But! It’s also possible to imagine a version of the series that continued without her. Kidman is remarkable, portraying Celeste in a kind of horror-story limbo, keeping Perry’s memory alive for her kids and, in a messy but believable way, for herself. (Her sessions with her therapist, a finely calibrated Robin Weigert, are as essential this season as last.)
After all, “Big Little Lies” is the sort of series, about people in a specific and well-imagined setting simply living life, that TV still needs more of. That kind of show could, theoretically, run for years, if not chained to, and defined by, its initial mystery hook.
You could see the fulcrum of this series being Witherspoon as the hard charging, indispensable Madeline. You could see it delving endlessly into this affluent community where the teachers work lectures on sustainable agriculture into a reading of “Charlotte’s Web” and parents treat teachers like servants. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where the less-well-heeled Jane takes a job, a child asks the series’s core question about its sun-kissed dream town: “Why is it the prettier something is, the more dangerous?”
I could enjoy that series. Andrea Arnold, who takes over directing from Jean-Marc Vallée, retains its air of intimacy. Moment by moment, observation by observation, performance by performance, it is eminently watchable.
But for now, the show is driven mostly by the revelations and aftermaths of the first season’s explosions — not just the killing, but matters of infidelity and paternity — their unwinding and their gradual exposure.
“Big Little Lies” is evolving into “Big Little Truths,” and it’s unclear whether that will sustain a long-running story or just a well-made curtain call. The story of the Monterey Five, for now, is in the position of the Monterey Five themselves: trying to figure out whether it’s possible to let go and move on.