By Derek Lawrence
June 23, 2019 at 10:00 PM EDT
Jennifer Clasen/HBO
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After two strong episodes to start season 2, Big Little Lies slows down a bit with “The End of the World.” As much as I still love spending an hour with these characters and actors, it’s the first time this season that I’ve wondered if the show is missing the mystery-element that was such a big part of the first installment. The women sharing the lie has essentially taken the place of the “who killed whom” device, but, if we’re being honest, why is the lie they’re keeping even a lie? Like I feel that everyone would have understood Bonnie pushing Perry to stop him from beating up his wife and her friends. But maybe I’m not the right guy to criticize weird lies considering as a kid I told my parents that turtlenecks had been outlawed at school just because I was tired of wearing them. The joke was on me when my stepdad took us to the school so I could show them the supposed signs declaring the turtleneck ban. I hope for their sake that that doesn’t happen to the Monterey Five.

Speaking of, our favorite group of liars are officially set to help Dr. Reisman redo her guest house as Madeline and Ed are the latest to seek out therapy. Madeline admits that she messed up and is desperate to fix their marriage, but Reisman isn’t ready to let Ed off the hook. The therapist points to his indifference as its own betrayal and wonders if Madeline could have been trying to get his attention. As Ed wipes away a tear, Reisman also posits that Madeline was unfaithful due to her own doubts about herself. In therapy, Madeline says that her parents had a long, happy marriage, but later tells Celeste that as a young girl she walked in on her dad having sex with another woman. Madeline admits that the split with Nathan only confirmed her fear that marriage is not to be trusted. This is basically another therapy session as Celeste then discusses her “flat and dull” life. “Sometimes, I think maybe I’m deader,” she says of Perry.

Well, someone who might feel even deader than her is Bonnie. Staring out at the water, she has a childhood flashback to her mom teaching her how to hold her breath and swim. Once again, Bonnie walks out deep into the water and goes under. She’s having a much better time when we next catch up with her because Ed has finally taken Nathan up on his request and asked Bonnie out to lunch. And it’s working because Bonnie is actually laughing! Madeline is surprised to see this odd pairing and her presence suddenly makes it very awkward. When Bonnie leaves, Madeline asks Ed how long he plans on punishing her. He says as long as he needs or wants, relishing the opportunity to piss off both her and Nathan at the same time. Madeline deems that cruel and says her husband isn’t a cruel person. “Whatever I am or have been hasn’t netted the desired results, so why not mix it up?” retorts Ed.

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only confrontation in Monterey! Mary Louise is hanging around the aquarium so she can ambush Jane and request a paternity test for Ziggy as she’s desperate to prove that her son wasn’t an adulterer and rapist. Jane resists, but when Mary Louise stalks her again and sees Ziggy from afar, the women meet over coffee. At first glance, Mary Louise instantly knew that Ziggy was Perry’s because he looks just like her other son Raymond, who died as a boy. Mary Louise says there was never a more “gentler, tender boy” than Perry. “He grew up to be neither,” shoots back Jane. “I can’t surrender to this notion that he was…evil,” admits Mary Louise. “I just do so want to believe that there was good in him.” The grieving mother asks Jane if she saw any good in him. We don’t even need to hear Jane answer that.

Let’s check in on Ziggy and the rest of our wild crew of second graders. A discussion on Charlotte’s Web leads to Young Sheldon Ziggy dropping some very adult takes about lying. I’d love to hear his thoughts on Cat in the Hat, but book hour is interrupted by Mr. Perkins noticing Amabella’s legs sticking out of the closet. She’s rushed to the hospital due to an anxiety attack (no biting involved this time around). While Renata doesn’t want to hear anything from Gordon, she does want her daughter transferred to Stanford. But why? “Because it’s Stanford,” she simply declares. Thankfully, Amabella is good to be released, with a prescription for therapy…maybe for the whole family. And she does get therapy in the form of a therapist dressed up as Little Bo Peep. It turns out that Amabella is worried that the world is doomed because of climate change. I mean, she’s also a bit worried about her parents, but it’s mostly the end of the world thing.

The ordeal with Amabella causes Renata to go off on Mr. Perkins and Principal Nippal for teaching climate change to second graders. Nippal is in full IDGAF mode this school year and trades barbs with Renata, who threatens to buy a polar bear for every kid. “I told you these second-grade mothers are Shakespearean,” Nippal says to Perkins when Renata leaves. “That woman is the f—ing Medusa of Monterey.” As they go for a smoke, Renata goes to vent to Madeline at the real estate office. It’s there that they run into Mary Louise, who does her Mary Louise thing, annoying Renata so much that I think Medusa was ready to throw hands.

Mary Louise is keeping busy, having also gone to see Quinlan for an update on Perry’s case. “A mother needs to know,” she tells the detective, who clearly doesn’t think Perry just slipped. Mary Louise was also plenty busy at Celeste’s house, whether she was snooping in the bathroom drawers or watching fun videos of Perry with the boys. “He was the best monster,” one of them fondly says about their dad. You have no idea, kid.

Like always, Celeste is also thinking of Perry. While Reisman believes it’s unhealthy to cling to the good memories, Celeste doesn’t think she should just “erase” all of that. “You miss the wars,” observes Reisman who, upon spotting the bruises on Celeste’s arm, asks if she’s hurting herself. Celeste denies it, blaming the marks on breaking up a fight between the boys.

While the rest of the Monterey Five are in a dark place, Jane is finding a bit of happiness in the company of Corey. Their practice date isn’t perfect — he already wants to meet her son and his attempt at a kiss sends her backing up — but there’s some chemistry. So much so that he actually does get to quickly meet Ziggy, showing the boy how to surf. Out for one of her famous runs, Bonnie comes across this outing and suggests that Jane be honest with Corey about her past, which makes Bonnie realize that she’s being a hypocrite.

The incident with Amabella and the resulting outrage leads to an assembly on climate change. Still in IDGAF mode, Nippal tells the parents to shut up before calling Madeline, a.k.a. the “beacon among us,” to talk. At the start, her speech seems to be about climate change, before it takes a dark and sad turn about lies and no happy endings. When Madeline begins crying, Celeste signals for Ed to go save his wife, but he does nothing.

The episode ends with a montage of the core group: Madeline is alone thinking of her affair; Renata is clinging to her expensive things; Bonnie is out by the water, again thinking back to being at the beach with her mom as a child (what do we think happened to her as a kid?); Jane sheds a tear as she slow dances with Corey; and Celeste is lying in bed, pleasuring herself to an old video of Perry.

The Biggest Lie of the Week: Nippal pretending that he doesn’t smoke. P.J. Byrne’s principal has officially become the comedy scene-stealer of season 2.

The Monterey Bae of the Week: Jane, who I’m just glad to see happy.

The Emmy Submission Moment of the Week: Madeline’s speech at the assembly. With all the talk about Nicole Kidman (the Kidback is still going strong) and Meryl Streep joining the mix, Reese Witherspoon’s performance has officially become underrated.

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