“The End of the World” finds the show spinning its wheels a little, as virtually everything undergoes therapy of one kind or another.
This Big Little Lies Season 2, Episode 3 recap for the episode titled “The End of the World” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Is there anything that therapy can’t fix? That seems to be the question posed by Big Little Lies Season 2, Episode 3, “The End of the World”, although I’m not sure it’s a question with a concrete answer. Dr. Reisman’s couch has hosted more backsides than any other piece of furniture throughout history; this episode it gains two more in the shape of Madeline’s and Ed’s, fresh from the revelation of the former’s infidelity.
Therapy never tends to reveal anything all that surprising. Most of the bad decisions we make are a result of insecurities or traumas. The Monterey 5 tend to have more of those things than most, but the point of the show has always been that an outwardly upper-class lifestyle doesn’t necessarily insulate one from the rigors of reality. And I think that point has been repeatedly proven.
One of the most interesting ideas posited by Dr. Reisman and by “The End of the World” is that holding onto the good memories of an abusive relationship is just a legacy of that abuse; conditioning on the part of the victim to not accept the bad, to remain, in some twisted way, loyal to their abuser. Celeste has a hard time with this idea. She struggles to see her life without Perry in it. But will refusing to bury the happier moments allow her to focus on and move away from the worst ones? I’m skeptical.
And then there’s the matter of perspective. Celeste can’t just see her husband as a villain, even though he was one; he was more than that to her, for better and worse. Mary Louise can’t see her son in that way, either. And in her caginess, Celeste hasn’t given Mary Louise the tools to even attempt to do so. To her, Celeste is embarrassed about some rough and tumble sex, not rape and persistent abuse. In a way, you can understand the scorn with which Mary Louise treats Celeste and Jane; they’ve both been subject to her son’s worst impulses, and she can’t abide the idea of it.
Or can she? Isn’t there a chance that Mary Louise knew exactly what her son was, and what he was capable of, and is just trying to cover it up? In “The End of the World”, her behavior seems to go above and beyond what you might expect even from a grieving mother.
Big Little Lies Season 2, Episode 3 is very much about exaggerated behaviors; Mary Louise might be the most obvious and concentrated example, but you can see it everywhere. Laura Dern has made a wonderful cartoon character out of Renata. especially since she’s now essentially bankrupt, and Jane’s blossoming relationship with Corey is almost fairytale-like in its innocence. Will any of this last? Almost certainly not. But even when nothing much of actual consequence is happening, as in “The End of the World”, Big Little Lies has such a knack for playing with tone and expectations that you scarcely even notice.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.