaking of grief and guilt: Let’s talk about Madeline and Renata, shall we? Honestly, I felt for Madeline in this episode. As we discussed in the comments section for last week’s recap, absolutely, Madeline deciding to cheat on Ed with Theater Director Guy was her own mistake, and she says as much to Ed: “It wasn’t a problem with us, Ed, it was a problem with me.” But … at the same time … isn’t the state of their relationship kind of Ed’s fault, too? For most of the last season, it felt like Ed was just lingering on the border of his own marriage, not really taking part, not fully immersing himself in the partnership. I can imagine that’s because Madeline takes up the whole damn room of whatever damn room she is in, but part of me also blames Ed’s passiveness on the condition of their marriage, and on why Madeline would be tempted to cheat. It’s interesting that the only time we see Ed really behave like himself is with Bonnie, and also, I think, with Nathan. The masculine posturing he does to prove himself to his wife’s ex-husband feels more honest than the pettiness he is now displaying toward Madeline. I didn’t expect to, but I felt a lot of sympathy toward Madeline and how unmoored she seemed this episode.

And of course, that “unmoored” descriptor also applies to Renata, who continues MVP status for this season thanks to Laura Dern’s impeccable performance. Her attempt at facing off against the judge in bankruptcy court—girl, why?—leads to harsher punishment, so not only do “estimated liabilities of $33 million” get hit, but also Renata’s Rolex watch, her wedding ring, her Tesla, all of those little signifiers that tell people she is Renata fucking Klein. Without all that wealth, without the ability to lord it over people, who is Renata? She is grieving for a version of herself that no longer exists thanks to Gordon’s choices, and for her daughter Amabella, too, now that her precise vision for her daughter’s moneyed upbringing has been dismantled. During the ridiculously opulent disco-themed birthday party they throw for Amabella, Renata lays into Gordon, never once turning to face him but making all of her feelings clear: “All my hopes and plans for Amabella have gone to shit because I married a man who would take my life and all my accomplishments and just turn them to shit. That’s on me. My choices, my stupidity. It’s my picker that’s broken.” If I cared at all about Gordon, I would feel bad for him after that very effective dressing down! But I do not. GO PLAY WITH YOUR TRAINS, GORDON, AND THEN SELL THEM.

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Finally, then, there’s Jane, who threw me a bit this episode: Is she being swayed by Mary Louise? I thought she did well against Mary Louise during her surprise attack at Madeline’s pumpkin-carving party, recovering well from the shocking realization that Mary Louise got a unit in the building where Jane lives (after last week somehow magically appearing where Jane and Ziggy were, in order to get a glimpse at her third grandson), but Jane’s silence when Mary Louise told her about Celeste’s altered-state driving was worrisome. Because honestly, I could very well see Jane’s fear (“I’m just a little bit curious as to what you’re doing, and if you plan to take my kid next”) coming true. If Mary Louise has already made moves to get Max and Josh, what’s to keep her for coming for Ziggy? Unless something about Mary Louise’s past could affect her reputation and her suitability for becoming the primary guardian of her grandsons. Maybe something related to the death of her other son, Raymond, the reason why her husband left her alone with Perry: Remember, she tells Celeste, “I deserved the blame, to be left.” Maybe something that explains Mary Louise’s obsession with Perry and with his memory and his reputation. Maybe.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Every single disco party outfit was amazing. Every single one.

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  • Some choice musical moments this episode: Madeline playing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (one of my personal favorites!) during the pumpkin-carving party (“But listen carefully to the sound/Of your loneliness/Like a heartbeat drives you mad”) and Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together” during the end credits (“Everybody wants to live together/Why can’t we be together”).

  • Per usual, Renata had some of the best dialogue this episode, from her “Those penniless losers, as though that’s not us” about bankruptcy court; her realization that in ranting about Gordon, she offended Madeline (“Tell me to stop talking, please, just, all the time”); and the moment between her and Bonnie at Amaballa’s birthday when she called back to season one, asking if Bonnie was going to dance. Guys! Remember when Bonnie dancing was as dramatic as this show got? Ah, simpler times.

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  • There have been a few “this is more obvious writing than I expected from Big Little Lies” moments so far this season, but nothing compares with Madeline’s daughter Chloe labeling her as “unhinged” on a poster for a school project. Really? In a show that is often too much, that was too much.

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  • But, speaking of Madeline: Between Celeste and Bonnie, it seems as if there is low-level dissent in response to Madeline’s lie that Perry just fell. Could we be building up to the women coming clean to the detective later this season? Because oh yeah, the detective is still hanging around.

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  • Best exchange of the episode: “This isn’t about me needing to be liked.” “Everybody needs to be liked.” I was glad to see Denis O’Hare pop up for that exchange with Mary Louise, and it seems like he’ll be sticking around as her lawyer Ira Farber. Did you catch him in Late Night before it left theaters? You should have done that.

  • OK, runner-up for best dialogue: “Did you say something to her?” “You mean, did I cause this? I didn’t cause her fucking stroke.” I thought that Bonnie’s dad seemed like a level-headed dude, but how immediately he pivoted toward blaming her for Elizabeth’s medical condition was not a good look. The show is hinting at so much trauma in that family, and seemingly placing the blame for it squarely on Bonnie’s shoulders, and I’m very curious as to whether they actually spell it out or just continue alluding to it for dramatic effect.

  • “I will win. I’ll fucking win,” Celeste says. But how far is she willing to go?



    Roxana Hadadi is a Staff Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.


    Image sources (in order of posting): HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations, HBO Media Relations


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