I was looking for a nice palette cleanser after The Handmaid’s Tale. I needed the TV equivalent of beach reading. This aired on HBO last February/March. It’s being called Season 1, and no announcement has been made yet as to whether or not there’ll be a Season 2, but it’s based on a book and Season 1 covered the whole book. Considering it’s a murder mystery and at the end the murder is solved, it’s hard to predict if Season 2 would try to follow the same people or if it would be more of an anthology situation. I guess we’ll see. I watched it on HBO Go.
Yes, murder mystery. I’m going to try to keep this fairly spoiler-free, but the first episode opens with various townsfolk being questioned by police about a murder and then flashes back to the start of the story, so you know up top it’s a murder mystery. You know when the murder will happen, but you don’t know who died or how or who did it. Mostly this device is an excuse to hear how the people outside of our main characters gossip about the main characters. And they gossip A LOT.
The “big little lies” in question are the lies or omissions we all make so that other people think our lives are better than they are. It’s about the struggle rich, (I’m just going to say it), white women feel to appear perfect. And it’s easy to write this off as a show about white women’s problems, but I think it is something we can all relate to in some capacity. I think often of a woman I used to work with; I lost touch after the show we were on was canceled and we went onto different paths, but we were Facebook friends so I still saw what she was up to. I was excited for her wedding pictures, and heartbroken a few years later when she announced that her husband had passed away. But she announced it on Facebook and in the same post also announced how excited she was to be going to see New Kids on the Block in concert. I have no doubt whatsoever that she was absolutely devastated, and continues to be. But the pressure Facebook puts on people to appear happy at all times hits some harder than others. This show doesn’t tackle social media directly, but it doesn’t need to. We all know about keeping up appearances.
The show does an excellent job of slowly layering in the cracks in the facades, showing us how any of the main characters could be desperate enough to kill any of the others. And really, by the time the murder happens, it feels almost incidental. (Almost. If they hadn’t followed through on the promise of telling us who died and how, there would not be the Emmy buzz we’re currently hearing.) There’s one point that I think the show wants us to take literally and I’m choosing to take metaphorically, because that’s an option that’s available to me as a viewer.
And that’s the thing about appearances: they’re open to interpretation. Whether it’s the truth or not, whether it’s what you want people to see or not, people will color the stories you give them with their own. They’ll see whatever is to their benefit to see, either because it makes them feel better about themselves or it’s a better story overall or they care about you and don’t want to have to worry. Trying to control appearances is ultimately a fool’s errand, and on Big Little Lies, it gets someone killed. The moral of the story is ultimately: find your people, let them see everything, and screw what anyone else thinks.