The possible murder/suspect combinations dwindled this week ahead of next week’s finale of Big Little Lies. The murder mystery is still a compelling plot point, but this week’s episode proves once again that it’s the characters — and not the mystery — that has made this series as enjoyable and madly addictive as it has been all season long.
We begin with Madeline, whose production of Avenue Q is a rousing success. Madeline, nevertheless, feels miserable afterwards, having been confronted by Tori after the play and accused (rightly) of sleeping with her husband, Joseph. Madeline denies the affair, gamely, but Tori isn’t buying it.
Afterwards, Madeline has a long, sad conversation with Ed about the lack of passion in their sexual lives. Poor Steady Ed: Being a good guy doesn’t make you a good lay. Madeline says enough to let Ed know that she had an affair, but steady Ed seems to acknowledge and forgive all at once, which is kind of the problem, Ed! I’m no expert on marriage, but when your wife cheats on you, Ed, maybe show a little anger and passion before you forgive instead of rolling over for your wife like you always do. I feel for you, brother, but you have to stand up for yourself, too.
Ed and Madeline’s dinner with Bonnie and Nathan provides the episode with its most delightful moments. In a Xanax and wine haze, Madeline manages the dinner well until Nathan tells her that their daughter is selling her virginity online to raise money for Amnesty International (white people!), which elicits three rounds of kale-spew, the last of which is directed at Bonnie. It’s a vomiting spree that also ends with a sly smile behind Madeline’s napkin, because Madeline is awesome and f*ck Bonnie. Minutes later, after Madeline opens up to Abigail and convinces her to back out of her absurd prostitution-for-charity gambit, I think the tension in that foursome’s relationship dissipates, meaning that Nathan and Ed won’t end the series as suspects in the other’s murder. With only an hour left, I think this plotline has fairly well resolved itself.
Meanwhile, Jane confronts her rapist this week only to realize that her rapist is probably not her rapist after all, but a kind interior designer who is left traumatized by a stranger walking into his office with a gun in her purse. Jane thinks she’s going crazy, and knowing what a gentle, sweet boy Ziggy is has left her wondering if her rapist might actually be a nice guy who made one mistake. (Spoiler: He’s not.)
Jane also freaks out on Renata and gouges her eye (“MY EYE!”) after a petition begins circulating around the school to expel Ziggy. The freak-out leads to an almost hard-to-believe moment of amends between Jane and Renata when Jane apologizes and convinces Renata to realize that they have something in common: They both believe their child is a victim. The next day, a cheerier Renata even invites Ziggy over for a playdate so she can rule him out as Amabella’s bully.
Finally, this entire show could have been an extended conversation between Celeste, Perry, and her therapist and it would not have been worse for it. Those conversations have provided the show with some of the heaving moments, and best acting in the series. While Kidman is going to deserve every award she is bestowed, I think Robin Weigert (CALAMITY JANE) deserves a supporting nod here or there, too, especially for the way Dr. Reisman is able to speak to Celeste in her own lawyerly language as a way to convince her to leave Perry. Celeste begins laying the groundwork for just that after a fight led to Celeste breaking Perry’s urethra in two places with a tennis racket, which elicits a menacing death threat from Perry later that night.
So Who Killed Who?
Our chief predictions from earlier in the season not only haven’t changed, but last night’s episode only made us more sure of our initial guesses: That Jane’s rapist is Perry, and that Amabella’s tormenters are Perry and Celeste’s children.
It doesn’t exactly answer the question of who kills who, but the most satisfying guess is that Jane sees Perry for the first time at the fundraiser, recognizes him as her rapist, and Celeste, Jane and Madeline conspire to kill him (maybe Renata also joins in after realizing that Perry’s genetics are responsible for the bullying of her daughter). That almost seems too predictable at this point, but it still makes the most sense.
It’s also possible, however, that after Celeste learns that it’s her boys’ responsible for bullying Amabella and that Perry was responsible for the rape of Jane, she decides to confront Perry. She tells Perry that she’s going to leave him. Perry then kills Celeste in a fit of rage, but because Celeste still hasn’t confided in any of her friends yet about the abuse she’s suffering, no one knows that Perry has been a threat all along, leaving the community baffled by the prospect of the murderer being someone who loved Celeste as much as they believe Perry loved her. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to the audience, but it would come as a surprise to every other character on the series except for Dr. Reisman, who is not being questioned by the police at the moment.
With only one hour left, however, I don’t think we’re going to ever get into the trial of the murderer, so the series is likely to end with a definitive suspect. Who among those being interrogated, however, can provide the crucial clue to lead police officers to make an arrest? Or will the identity of the killer (or killers) remain a mystery to everyone else but the audience?