Big Little Lies episode 5, “Once Bitten”: the show’s best episode yet is also its most jarring

Nicole Kidman ceaselessly and ever, amen.

Spoiler alert: This textual content discusses the plot and happenings of “Once Bitten,” the fifth episode of HBO’s Big Little Lies.

Now that we’re getting in the direction of the conclusion of HBO’s Massive Little Lies miniseries, it’s time to stop pretending this current is merely accountable pleasure TV.

Positive, it services on rich white ladies consuming wine and staring out at enticing sunsets. Sure, it choices the type of sprawling, spotless mansions that any Precise Housewife would kill for. And okay, there have been a great deal of events when the script makes it look like creator David E. Kelley has not at all actually heard two girls converse to at least one one other.

Nonetheless after watching “Once Bitten,” I have no idea why some critics who seen six out of the miniseries’ seven episodes ended up dismissing Massive Little Lies as “a soapy melodrama” or the TV equal of a “beach read.” Whereas I was admittedly skeptical of the current after watching the pilot — the script was in order that clunky! — the current has gotten sharper and bolder with every episode.

And “Once Bitten” is straight up unbelievable, reining in among the many current’s most self-indulgent tendencies to extra a story merely as tense and compelling as that of any critically acclaimed drama anchored by a “brooding” (and, positive, melodramatic) man. That’s an hour that makes some forceful arguments for why Massive Little Lies is larger than the affluentCalifornia lifestyle porn some have made it out to be.

So let’s break them down.

Earlier tales get new life with sudden, good breaks throughout the current’s conventional format


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Proper right here is Reese Witherspoon in a kitchen! (This is not the break in format.)

Massive Little Lies is constructed on actually one among TV’s favorite bedrocks, particularly, “not everything is what it seems!” And the dirty (large) little secrets and techniques and methods saved by the current’s photogenic Monterey residents have included all of the issues from residence abuse to infidelity to murder.

“Once Bitten” doesn’t exactly shed new light on any of that. Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) continues to be scaring the shit out of Celeste (Nicole Kidman), apart from the sporadic moments when Celeste decides his administration factors and abuse flip her on. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) continues to be grappling alongside together with her feelings for Joseph (Santiago Cabrera) — or, presumably further probably, her lukewarm feelings for her exact husband, Ed (Adam Scott). Jane (Shailene Woodley) continues to be attempting to maneuver on from the night of her rape, and finding out it acquired’t be virtually as easy as shrugging it off, as she retains attempting to do at casual breakfast alongside together with her new girlfriends.

And Renata (Laura Dern), bless her furious coronary coronary heart, continues to be storming spherical in fringed sweaters demanding options for why her daughter continues to be being mysteriously hurt in school, with no care on this planet for whether or not or not the eventualities she throws out make any sense. (This week, Amabella purchased bitten, nevertheless the identification of her bully — or bullies — stays a thriller.)

The best way through which these tales progress in “Once Bitten,” paired with the easiest way director Jean-Marc Vallée frames each battle, makes them actually really feel further pressing and all-consuming than ever.

Madeline kicks off the episode by peering over the cliff Jane retains sprinting to in a mad dash to flee her private points. It’s a dream sequence, nevertheless doesn’t reveal itself as such until — in a second that made me every leap a foot and giggle reasonably loads — Renata pops out of nowhere to scare Madeline over the sting with a leering Avenue Q puppet. (I didn’t know I must’ve had “Laura Dern startles Reese Witherspoon off a cliff with a puppet” on my Massive Little Lies need itemizing, nevertheless what a godsend to us all.)

It’s a ridiculous sequence, however it moreover alerts the shocks to return all via “Once Bitten.” The episode steadily escalates its private drama with smash cuts that leap between scenes and reminiscences to get us into the characters’ heads.

There’s Madeline, remembering fragments of her steamy, supposedly lifeless affair with Joseph. And when throughout the present, he convinces her to take a drive to hash out their persistent feelings, some little one T-bones Joseph’s automotive and sends the two truly spinning. Inside the chaos that then unfolds, the digicam focuses on Madeline attempting to breathe by the use of panicked sluggish motion and blown-out sound, her ideas all a blur.

There’s Celeste, squinting at her therapist (Robin Weigert) whereas visualizing (and by no means disclosing) the whole truth of what’s occurring with Perry at residence, reliving the dual humiliation of tolerating her husband’s wrath for one factor as silly as telling him to decide on up their kids’ toys, after which feeling so turned on that she must fuck him on the bottom.

After which there’s Jane, attempting desperately to every remember and overlook the night of her rape. When she secretly goes to San Luis Obispo with a joint in her hand and a gun in her bag to confront the individual she and Madeline suppose might’ve been the offender, the conclusion that it isn’t him crashes around her in exactly the similar technique the automotive accident did spherical Madeline.

Though the flashes between these girls’s darkest concepts and the present day all happen at fully completely different events and beneath fully completely different circumstances, they’re all startling and even suffocating. That’s what makes “Once Bitten” so good: Its depictions of paranoia and trauma are exactly as startling and suffocating as these issues deserve.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée at all times finds strategies to make his characters’ inner lives not merely seen, nevertheless visceral

Vallée (Wild, Dallas Purchaser’s Membership)outdoes himself on this episode with a sequence of meticulous, enticing, and even chilling sequences that assemble on and intensify what his characters are feeling.

On the plain diploma, the easiest way Vallée’s digicam tracks the gray, sweeping vistas and the luxurious of the properties by which melancholy characters moodily swish their wine presents a glimpse of what a Nancy Meyers movie would seem like if it have been affected by melancholy.

Nonetheless Vallée isn’t glad to solely let his beautiful actors and environment do all the work. All via Massive Little Lies and “Once Bitten” particularly, he tracks everyone’s steadily mounting dread by the use of revealing images of the women’s reflections of their rearview mirrors and occasional retailer residence home windows, or vertigo-inducing dips over cliff edges. When Jane runs down the seaside with grim willpower — after which when Madeline and Celeste be a part of her — he has them run straight on the digicam, then pans spherical to point all of them in a row, three extraordinarily fully completely different girls nonetheless pumping their legs and arms in unison.

A couple of of Vallée’s best choices in “Once Bitten” are ones he ought to make with the episode’s editor, particularly the sharp cuts that emphasize when individuals are feeling notably passionate or prone. That beautiful working shot, as an example, takes a darkish, jarring flip when it cuts to Jane slamming her fist down on the breakfast desk and screaming, “Fuck!”; when Madeline and Celeste leap, it’s onerous to not do the similar.

Then — as he’s achieved in every episode up to now — Vallée elevates Kelley’s scattershot writing for Perry and Celeste by the use of cautious staging and strategic cuts. As shortly as Perry grabs Celeste by the neck in “Once Bitten,” Vallée cuts to them frantically fucking (no matter Celeste telling her therapist it’s “lovemaking,” there truly isn’t any completely different phrase for it).

And as soon as we see Perry throwing a tantrum at Celeste in flashbacks, we solely get glimpses, nevertheless every single one is staged to point us exactly how strong he is, exactly how scared she is, exactly how loads — or little — it turns her on. With Kidman and Skarsgård ready and able to dive into the twisted depths of this relationship, Vallée can fine-tune exactly how he motion pictures it to achieve a further devastating, human affect.

And now, a phrase about Nicole Kidman crushing every scene she’s in


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Speaking regarding the greatness of Massive Little Lies’ cast is the plain comment to make regarding the current at this degree, nevertheless that doesn’t make it any a lot much less true — notably as a result of the current sprints in the direction of the approaching reveal of Who Killed [Insert Whoever Died Here]. Witherspoon is — as she on a regular basis is at her best — a tensed-up ball of crackling hearth, whereas Woodley has shifted into a whole new showing gear now that Jane’s ache and fury are starting to seep by the use of the cracks.

Nonetheless Kidman is tasked with portraying a woman who wants one thing nevertheless to reveal what she’s truly feeling, even in treatment, the place she’s purported to have the power to do exactly that. That she manages to placed on about 12 emotions on her face directly, ranging from disappointment to terror to steely anger, is an actual feat.

Reverse Weigert throughout the treatment scenes — a number of of Kelley’s best work on the current, most likely on account of he writes them like he writes courtroom or investigation scenes — Kidman is a quiet, at all times vibrating stress. When Celeste goes to treatment in “Once Bitten,” she defends her relationship, reveals that she and Perry have been “bound” collectively after she had four miscarriages, and finally ends up admitting that she has feared for her private life in her private residence. Her eyes leak tears, as if her physique’s too drained to fend them off ceaselessly. Every downward look, every tiny head shake, every sudden narrowing of her eyes says higher than Celeste most likely ever will out loud.

Massive Little Lies has loads going for it. Nonetheless regardless of the best way it ends and who ends up dying, Kidman’s Celeste will on a regular basis be the fragile, bruised coronary coronary heart of the current — the one which reminds you it isn’t about sunsets or spotless kitchens, nevertheless ache.