Who is ready for season two of Big Little Lies? We only have a few more weeks until the June 9th premiere of the award-winning HBO drama. While we wait, now is the perfect time to binge watch season one (if you haven’t started already) and to re-visit the complicated lives of Madeline, Celeste, Jane, and the rest of their Monterey, California community.
The team at Atlanta Divorce Law Group is also eager for the return of Big Little Lies. To go along with your re-watch, we’ve created a new blog series to help unpack some of the family issues and themes addressed during the first season. (Click here to read our previous recaps of episodes one through three). Spoiler Alert: if you have not watched season one yet, this blog series explores many of the plot lines. Also, like the television series, the content here is for mature audiences, as many of the episodes feature violent and sexual imagery.
Big Little Lies Season One – Episode Four “Push Comes to Shove”
PLOT: The episode begins with a familiar scene: flashbacks to the school fundraiser mixed with biting commentary from the Otter Bay School staffers and Monterey community. We jump to Madeline and her ex-husband Nathan, who are meeting for drinks to discuss how to best co-parent their teenage daughter Abigail. Madeline calls afterward Celeste to decompress, and heads home to find her husband Ed practicing his Elvis routine for the upcoming school fundraiser. Meanwhile, Celeste’s husband Perry asks about Celeste’s upcoming legal meeting. Celeste, a former attorney, has agreed to help Madeline in her legal battle against the Monterey community – who are opposed to Madeline’s production of Avenue Q. Perry is upset about Celeste potentially going back to work and prioritizing career over his wants for a larger family; the argument turns violent, which then turns into another violent sexual encounter. We then see Jane, who’d been having a nightmare about rape and suicide. She awakens with a start and her son Ziggy asks about his Dad.
The next day, Madeline, Jane, and Celeste meet for coffee. Madeline wants to know if it’s okay to talk about sex around Jane. Jane says that after opening up to Madeline about the rape, Jane is experiencing an awakening about sexuality and the power of secrets. Meanwhile, Ed goes to Bonnie’s fitness studio to discuss the upcoming Madeline-Ed-Nathan-Bonnie dinner and keeping the peace between the mixed families.
Up next is the meeting between Madeline’s team, the Mayor of Monterey, and Renata’s team – or the pro Avenue Q vs. the anti Avenue Q, if you will. We are introduced to a Celeste we’ve never met before: calm, in charge, an expert in the law, and a professional powerhouse. She deftly convinces the Mayor that Avenue Q is the right, legal choice – leaving Renata to only smile and nod in agreement. After the meeting, Celeste admits to Madeline that the meeting made her feel alive again, and that for her, being a Mom just isn’t enough anymore.
After receiving another call from Otter Bay School about bullying suspicions involving Ziggy and Renata’s daughter Amabella, Jane has spent the day with Ziggy. After enjoying the aquarium and the beach, a perceptive Ziggy asks his Mom what’s going on. Jane tells him that he has to go to a child psychologist.
Following the meeting with the Mayor, Madeline and Joseph (the play’s director) meet back at the theater, and the pair end up kissing. Evidently, this is not the first time something like this has happened between Madeline and Joseph. Later, Madeline recounts the story to Celeste – the women are at Celeste’s house. Celeste, still wearing her attorney hat, is initially amused by the story, but then asks Madeline, “okay, so what really happened?” After Madeline leaves, Celeste and Perry continue their fight about Celeste’s legal career versus Perry’s desire for her just to be a Mom and to have more children. Celeste later admits to their couple’s therapist (during a solo session) that she wants to go back to work but is afraid of how Perry will respond to that.
The episode ends the next day as Madeline, Celeste, and Jane meet at the coffee house. Madeline has been doing some digging online and believes she may have found Jane’s rapist. Jane’s response is to go to the shooting range, where she is visibly upset and thinking of her attacker.
FAMILY LAW THEMES: The fourth episode of Big Little Lies presents the audience with several themes related to family law. Today, Atlanta Divorce Law Group is focusing on Emotional Abuse and Gaslighting. As we discussed in our recap of episode two, emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence. It is a pattern of behavior in which one partner/spouse tries to control the other partner/spouse. This can manifest in the form of insults, intimidation, pressuring the partner to do something he or she does not want to do, causing the other partner to be fearful of doing/saying the wrong things, and/or isolating the other partner from their friends and family. Emotional abuse, also known as verbal domestic abuse, is when a person tries to control their spouse/partner by appealing to their emotions. This brings us to gaslighting, which is a form of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation. A person who is “gaslighting” their partner is using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and/or lying in order to destabilize the other partner and retain control over the relationship. Gaslighting often causes the victim to lose his or her own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth.
Whether intentionally or not, Perry is gaslighting Celeste. The are numerous examples in this episode. Perry refers to his wife in a spectrum of different and confusing ways; sometimes he calls her pet names like Sparkles or My Baby, sometimes he refers to her as a woman who lies and prioritizes her own wants over the happiness of her family. We hear Perry tell Celeste things like “I’m just concerned about you” or “who’s going to put you back together,” which suggests that there is a problem (when there might not actually be one), that Perry is the only one who can take care of Celeste (not her friends or family) or that Celeste can’t take of herself (which, after the legal meeting, we absolutely know she can). Also, when Celeste is trying to have a serious conversation with Perry about her career and returning to work as a lawyer, Perry changes the conversation by saying that he wants another baby – or by distracting her with sex. Perry exhibits classic examples of gaslight by exaggerating the truth, using repetition, wearing out Celeste (mentally and physically), throwing in positive reinforcement to confuse her, and escalating (physically) when challenged.
In addition to emotional abuse and gaslighting, the other family law issues in this fourth episode include co-parenting (Madeline), the stigma of being a Mom versus wanting more than motherhood (Celeste, Madeline, Renata), infidelity (Madeline), and potential substance abuse. For our full discussion on custody and blended families, you can read our blog on episode one. For more on the issue of domestic violence, you can read our episode two blog.
- Madeline and Ed have very different styles and abilities (or lack thereof) when it comes to communicating with friends and family. So it’s interesting to observe that their daughter is so adept at communicating through music and lyrics.
- For a child in elementary school, Ziggy is highly perceptive and insightful. He’s a great character foil for his Mom, who has trouble reading people and emotions.
- When Madeline tells Celeste that she slapped Joseph, Celeste’s response is to laugh. For someone who is a repeated victim of physical domestic violence, this seems like an unusual reaction.
- Anyone else notice that almost all of Perry and Celeste’s fights begin with Perry asking, “Why wasn’t I told about this?” Perhaps this goes back to Perry’s need for control, and when he doesn’t have information, he feels like he doesn’t have control.
- When they meet at her studio, Bonnie tells Ed, “Everyone has baggage.” Will the audience learn what Bonnie’s baggage is?
- Wow, slam dunk attorney Celeste! Where was this person hiding — and, can we see her more often?
Be sure to check out our blog next week, as we discuss Big Little Lies episode five “Once Bitten.” 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.