Sunday night's second episode of Season 2 of Big Little Lies was titled "Tell-Tale Hearts," a reference to the famed Edgar Allen Poe story about a murderer undone by his own guilty conscience. The secret he'd buried under the floorboards became too deafening to ignore, and he ended up telling on himself. Maybe that's not how things are going for every one of the Monterey Five, but for at least two or three of them this week, the lies of the past have become far too loud to ignore.
It's no bombshell to say that "secrets revealed" will be a theme all season. This week offered a riff on that which specifically involved a lot of mother/child developments. Bonnie's mom, Elizabeth, showed up at Nathan's request to try to snap Bonnie out of her post-traumatic daze, although he pretty much immediately regretted it. Celeste's relationship with mother-in-law Mary Louise continued to sink into a fog of suspicion and veiled threats, while at the same time both she and Jane had to clear the air with their respective sons over the boys' shared paternity. And Madeline … well, her daughters could learn a thing or two from Bonnie about clamming the hell up.
We're doing power rankings this week, but we're judging each main character in tandem with their child. Which mother and child(ren) combo withstood this week's barrage of bad news the best?
In order from best to worst (Monterey would have it no other way)
1. Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Ziggy (Iain Armitage). As hard as it must have been to tell Ziggy that, yes, Max and Josh's dead dad was his dad too — not to mention clearing up Ziggy's confusion that Perry had "salted" his mother — at least all of Jane's secrets are out in the open now. Well, except for how Perry died, but that's secret for everyone except Bonnie. Bangs aside, Jane is doing the best out of all of the women, going on cute dates with the son from Big Love and even forging a friendship with Bonnie that didn't really exist last season. It makes sense, Bonnie having iced her tormenter and all.
2. Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) and Skye (Chloe Coleman). Skye is completely on to her mom's mood swings and how she's been distant and angry ever since the school fundraiser. Skye's questions seem to spark some kind of life force in Bonnie, who is still riddled with guilt and pressure but seems less catatonic about it this week.
3. Renata (Laura Dern) and Amabella (Ivy George). It was a ROUGH week for Renata, who had to watch her husband, Gordon, get busted by the Feds for securities fraud, and just as she was celebrating her publicist scoring her the cover of the #1 women's mag in the country, too. To make matters far worse, Gordon tells her that his crimes are going to end up bankrupting them. Renata spends the rest of the episode melting down in thrillingly over-the-top fashion. So why does she rank so high? Two reasons: 1) Her snarled "I will NOT not be rich!" has already snatched the crown for meme of the year. It's this year's "I want moooore!" And 2) While Renata's earnings are considered community property by the law, Amabella's trust fund will apparently not be touched by the government. It's Amabella's bulletproof inherited wealth that are keeping this mother/daughter pair afoat this week.
4. Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) and Perry (Alexander Skarsgard). Here's another mystery to throw onto the bonfire of this season: just how much does Mary Louise believe what she's saying when she stonewalls Celeste and insists that her Perry was a good boy? She keeps trying to convince Celeste that she's wrong about him, but she's not very forthcoming with alternate hypotheses. Still, Perry being dead already, it's not like Mary Louise can do him much harm. Mary Louise lands in the middle of the pack for not letting up in the slightest in her feud with Madeline and for her constant needling of Celeste without ever burning that bridge for good.
5. Elizabeth (Crystal Fox) and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz). Bonnie's mom breezes into town… wait, or does she stomp into town? Neither one quite seems to fit Elizabeth, who behind her crystals and chicken bones has some real concrete law to lay down about Bonnie and Nathan's relationship. Bonnie ends up putting up her usual walls, though, and from the sounds of it, her parents (including non-confrontational dad Martin Donovan) are on the wrong side of it. Still, keep an eye on Elizabeth this season; Sunday's "in the weeks ahead" trailer kept returning to the drowning metaphor that Elizabeth said she had for Bonnie.
6. Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Max (Nicholas Crovetti) and Josh (Cameron Crovetti). Celeste can't catch a break, what with Chloe spilling the beans at school about Ziggy and her twins being brothers. Like she doesn't have enough to worry about with Mary Louise on her case and being paranoid that the boys' tendencies towards physical violence are dark omens about them one day taking after their dad. Celeste had earned quite a few ante-room screams to herself.
7. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Abigail (Kathryn Newton) and Chloe (Darby Camp). Madeline, GURL, time for a quick refresher as to what things to discuss out in the open with your kids: NOT how your best friend's son is your other best friend's dead, abusive husband's son. And NOT how you had sex with the community theater director last year! Madeline having two messy, gossipy daughters is perhaps her chickens coming home to roost, but this is extreme. Now her marriage might be ending. All this after she began the episode so well, getting a good dig at Mary Louise about her rude "short people" comment last week. It was jarring and very sad to see Madeline brought so low.
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, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.