Big Little Lies Recap: Series Premiere, ‘Somebody’s Dead’


An old fashioned California murder

Let’s get this out of the way: ‘Somebody’s Dead’ is a near perfect entrance into the world of Big Little Lies. It effectively introduces the overarching murder mystery as well as the characters involved. Set in an idyllic coastal town, the show sharply contrasts its gorgeous scenery with the darkness that lingers right below the surface.

Image Credit: HBO

Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline Mackenzie, a full-time mom and a part-time community theater worker, whose family consists of a mandatory moody teenage daughter (played by Kathryn Newton), her soft-spoken but supportive husband (played by Adam Scott), and a precocious first grader (played by Darby Camp). She’s the ringleader of the group whose put-together façade quickly crumbles when she’s faced with her ex-husband and his much younger wife as well as her daughters’ growing independence. Her husband makes a crack about  how she’s drawn to “damaged people” which makes it understandable as to why she befriends new mom, Jane (Shailene Woodley) and her friendship with Celeste (Nicole Kidman). Her outspoken personality and the terror of losing her kids makes her a natural-born leader for people who still need a person to rely on.

Celeste definitely needs someone who will stick up for her as her guarded nature reveals a lot more about her home life than she thinks. Each moment her young attractive husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) touches her, she flinches. A confirmation that their relationship may not be as perfect as social media seems to portray is when Perry grabs her wrist after she writes off one of his suggestion. After she squirms away, each loving moment the two had together seems to evaporate and based on the terrified look she held while in bed next to him, she is beginning to become disillusioned from the marriage as well.

Image Credit: HBO

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She isn’t the only one who’s having trouble sleeping – Jane keeps a gun under her pillow as she’s plagued with by a vague memory. In ‘Somebody’s Dead’ Shailene Woodley captures the character’s uneasiness as she’s thrust into a world of competing families. Jane’s sole focus is on her son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), who’s accused of choking a girl on the first day of school. She’s quick to defend him, especially after he asserts that he did no such thing, but it also cements her relationship with both Celeste and Madeline who choose to stand by their new friend.

The decision comes with consequences, as Jane finds herself with a new enemy in the form of working mom, Renata (played by a game Laura Dern), whose daughter Amabella is the victim of the attack. While Madeline may be the most vocal defender of Jane, it’s Celeste who she bonds with immediately. The two share a moment over coffee when Jane explains her feeling of being an outsider looking in or stranger in a moment she’s a part of. Celeste’s quiet understanding and their shared trouble sleeping is only the beginning of the complex similarities that unite the two women as their friendship will develop substantially over the course of the series.

Of course, the largest storyline in Big Little Lies, is the question of who was murdered and who was involved. ‘Somebody’s Dead’ cuts through almost every scene with clips from the interrogation room as other parents offer their own judgements of the main characters. For now, the only information given on the murder is that somehow all of the main characters were involved, the friendship between Madeline and Jane is what sends everything spiraling downward, and that it happened at a charity event.

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Fans of Liane Moriarty’s novel most likely know how the series will end as well as the characters’ developments but will nonetheless enjoy the story coming to life. For people who haven’t read the book, buckle in because this is going to be a wild ride.