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TV Series Review

Secrets are murder to keep. Especially if your secret is murder. Five moms from beautiful Monterey, California, are learning that the hard way.

Oh, the official story is that a guy named Perry just lost his balance and slipped down the stairs. But the five of them—Perry’s gentle, self-blaming wife Celeste; rich, bossy Madeline; powerful Renata; young yoga instructor Bonnie; and free-spirited newcomer Jane—know what really happened. Celeste was planning to leave her abusive, philandering, rape-y husband. When Perry found out, he attacked her. Celeste’s friends tried to pull her away when bam! Bonnie pushed the guy down the stairs.


Turns out, killing someone is surprisingly easy with the right amount of oomph. Getting away with it? That’s harder—even if you’re never officially caught.

Sex, Lies and HBO

As Season 2 opens, the police still have no idea what really happened, and the women are still holding to their story. But like a Pacific storm off the coast, clouds are beginning to gather. Rumors still swirl, and the women are now known around the community as “The Monterey Five.”

Bonnie never wanted to lie. And given the circumstances, she probably would’ve escaped jail time. But when Queen Bee Madeline told the police it was an accident, the rest fell in line. Now the secret’s eating Bonnie alive.

“You know I can’t talk to my husband?” She spits at Madeline. “Or my kid. I have to just swallow it all.”

Meanwhile, Celeste is having nightmares, blaming herself for Perry’s death and fantasizing about the good times she and her hubby used to have when he was alive.

“You glad that he’s dead?” Jane asks her.

“It’s complicated.”

Also complicated: her relationship with her mother-in-law, Mary-Louise. Perry’s grieving mom is helping Celeste take care of her second-grade twins, Josh and Max. But Mary-Louise is suspicious about how Perry really died, and she knows nothing about the dead man’s many faults.

“I want Perry back,” she confides in Madeline. “I’m very tempted to ask you [what happened]. But I doubt I would get the truth, would I?”

The case isn’t closed yet. But Madeline has houses to sell. Jane has children to teach. Renata has tech execs to intimidate. And all of them have second-graders to take to school. Life goes on.

And so do the secrets.

Primary Problems

HBO’s Big Little Lies (based on a novel of the same name) doesn’t draw viewers like its recently departed stable mate Game of Thrones did. But when it comes to critical praise, few shows are its equal. It already boasted an A-list cast in its first season, including Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon (Madeline) and Nicole Kidman (Celeste). Both were nominated for Emmys, with Kidman taking home the trophy—one of eight the show won in its awards debut. Now in its second season, the drama has ushered the legendary Meryl Streep into the fold as Mary-Louise, and the critical raves have gotten ravier.

But despite the constant presence of little kids in every episode, family viewing this is not.
Sure, if we were feeling particularly generous, we could say that the show delves into complex characters and their equally complex relationships, and one might even find a moral of sorts: Lies and sins have a way of haunting us, even when we try our best to shut our eyes to them.

But you have to wade through a lot of gunk to get to those positives. Sex, and sometimes nonconsensual sex, is a big deal here—so much so that newcomers might need a flow chart to keep track of who was married/had sex/was raped by whom. Nudity can be pervasive and at times exceptionally graphic. And violence … well, no one’s been killed in Season 2. Yet. But give the show time.

Characters sometimes retreat to alcohol to assuage their hurts and guilt and anger—though that remedy often increases those problems instead of soothing them. And swearing … well, let’s just say there’s a lot of it.

Big Little Lies offers some little lessons along with some big problems. But despite its excellent cast and strong writing, it would take more than a little push for me to fall for this show.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

July 21, 2019: "I Want to Know"
July 8, 2019: "Kill Me"
June 9, 2019: "What Have They Done?"



Readability Age Range



Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Martha Mackenzie; Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright; Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman; Alexander Skarsgård as Perry Wright; Adam Scott as Ed Mackenzie; James Tupper as Nathan Carlson; Zoë Kravitz as Bonnie Carlson; Jeffrey Nordling as Gordon Klein; Laura Dern as Renata Klein; Kathryn Newton as Abigail Carlson; Iain Armitage as Ziggy Chapman; Meryl Streep as Mary Louise Wright






Record Label




On Video

Year Published


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