By: Alexandra Smith
The finale of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” (BLL) opens with the most gruesome abuse scenes that the audience has been exposed to thus far (and from what we’ve seen previously this season, that’s seriously saying something). The camera starts off panning outside the house into a window. Screams and thuds are muffled over the sound of children’s cartoons playing, grimly reminding the viewer that children are in the house. We get our first shot of Celeste on the bathroom floor, unresponsive and trembling, in her bra and underwear.
With hair matted against her face her husband puts his hand on her head, shakes her, and says “Get up. Celeste, you’re fine. You just got the wind knocked out of you.”
“Mommy’s not feeling well today so I’m going to take you guys to school,” Perry kneels down and tells his son.
At this point in the show, the abuse in their marriage has escalated from isolated incidents followed by hot sex and periods of intense love to routinely violent chaos that leave us wondering if Celeste will make it out of this marriage alive. Much of this psychologically tormenting cycle reflects the way real life survivors of and experts on abuse describe the experience to be like. In the beginning, incidents are sparse followed by spells of tremendous love and affection. Slowly the incidents of violence and psychological harm become more and more frequent and the good periods become few and far between. BLL nails this. Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most difficult things a person will ever have to do, but at this point, any possible sympathy we had for Perry is gone and we’re kicking ourselves for any moments where we acquiesced to his charms. We honestly just want Celeste to get the hell out of there, for both her and her boys. And she resolves to after Trivia Night, the big school fundraiser.
Being that these characters are from the incredibly wealthy town of Monterey, the “fundraiser” looks more like a movie premiere and right away as all of the characters arrive, we get the idea that raising money isn’t the only purpose of this event. It’s an excuse for the adults to attend an elaborate party (and for an open bar). Every piece of the party from the costumes to the lighting to the music is immaculately chosen.
Celeste, Madeline, Jane, and Renata all deal with their own personal dramas throughout the night, but by the end of the episode, they all find each other by the water. Perry finds them all and begins mercilessly attacking Celeste. All the women attempt to help, but are unsuccessful until Bonnie comes and pushes him off of of the ledge.
So after 6 episodes of anticipation, we finally find out it is ironically the abusive Perry who dies at Trivia Night. And Bonnie is the one who kills him nonetheless. I like this ending for a multitude of reasons. Not because it is realistic, or because it will correct all of the mental and physical harm Celeste has endured throughout her marriage, but because all of the women rose to defend one of their own. And because it was Bonnie who pushed him. Over the course of the show, it was easy to write Bonnie off as the young, sexy yoga instructor with little to offer other than the “mint flavored blow jobs” Madeline claims she gives Nathan. But as we watched Bonnie explosively push Perry off of the ledge, we see that she has a backbone we didn’t know existed. We feel bad that we ever wrote Bonnie off as just a 25-year-old hot girl. And you can see that the rest of the women feel that way too.
The final scene of the episode shows the women playing happily playing on the beach with their children, united by the experience they endured together. The children have gotten along all along and now their mothers do too. This might seem cheesy, but in the moment it doesn’t really feel like it. It’s a powerful image of women of all different ages and backgrounds coming together. Madeline and Renata, stay at home mom and CEO, are united. Madeline and Bonnie, ex wife and current wife, are united. Jane and Renata are united after incidents with their kids. And we see Celeste, finally free of her brutal marriage. The idea that women are stronger together when they relinquish any pre-conceived notions about each other is one that is extremely powerful and needs to be shown way more. BLL ending the final episode with shots of just these five women, individually strong and collectively unstoppable, leaves us with a feeling of hope. Now that they are all united, who knows what they’ll be able to do.
Photo: courtesy of the Los Angeles Times