The final scenes of “Big Little Lies’” first season were about as good as TV gets. The slow motion horror of its fatal climax, the sigh of catharsis left in its wake, and the camaraderie between the women at the center of it all made for such sharp, elegant television that it seemed like a given that it was, indeed, the end. Even beyond the fact that they by and large told the entire story of Liane Moriarty’s original novel, the initial seven episodes of “Big Little Lies” felt so complete that the idea of coming back for another round seemed like an excuse to regroup its admittedly titanic cast — including Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and executive producers Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman — for the fun of it. So now, two years after it first debuted, “Big Little Lies” is back for a second season with a palpable sense of understanding that it needs to underline why a return to the women of Monterey was necessary.
The first three episodes of this season — which will again include seven chapters in total, this time directed by Andrea Arnold — quickly abandons the idea of Celeste (Kidman), Madeline (Witherspoon), Renata (Dern), Bonnie (Kravitz), and Jane (Woodley) being the tight-knit group of survivors that the Season 1 finale depicted (even though their gossipy neighbors have taken to calling them “The Monterey Five”). While last season’s final shot of them relaxing on a beach with their kids promised a new fidelity forged in a terrible shared secret, the Season 2 premiere picks up several months later with them all more scattered than ever. The premiere feels especially fragmented in its efforts to run down everyone’s emotional standpoints; scenes hardly get a chance to get going before moving. And as for how they’re dealing with the fact of racking up a body count, the only ones who seem to be actively grappling with it are Bonnie, the one who actually pushed Pe