ADLG’s Big Lil Lies Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

Big Little Lies Blog 1
Apr 22, 2019 | Sara Khaki

HBO recently announced that its award-winning drama Big Little Lies will return for a second season on June 9th. With about a month and a half to go until the premiere, now is the perfect time to return to Monterey, California and revisit the complicated lives of main characters Madeline, Celeste, and Jane.

The team at Atlanta Divorce Law Group is also eagerly anticipating the new season. While we wait for June 9th to arrive, our law firm is launching a new blog series to help guide your re-watches and explain some of the family law issues addressed in season one. Before you read on, please be aware – if you have not watched the first season yet, there are major spoilers ahead!

Big Little Lies Season One – Episode One “Somebody’s Dead”

PLOT: It all begins with a crime scene. Flashing police cruiser lights, detectives covering the grounds, a school campus full of confused parents. Somebody is dead, and we do not know who committed the act or who was the victim.

Jump to first grade orientation day at Otter Bay School. We are introduced to the main characters as they drop their children off on campus. Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) is a strong-willed mother of two to first-grader Chloe and teenager Abigail. Madeline injures her ankle while lecturing a car full of teenagers (including her daughter) about proper cell phone use while driving. Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) sees Madeline trip and offers to drive Madeline and Chloe to Otter Bay School; Jane is new to town and single mother to first-grader Ziggy. The pair meets up with Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), Madeline’s friend, former attorney, and mother to first-grader twins Max and Josh. Also at the drop-off are executive Renata Klein (Laura Dern) with her first-grader Amabella and Amabella’s nanny, and Bonnie Carlson (Zoe Kravitz) the fitness instructor and mother to first-grader Skye – Bonnie is married to Madeline’s ex-husband. After drop-off, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane meet for coffee so that Madeline can rest her ankle and the ladies can get to know the mysterious Jane better.

At the end of orientation, the children’s teacher holds a meeting outside with the students and their parents. Someone has bitten Amabella, and the teacher is trying to figure out who did it. Amabella points to Ziggy in the crowd of children, who denies hurting his new classmate. Jane and Renata’s reaction to the situation sparks what will become a season-long battle between Team Madeline-Celeste-Jane and Team Renata.

The episode cuts to dinner time at each of the main character’s houses. Madeline, her husband Ed, and the kids discuss the school biting incident – later moving to a conversation about Abigail and college applications. At Celeste’s house, we meet her husband Perry; she also discusses the school incident with him and her twins. Renata is still furious about the incident; she spends her evening talking to her husband Gordon and strategizing how to handle the situation. At Jane’s house (which, incidentally, is a stark contrast to Madeline, Celeste, and Renata’s palatial beach homes), Jane asks Ziggy about Amabella and he denies any involvement. A gun flashes on the screen – suggesting that there is much to learn about Jane or perhaps foreshadowing the crime scene that started this season.

FAMILY LAW THEMES: There are several family law themes weaving throughout this season opener. One of the primary issues relates to custody and blended families. Madeline has teenage daughter Abigail from her first marriage to Nathan; she has younger daughter Chloe from her current marriage to Ed. Madeline shares custody of Abigail with Nathan; Nathan is now married to Bonnie and their daughter Skye is in the same class as Chloe. Madeline and Nathan do not have a friendly or healthy relationship; however, it appears that they push these issues temporarily aside when it has to do with co-parenting Abigail. Madeline does not like Bonnie, however the women are often forced to interact as their children are classmates. It is unclear as to why Madeline and Nathan divorced, but both are now married to supportive spouses who appear to be good parents and step-parents. Ed and Bonnie are there to calm the waters when Madeline and Nathan argue with each other.

Other family law issues addressed in this first episode include the stigma of working parents (Renata) vs. stay-at-home parents (Madeline and Celeste), the stigma of single parents (Jane) vs. married parents (Madeline, Celeste, Renata, Bonnie), and the prejudices associated with becoming a mother at a young age (Jane, Madeline).

At Atlanta Divorce Law Group, many of our clients express concerns related to divorce, blended families, custody, and co-parenting. As you go through a divorce, you may experience feelings of anger, betrayal, or loss. Often, it is difficult not to allow your own emotions to spill over into decisions that involve your ex-spouse. It is also extremely common for parents to feel guilt over the divorce and let rules at home slide. But, as you make decisions regarding custody and shared time, it is your duty as a parent to process the difference between what is best for you and what is best for your children. It is important to remember that if your children lose a parent — your children lose. Children are innocent bystanders in this process and are already dealing with stressful adjustments such as new homes, schedules, or even step-parents or step-siblings. Remember, your job as a parent is to make your home the best possible environment for your children and to create a place where they feel safe. You cannot control what happens in the other parent’s house; you can only control what happens in your own home.


  • Upon re-watch of season one, this episode has some major foreshadowing about Celeste’s marriage and issues of domestic violence. When Madeline says to newcomer Jane “This is Monterey! We pound people with nice!” Celeste’s response is “To death.” During dinner at Madeline’s house, Ed comments that Celeste seems wounded (in spirit) and Abigail talks about how awful it must be to get choked by someone. Wow, these just seemed like throw-away lines upon first watch!
  • While Renata is ranting at home about the Amabella/Ziggy biting situation, her husband Gordon shares this observation: “Women. You want to be the envy of your friends, but God forbid you garner too much of it.” Pretty critical and negative of Gordon to say, but not too far from the truth.
  • Maybe one of the reasons Madeline dislikes Bonnie so much is because of Bonnie’s “cool” factor. Madeline is trying to get Abigail to eat the healthy meals, keep her teenager attitude in check, and work on her college applications. Contrast this to Bonnie, the fitness instructor with the artsy and laid-back vibe. If you were a teenager, which of these parents/step-parents would you gravitate towards?

Be sure to check out our blog next week, as we discuss Big Little Lies episode two “Serious Mothering.” In the meantime, if you or someone you know needs help with your family law case, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at (678) 929-5719 or via our website.

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