Streep's character as the "beloved smothering mother—the 'smother'—is nothing new, but in Streep’s hands, and on a show populated now by tormented characters weighed down by guilt, Mary Louise brings a welcome, wicked energy to the proceedings," says Shirley Li. She adds: "Mary Louise’s terrifying, slightly unhinged presence has so far already elevated and validated the off-book second season. She’s a uniquely, craftily vicious enemy—a mix of Sharp Objects’ Adora and Game of Thrones’ Olenna, but with fine-tuned passive aggression instead of poison as her weapon. In her verbal sparring matches with Madeline, she sits while Madeline stands above her, but Mary Louise walks away from both of their exchanges on top. It’s not clear just yet why Madeline irks her so much; maybe she intuits that Madeline had something to do with Perry’s death, or maybe it’s the fact that Madeline has leaned into her wants (by embarking on a new career)." ALSO: Big Little Lies ponders what makes a man: The women of HBO drama spend their lives picking up the pieces men leave behind.