Spoiler alert! The following contains details from the Season 2 finale of "Big Little Lies," "I Want to Know."
The "Big Little Lies" team, which includes creator and writer David E. Kelley, producers Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon and even the great Meryl Streep, could have learned a lesson from "Jurassic Park." They were so preoccupied with whether they could make a second season of HBO's Emmy-winning series, they didn't stop to think if they should.
When I first reviewed the new season of "Lies," I raved about the performances from the A-list actresses, and the way the series was examining the after-effects of trauma and grief. I was delighted to see Laura Dern unleash every ounce of anger she possesses as Renata, who was forced to deal with financial peril and a loss of control. It was wonderful to see Kidman's Celeste back in therapy sessions, an extension of scenes from Season 1 that rank as the Oscar-winning actress' best work to date. And I was most eager to see the series expand the role of Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), the show's only woman of color and a character severely underserved the first time around.
However, there may have been a reason that HBO sent only three of seven episodes for review. The promise in those initial hours was never realized in the second half of the season, which has been lackluster and clichéd, all while stretching for story and drama that isn't there. Season 2 justified its existence, until it didn't.
Hacky courtroom scenes, a bad Streep character and repetitive storytelling have plagued this season, and things didn't get better in the final episode. After the gorgeous Season 1 finale had left things so deliciously tangled, "I Want To Know" tied up every narrative thread neatly with a banal bow. Celeste kept her kids and kicks her odious mother-in-law Mary Louise (Streep) out of town; Madeline (Witherspoon) renews her vows with her husband; Jane (Shailene Woodley) commits to a romantic relationship; Renata leaves her criminal, unfaithful husband; and Bonnie convinces the whole Monterey Five to turn themselves in to the police for Perry's (Alexander Skarsgard) murder.
The biggest crime of Season 2 is that it didn't really say anything, whereas Season 1 was loquacious. The new episodes flirted with exploring the effects of trauma, but the writers shrugged when it came to finding a deeper meaning to suffering than that it simply sucks.
Bogged down in an outrageously absurd courtroom drama, the finale felt like it was for a different show altogether. (You don't need Oscar-winning actresses for a "Law and Order"-style drama that ignores standard legal procedure). It revisited scenes of the domestic abuse and exploited them for shock value, a stark contrast with the more sensitive portrayal in Season 1. Kelley tried (and failed) to trick viewers into expecting a matricide, a hackneyed trope that didn't belong in the series. And he attempted to pack the biggest emotional punch with a resolution to the marital troubles between Madeline and Ed (Adam Scott), but the couple lacked any depth or chemistry to begin with.
For a series with such incredible talent and juicy source material, "Lies" ended with little more than a resigned whimper. There might have been a Season 2 that lived up to that affecting and graceful first year, but this certainly wasn't it.
Next time these actresses get together, we can only hope it's really worth their time.
More 'Lies' (big or little):
- Meryl Streep is the worst thing about 'Big Little Lies' Season 2. What happened?
- 'Big Little Lies' star Adam Scott slams Mitch McConnell for using his image, sparking feud
- The beginning of 'Big Little Lies' Season 2 was exquisite
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Big Little Lies' finale recap: Season 2, Episode 7, 'I Want to Know'