Big Little Lies Recap: Episode 5, ‘Once Bitten’


There’s still so much we don’t know, but ‘Once Bitten’ doesn’t waste any time

Big Little Lies originally debuted as the story of this idyllic town that was oozing with dark secrets beneath the perfect exterior. “Once Bitten” finally sees the characters facing some of the decisions they’ve made in the past and confronting the consequences. With every passing episode, the characters have become more and more unhinged as the series ramps up to the inevitable murder reveal.

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Madeline is the one who is forced to reckon with her past mistakes in the form of her affair with Joseph, the theater director. More is revealed about their relationship here, as  he is willing to throw away his entire life (and family) to be with her while Madeline is much more apprehensive. She believes their relationship has been put to bed in favor of a stable marriage with Ed, their car accident threatens to blow their affair wide open. Clearly, Ed and Joseph’s wife suspect both of their spouses of cheating but neither vocalizes these suspicions. It is, however, unlikely that Madeline is out of the clear just yet.

Ed looks less and less like the supportive husband he initially appears to be each week. There have been a few awkward glances that he’s cast at Abigail and Bonnie that were excused as sexual frustration or just inept social skills. However, Abigail’s quiet reluctance to talk about Ed with her mother and her withdrawal from Madeline makes it seem like there’s a bigger story there that’s going to unfold. With the entire cast turning out to be hiding some darker secret, it would make sense that he isn’t quite the nice guy everyone thinks he is.

While Ed could swing either way on the good husband spectrum, Perry is very clearly escalating from shoving to full on beatings. Thankfully, ‘Once Bitten’ only shows flashes of the violent altercation that happens between the two over the twins’ toys being left out. It effectively shows just how far into denial Celeste is that she is rationalizing their toxic relationship despite fearing for her life. Her marriage counselor finally forces her to confront the fact that her sons will eventually realize that she is being abused by their father if they don’t already know.

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Nicole Kidman is at her all-time best as she easily resonates with Celeste’s quiet pain during the therapy scenes. Despite taking a lot of criticism for allowing her accent to slip through multiple times, this episode more than makes up for it by showcasing her acting abilities. For a moment near the end of the episode, it seems like Celeste may end up taking her kids and bolting, but it’s not that simple. She opts to pick up Perry from the airport with them. It’s telling when Perry breaks down in her arms that he does feel a certain degree of guilt over hurting her but that’s all it takes for Celeste to want to give him another chance. Their toxic cycle of fighting, sex, and guilt can only end poorly which makes either of them strong potential victims for the murder.

“Big Little Lies has benefitted from a shorter, more focused season compared to other television shows.”

After five episodes, Jane finally meets Nathan at target practice making her the obvious suspect as the “murderer”. With Renata on a war path after she discovers that someone is biting Amabella, it’s enough to push into Jane looking for an outlet of all of her pent-up anger. We already know that Ziggy is not the perpetrator which makes Renata look like the villain in this scenario despite having a reaction that most parents would have upon discovering their child is suffering from physical abuse. Jane decides to take a road trip by herself (and her gun) to meet Saxon Baker after getting high in her car listening to “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight,” by The Misfits. The episode concludes before Jane can confirm whether or not he’s her rapist, but she does leave his office to scream in her car and speed down the highway. It seems unlikely for a show where are all of the characters’ lives are interwoven that they would choose to have Ziggy’s father be a stranger introduced over half way through the series.

Next: Betty Ann Baker talks about playing Loreen on Girls.

With only two episodes left, Big Little Lies is now at its tipping point. Big Little Lies has benefitted from a shorter, more focused season compared to other television shows. This was easily the best episode to date, and it seems the show is only going to capitalize on its forward momentum with another strong episode next week.