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Big Little Lies Power Rankings, Week 2.3: Are These Women Good Friends?

Madeline questions everything about her life this week, including whether she's been a good friend to Celeste.
  • Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies (HBO)
    Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies (HBO)

    The fallout of last week's two big secrets revealed — Madeline's infidelity and Ziggy's paternity — have several characters spiralling out. And that's not even getting into poor Amabella's anxiety attacks over last week's other big story (Gordon's securities fraud robbing Renata of her wealth). But the big spirallers are Celeste, who seems to be clinging more tightly to her "good" memories of Perry with each passing day; Mary Louise, who can't seem to decide whether she wants to broach a relationship with Jane and her sudden grandson Ziggy or poke enough holes in Jane's story to redeem her son's reputation; and Madeline, who is terrified that Ed will leave her and prove all her deep-seated fears about marriage and herself right.

    Madeline is even questioning her friendships at this point, as she laments to Celeste that she never once caught on that anything was amiss with her and Perry. "It makes me feel like you couldn't even tell me," she squeaks, mid-breakdown. And while the state of Madeline and Celeste's friendship remains strong this week, it's worth taking a look at the toll that this season's bombshells and passive aggressions are taking on the characters. And so we power rank, again in tandem, this time with friend pairs.

    In order from worst to best (because good friendships deserve a little heraldry...)

    9. Principal Nippal (P.J. Byrne) and Mr. Perkins (Mo McRae). These guys, am I right? Mr. Perkins's increasingly bizarre lessons to his grade-school students — including one where he calls beloved web-crafting spider Charlotte a liar, like, BELIEVE WOMEN, Perkins! If Charlotte says that pig is radiant, take her at her damn word — lead to Amabella having an anxiety attack in the coat closet over impending global catastrophe. And when this draws the righteous fury of Renata Klein, Principal Nippal backs up his teacher and acts eight kind of snotty towards Renata about it. To her face! Renata pledges to get rich again so she can destroy them, while Nippal goes on to host a truly unproductive parent-teacher assembly on the subject of teachers scaring the shit out of ten-year-olds with the truth. Just two peas in a rotten, male pod.

    8. Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Mary Louise (Meryl Streep). Yeesh. Poor Jane. The mother of her dead rapist is roaming free around town, skulking around various corners, waiting for her moment to pounce. Mary Louise is an interesting one, though. Even after accusing Jane of having slept around enough to have no real idea who Ziggys father is, she later makes amends and actually bonds with Jane momentarily over photos of Perry and his brother as kids. Mary Louise can't help herself, of course, and continues to prod Jane about who initiated contact between her and Perry. Anything to quiet her stormy mind over the terrifying thought that her beloved son was a despised rapist in his adult life. Not a great hang if you're Jane.

    7. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Abigail (Kathryn Newton). Abigail earns points with me for apologizing profusely for carelessly flapping her gums last week and blowing up her mom's biggest secret. This week, she gives Madeline some really solid advice over what to do about Ed (wait him out, essentially), but we'd be foolish not to note that Madeline deciding Abigail will be her best friend and lone companion is very not healthy.

    6. Amabella (Ivy George) and Dr. Peep (Kerri Kenney). Everything that ever happens in Renata's home — empowered photo shoots becoming Lip Syncs for Your Life; last year's dancing with Bonnie at the birthday party — is both insane and iconic. And also, yes, it's probably driving Amabella's anxiety. This week, Amabella's panic attack lands her in the hospital, and Renata's plan of action is to hire a child psychologist and let her pretend to be Little Bo Peep in order to find out what's troubling her daughter. If you had bet against Renata going full-costume theme party in order to properly diagnose her kid's anxiety, you have no business betting on TV.

    5. Mary Louise and Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey). After Jane is a no-go when it comes to Mary Louise's offers of friendship, she instead hits up the police department, where she bugs Detective Quinlan about the murder investigation (or lack thereof) and makes her admit that she suspects the Monterey 5 of more than mere self-defense.

    4. Ed (Adam Scott) and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz). A week ago, I'd have been all for this friendship. They could strengthen their respectives roles as the sane one in their families, blow off a little steam, and, yes, make Nathan (James Tupper) insanely jealous. What's not to like? But now that Ed and Madeline are separating, this friendship feels unavoidably cruel on Ed's part, and I don't like Bonnie being unwittingly drafted into that. Madeline didn't but could have paraphrased Carol Aird's plea to her estranged husband Harge: "This is ugly. We're not ugly people, [Ed]." ...Okay, and now I'm imagining the massive gay freakout that would've happened if Madeline had quoted from Carol.

    3. Madeline and Renata (Laura Dern). I am certainly not rooting for Madeline and Celeste's friendship to implode, but nevertheless I got crazy excited when a furious Renata ran into Madeline while still ranting about Nippal ("what a puss fuck!"), and for this brief, shining moment, they really were #SameEnergyGoals. It's a near-certainty that a Madeline-Renata friendship won't last long-term, but in a week when everybody who works at that school is being SUCH a dick, I'm happy that Madeline and Renata could triangulate their rage together, if only for a moment.

    2. Jane and Bonnie. Again, it's yet to impact the storyline very much, but we're so glad Bonnie and Jane have gotten closer to each other. Just walk up and down that coastline all day, ladies. Teach Ziggy to surf. No one's gonna hurt you.

    1. Madeline and Celeste (Nicole Kidman). Honestly? The story of the whole freaking episode is that Madeline and Ed went into couples counseling with Celeste's own shrink, Dr. Reisman. Does this seem ethically dubious, to have a shrink treat two friends who are that close? Probably. But I am now looking forward to Reese Witherspoon and Robin Weigert engaging in regular clashes of the champions as Reisman attempts to dismantle that formidable Type A personality (good luck, lady). That they now share a therapist is one more reason to idealize Madeline and Celeste's deep bond. It might not pass muster for some medical ethics board, but these two belong in each other's business in as many ways as possible.

    Your turn: What were your takaways from this week's episode? Weigh in at our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer 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.

    TOPICS: Big Little Lies, HBO, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz