Not to get into a whole Season 1 vs. Season 2 thing, but we can all admit that everybody definitely had a better time at Amabella's birthday party LAST year, right? When Renata and Bonnie got down on the dance floor, and all the dads got boners, and Madeline wasn't even invited, because it wasn't so much a party as it was social warfare? Okay, the social warfare part is still in play this year, as Renata refused to let bankruptcy proceedings affect her ability to throw her only child a lavish birthday disco.
Impressive as Renata's party-throwing prowess is, she couldn't keep it from being weighed down by The Lie or Madeline's marriage problems. Bonnie's mom having a stroke and getting rushed to the hospital (after maybe possibly having a psychic vision about Bonnie) seemed like an appropriate end to the bash.
Speaking of "bash," though, this was a very slappy/fighty episode. Celeste just wound up and cracked her mother-in-law after a tense argument at the kids' pumpkin-carving party. Celeste is in no kind of good shape, of course, and a wounded Mary Louise turns out to be a very dangerous Mary Louise, but between the slaps, the husbands' wrestling in their disco costumes, and Bonnie ready to smack the taste out of Detective Quinlan's mouth, we've got all the fixings for a power ranking.
This week, we're ranking the Big Little Lies characters on their fighting ability. Whether it's with their fists or something else, which of the Monterey Five (plus Mary Louise and some husbands) would you want on your side in a brawl? In order from worst to best...
7. Ed (Adam Scott) and Nathan (James Tupper).
Fighting style: Schoolyard bully who can't back it up.
This sad little fight. Ed already looked super ridiculous for bitching at Madeline for the part she played in their separation, and once Nathan brushed past him, it was like Ed knew they would end up in a fight. Surprise, surprise, it happened, with Nathan yanking down Ed's wig and later getting him in a headlock before Renata had to break it up.
6. Jane (Shailene Woodley).
Fighting Style: Constant defense
No fights for Jane this week, though you get the sense that she's gearing up for one... probably with Mary Louise. Her persistent flashbacks to the night of the rape while she tries to gradually ease into a relationship with Corey have definitely left her with some quick defensive reactions, though. She did win the battle against her Season 2 bangs this week, which this week's Disco Party costume mostly did away with.
5. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon).
Fighting Style: Tightly coiled, ready to spring
In a just and perfect world, Madeline's Disco Party costume, all hot pink and frizzy-haired, would have bought her a week's worth of not putting up with anyone else's shit. Unfortunately, she's still got Ed being pissy with her (though that seems to be revving her engine, so we'll let it slide) and now Celeste is joining Bonnie in blaming Madeline for telling the initial Lie and dooming the rest of them to follow her lead. Madeline even got a little bit grabby/shove-y with her best pal Celeste. No wonder she's taken up smoking to calm her nerves.
4. Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz).
Fighting style: Hospital-corridor tasmanian devil
Bonnie was already crumbling under the weight of the Lie, now she has to go through watching her mom stroke out in front of her. And while Bonnie is a frayed, exposed nerve in the hospital, she spots Detective Quinlan interviewing some nurses. Bonnie begins to charge the detective before Jane pulls her off and tells her Quinlan is on a different case. So now Bonnie looks guilty AND looks like the most obvious one to crack. This secret will be out in two more episodes.
3. Renata (Laura Dern).
Fighting Style: Withering staredowns
It looked at several points like Renata was going to put the whup on someone, from her jackass husband Gordon to the two jackass husbands wrestling in the living room, to the bankruptcy auditor who forces her to give up her jewelry and explain what her incredibly expensive (but off-isurance) medical procedure was. You haven't lived until you've seen Laura Dern angrily mime getting a botox injection with the same energy with which we imagine she flips off other drivers. .
2. Celeste (Nicole Kidman).
Fighting Style: WAHH-POW!
That slap was so good. In the annals of great TV slaps, it ranks right there alongside Sam and Diane on Cheers, How I Met Your Mother's Slap Bet, the series finale of The Good Wife, the seminal series The Slap, and the Season 2 episode of Vanderpump Rules when Stassi backhands Kristen for sleeping with her very recent ex-boyfriend. Not only did Celeste unleash several weeks worth of frustration at Mary Louise's microaggressions and subtle underminings, but she shut Mary Louise up during one of her more odious pastimes: casting doubt on Jane's rape claims. Of course, the slap was also a sign that Celeste is losing some of that famous control of hers, something which is echoed later on when she gets too zonked out on Ambien to remember that the hot bartender she banged the night before was still in the house when Mary Louise returned with the boys. She's making bad decisions, and she's going to need to pull herself together, because...
1. Mary Louise (Meryl Streep).
Fighting Style: The judicial system
Loathe as we are to give Mary Louise credit, she took Celeste's slap like a champ and did exactly what an entire generation was raised by television to do: in the immortal words of The People's Court's Doug Llewelyn, she won't be taking the law into her own hands, she's taking Celeste to court. And she's doing so by hiring the most cutthroat attorney in town (played by Denis O'Hare). So while Celeste may have wanted to slap the phony teeth out of Mary Louise's mouth, it's Mary Louise who may get the last laugh. Or mirthless chuckle. Whichever acting choice Meryl decides on.
Your turn: What were your takaways from this week's episode? Weigh in at our forums.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.