Big Littles Lies Recap: Episode 3, ‘Living The Dream’


This tension can’t go on for much longer

As the season progresses, Big Little Lies continues to peel back the layers of each character to expose their inner vulnerabilities. Episode 3, ‘Living The Dream,’ expands on Renata, turning her into a sympathetic antagonist rather than the successful mom who spars with Madeline. The amount of courage and strength it takes to call someone up to admit you were wrong is massive, and Renata really chooses to test her own limits with her apology to Madeline. It’s not cut and dry who is right or wrong, but Renata chooses to take the high road in favor of her daughter. It’s a touching moment that adds depth to her character, especially when she’s been portrayed as mainly a cold-hearted career woman.

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It makes sense later on, as she worries about Amabella’s emotional scarring from this spat, and even considers sending her to a child psychologist. Her fear that Amabella could already be grappling with extenuating circumstances that could lead to some severe depression now (even though she’s a six-year old) is directly mirrored by Madeline’s desire to give Abigail the best possible life.

Once Madeline is called to the guidance counselor’s office to discuss Abigail’s plummeting grades, it becomes pretty clear that her eldest daughter wants to move out. It’s been seen in their few scenes together that Abigail feels stressed out by the constant pressure of perfection that her mother expects. When she makes comments that Madeline’s desire to make her perfect seems to stem from her own inability to make it as a career mother, ‘Living The Dream’ starts winding down like a ticking bomb while the audience waits for Madeline to break down. Their relationship explains why Madeline is so threatened by Renata as well. In hindsight, the two are incredibly similar: they both want their daughters to have successful lives, and they prefer to be in control of every situation. However, Renata’s career success and Madeline’s stay-at-home mother status offer the “greener grass” that the other wishes she had.

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As the two of them grapple with their own ambitions, Jane spends the episode trying to get Ziggy more involved in activities. Their relationship is clearly one built on trust and communication, making them the most sincere of the parent-child relationships on the show. However, a family tree project leads Ziggy to snap when he begins to question who his father is. From the first episode, it has been clear that Jane has been running away from something and ‘Living The Dream’ finally reveals her dark past. She explains to Madeline how her encounter with his father (named Saxon Banks) was at first a romantic and fun-fueled night which took a turn for the worse when he became so aggressive that she feared for her life. Shailene Woodley’s detachment in the scene completely encompasses Jane’s character as she recounts the worst night of her life that gave her the best thing she could ever hope for.

“As the rivalries continue, it’s only a matter of time before one side pushes the other too far.”

This isn’t the only abusive moment, as Celeste and Perry finally find their way to a marriage counselor after she threatens to leave him during an especially violent fight. The scene offers more insight into their toxic relationship: Perry looks for signs that she doesn’t love him and then lashes out. He admits that the line between passion and rage is so close that the two of them constantly cross between the two. Celeste admits as well that she often feels ashamed afterwards because their physical fights end with anger fueled sex and she knows she shouldn’t enjoy it as much as she does. After therapy, it leads to a tender moment between the two where Celeste can’t figure out whether she’s happy or sad, but their relationship troubles are far from over.

Next: HBO and BBC are teaming up again.

Episode 3 of Big Little Lies  succeeds in giving Perry and Renata more depth when it would’ve been easier to make them one-note villains. Next week’s episode teases that Ziggy will once again be accused of bullying Amabella (draw your own conclusion as to whether it’s really him) and that Madeline will uncover some key information as to who his father is. With each week, the stakes have been rising on Big Little Lies, as the characters inch closer and closer to the inevitable murder that will take place. As the rivalries continue, it’s only a matter of time before one side pushes the other too far.