Wow. I’m completely blown away by the finale of Big Little Lies. “You Get What You Need” is a masterful conclusion to an excellent series. It’s the most tense hour of television I’ve seen in a long time.
All of the relationship drama, the driving force of the series, simultaneously boils over at the fundraiser. The two most prominent mysteries are then solved in one jaw-dropping fell swoop. The look on Jane’s face during her revelation shook me like few moments in television have ever managed to do. Not only that, but the setup for the final confrontation is executed extremely well. In a series where men commit many horrible acts, it’s fitting that the core group of women stand together and face down the greatest adversary of all.
To reach this moment, we experience a skin-crawling slow burn. Amidst the backdrop of beautiful and poignant Elvis Presley covers, the tension surrounding every couple we’ve been following reaches a peak. Armed with the knowledge that the night will end in bloodshed, we’re left waiting to see how it will all unfold.. All of the character conflicts intertwine, each feeling like they could break down at any second. The tension surrounding every part of the fundraiser event is remarkable.
Each scene with Perry and Celeste together is downright terrifying. Witnessing Perry keep up appearances at the fundraiser, while simultaneously stalking Celeste through the crowd, is chilling. Until his very last minutes, Perry is able to maintain the facade of being a loving husband. Part of what makes this case of domestic abuse so profound – aside from Nicole Kidman’s remarkable performance – is the fact that Perry and Celeste are viewed as the town’s perfect couple. For their drama to spill out into a public setting, and for the true scope of Perry’s transgressions to be revealed, makes for a really powerful climax.
There is a noticeable contrast in how the women and men handle themselves in this finale. Ed and Nathan nearly get into a fistfight. It’s the culmination of a constant battle of one-upsmanship, driven by insecurities on the part of both men. Joseph, who is unable to own up to his transgressions, lashes out aggressively at Madeline. Renada’s husband confronts and threatens Jane, refusing to let his wife fend for herself.
The women, on the other hand, come together in profound ways. Renada makes amends with Jane and Madeline. Jane compassionately arrives at the aid of Madeline and Celeste during their respective crises. Bonnie, who was constantly written off by the other women throughout the series, notices the trouble between Celeste and Perry, and ends up being the one to make that final push.
It’s amazing how the show is able to clean up all of its mysterious and plot threads in such a tight, satisfying fashion. Perry is responsible for not just the horror we’ve seen with Celeste, but also for the trauma in Jane’s past, and the violence towards Annabella in the elementary school.
It’s not surprising that Ziggy reveals Max to be the school bully, especially considering the episode’s opening shot. We are shown an air vent, and can make out the faint sounds of a struggle taking place upstairs between Celeste and Perry. One of Celeste’s justifications about Perry, which she desperately held onto all season, was that he would never hurt the children. But children see and hear what goes on around them, and inevitably become influenced by the actions of their parents. The effects of Perry’s actions are far-reaching and devastating.
Overall, this series accomplished a remarkable feat. It crafted a murder mystery, where the murder became the least interesting aspect of the show. It took on heavy subjects like domestic abuse, telling very contemplative and nuanced stories about them. The relationships felt real, the performances were incredible, and the plotting was brilliant. Big Little Lies is one of television’s best limited series in recent memory.