Is Disney On Ice Worth Strangling A Wife Over On Big Little Lies?
The effects of an absent father's sins are just one of the questions raised in Big Little Lies' third episode.
I have a confession to make: since HBO dropped screeners of every episode of Big Little Lies but the last one, I binged on them all around three weeks ago, well before we discussed the series on the Extra Hot Great podcast. So when I sit down to write this for you every week, I've just watched the episode I'm detailing a second time. And, wow, what I'm realizing as I watch them individually is that this show MOVES.
No, the action in Big Little Lies is neither epic nor sweeping, but its little universe clips right along without any fat, fluff, or filler. This week, we see the physical tension between Perry and Celeste get more serious; we learn Ziggy's origin story; and we realize (perhaps with a shock) that Renata is human. Granted, a brittle and navel-gazing human, but, still, a relatable one. I know, I was surprised, too!
Is Disney On Ice worth strangling your wife over?
I continue to be left breathless at the delicate brutality with which BLL approaches Celeste and Perry's relationship. Yet again, we hear Perry growl "why didn't we discuss this" regarding a bit of domestic minutiae -- in this case, Celeste's decision to take the boys on Maddy's Frozen excursion instead of Amabella's party. The snicker that escaped me when Perry whines "I'm not invited to this Disney thing?" died on my lips as Perry grabbed Celeste by the throat.
But that that's what set him off -- that and, previously, the first day of school thing and disagreement over the twins' interactions with Ziggy -- seem to give lie to Perry's assertion at therapy that the reason he gets violent is because Celeste "can have any man she wants" and that he's crippled by fears that she will stop loving him.
Now, I don't think Perry is intentionally lying -- I do think that he knows his behavior, especially the physical abuse, is completely unacceptable, and that he believes counseling might help fix this untenable situation. After all, when Celeste denies to the therapist (who is no dummy) that their arguments get physically abusive, he's obviously uncomfortable...
...then owns up to it, kiiind of. Not fully, of course (and, before you ask, in Californa therapists are not legally required to report domestic abuse), but you can see his desire to come more fully clean. I also think that he's lying to himself, since the topics that spark his rage aren't related to Celeste's affections. They're all based in the kind of small domestic decisions that women were empowered to make even in far less progressive times than the present...yet they are situations, it appears, that Perry feels he must micromanage.
That his attacks on his wife aren't spurred by traditional DV setups like "you were flirting with that rando!" or "my dinner is cold!" make them all the more treacherous, since it's impossible for Celeste to do her (now, given her admitted departure from the workforce and her family at Perry's behest, sole) job without enraging him. This paints a portrait of spousal control that's both terrifying and realistic. It's so well done that it's hard to watch.
Should Maddy have negotiated with Renata?
Renata was written a little broadly for me at the get-go, with the Hamilton ticket, nanny gaffe, PayPal board shit swiftly shoveled to, I suspect, stack the audience's deck in Ziggy's favor. But this week she comes alive as a human, first with her candid-yet-gentle explanation to Amabella regarding the absences at her party, and then with her agonized visit to her husband's office.
Look, I'm not saying Renata is my best friend now; if I were to go out for drinks with any of these chicks, I'm picking Maddy. But when Renata, during her humiliating call to Maddy to attempt to broker and/or buy Chloe's favor, finally spits that she'd even arrange to "get Snow White to sit on your husband's face, and maybe Dumbo could take a squat on yours," I kind of had to love her. It's so hilarious and inspired.
And, you guys, that moment when she asks Gordon, "Have I become tragically unfun"? What slammed, busy woman hasn't had a freakout like that at some point? And, hmm, why don't guys ever worry that they aren't fun anymore? Because, fellas, it happens to you, too, but instead of getting prickly the way Renata does, you just get sad and dorky, like this:
I seriously thought I might need to have my eyes removed when Gordon did his little dance at the party. I am serious.
Back to the good stuff, by which I mean the women: Reese Witherspoon is rightfully getting raves in her portrayal of Maddy, but Laura Dern is making her characterization of Renata look effortless. It's remarkable.
And while I understand why Maddy is grossed out by Renata's tone deaf call, I think this is a case of Maddy biting off everyone's noses to spite her face. After all, if she had conceded, she could have brokered peace between Renata and Jane, smoothed Ziggy's current set of social speed bumps, and generated even more power for herself over Renata. But she squanders all these tactical advantages just to screw Renata over. Not smart, Maddy! And not nice.
Man, is HBO going all out with the music, or what?
This show relies a lot on its soundtrack, much of which is woven into the actual plot via Chloe's love for the medium and various Bluetooth devices. It's woven so seamlessly, in fact, that you might not have started to do the math on the big-ticket inclusion of a sing-along to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" as the charter van ferries the kids to Frozen, or to Perry's queuing up of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon." (Fun fact: in real life, Young throws an annual school benefit concert just miles from the setting of BLL, an event that bears a number of similarities to Otter Bay's own gala, which we'll discuss more in a minute.)
According to a music industry source, management for both sets of artists demand a solid six-figure licensing fee per use for their hits, making the possible music budget from this one episode top a million bucks. What do you think: were those songs important enough to the narrative to justify that (speculative, as I have no direct knowledge of negotiations) price tag? Also, does Perry seem like a Neil Young fan to you? Maybe Don McLean is a better fit.
Who the fuck thinks that "Elvis and Audrey Night" is a good theme for a party?
Asshole college-aged kids, that's who, the same kind of people who throw a Kurt and Courtney party in April of 1993 (true story: I got pulled over, totally hammered, on my way home, and the cop had already booked three drunk Courtneys and let me off with a warning. Jesus christ) or a shindig every November 22 with a signature cocktail called "The Pink Pillbox" (made that one up but now I'm kinda into it). But not grown-ass adults, especially ones in an enclave as rarefied as this one.
I can only assume that the party theme is 1) integral to the final episode's homicide; and 2) that it maps, somewhat, to whatever the Australian version of the gala is in the novel. I'm not going to verify the latter assumption, because I'm doing everything I can to not be spoiled for the finale, but, come on, would Otter Bay's administration really expect their well-heeled parents to go for such a hacky idea, as opposed to, say, The Great Gatsby? (What, too on-the-nose?) Other than a little eye-rolling and grumbling, these hyper-involved parents don't make a peep about this dumb-ass event, which is presented as their big annual fundraiser and the do of the season. If these freaks are crapping themselves over the copulating puppets of Avenue Q, damn right they'd be protesting being forced to dress up like a (their words, I'm imagining, not mine) drug-abusing appropriator of African-American culture. Trust me. I live in Northern California. This shit would not fly.
Are the show's revelations about Ziggy's father intended to suggest that he harmed Amabella after all?
Well, first, I gotta ask, is the show trying to plant some seed that Perry is actually Saxon? It's not like we see much, but what we do see of her assailant could be Perry, in the same way it could be, I say sadly, an awful lot of the monsters who walk this earth with the face of a man. But at the moment where you see Jane watching her assault from a distance, the guy's build is very Skarsgård, is it not? And we know he goes out of town a lot....
Okay, I'm being a crazy conspiracy theorist. I'm going to be super embarassed when it turns out Saxon is the guy in the Spider-Man costume from Amabella's party, or one of the puppets from Avenue Q.
Where was I? Oh yes: Ziggy. I think we were all assuming that his origins were not the happiest, but I'm happy that they ended up being so tragically mundane. He's not kidnapped from a lab or from inside a meteor; he's the product of a horribly-all-too-common sexual assault. (If you didn't get at least a little lump when Maddy pulled over to cry after she heard Jane's story, check yourself for a pulse.) But if so much of this show is based on the undeniability of one's inherent nature -- see Maddy, Perry, or the ocean -- then is it possible that his father's violent traits also lie within Ziggy? Is that fear, perhaps, why Jane broke down at the school last week? Is Jane afraid of that faceless man breaking into her house, or out of her son?