Somebody’s dead on Big Little Lies. If you’ve read the 2014 Liane Moriarty book the HBO drama is based on, you know who that someone is, and who killed that someone. But this is for everyone else who hasn’t read the book (and if you have — keep your spoilers to yourself, please): Each week, we’ll take stock of which characters — played by big
little Hollywood names including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz — seem the most suspicious… and which ones seem the most likely to end up killed during an elementary school trivia night fundraiser. This week, we look at the third episode, “Living the Dream.” Click here to see our theories about the premiere and here for our rundown of the second episode.
Who’s the most suspicious this week?
At first glance, Renata “F–king Madeline, I wanna kill her” Klein (Laura Dern). Aside from that fun little threat she utters in front of her surprisingly calm husband, she also tells Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), “You’re dead in this town. As is your f—ing puppet show.” Man, the lack of respect for Avenue Q in this town is something else. (Disclaimer: I know nothing about Avenue Q. I, too, would also probably call it a “f—ing puppet show” if I, for some reason, were forced to talk about Avenue Q.)
So, here are two times where Renata has referenced Madeline’s death in some way, which makes her capital-S suspicious — which makes her, well, probably not the killer. She is the only main character who explicitly talks about death and murder, so of course she’s not going to turn out to be a murderer. Do you think the Zodiac Killer went around muttering about all the people he wanted to die? If he did, we’d probably know who the Zodiac Killer was by now.
And following that logic, whoever committed the murder in Monterey probably isn’t someone going around being like, “Can’t wait to stab so-and-so!” seeing as the flash-forwards indicate the police aren’t sure who it is. The one thing that does make me suspicious of Renata, though, is this episode’s reveal that the victim had many severe injuries and “multiple broken bones,” implying that this was a, uh, passionate crime — one you could totally see a high-strung, rage-filled Renata committing at a trivia night that’s not going her way.
On that note, Jane (Shailene Woodley) remains the only main character who we know owns an actual, capable-of-murder weapon. But! As we just went over, the murder was much messier than a single gunshot, and Jane doesn’t seem like someone who would beat someone to bits. Even in her visions of murder, like the one we see at the end of this episode, she’s not killing just for the hell of it — she’s killing someone who’s intruding her house, where she lives alone with her young son, as an act of self-defense. That’s very different than breaking multiple (multiple!) bones at a trivia night surrounded by people.
That brings us back to Ed (Adam Scott), last week’s top suspect. He’s not around too much this episode beyond a scene with Abby where he says something about how Madeline’s “preferred state is agitated” (if I had to deal with Renata Klein on a daily basis, mine would be, too). But, at one point, Madeline and Nathan have a conversation about their daughter while Ed and Bonnie stand nearby. “Do you see the way your husband is staring at me? I think he wants to fight me,” Nathan says, slightly amused. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Madeline curtly responds. “Ed doesn’t fight.” Maybe he doesn’t fight now…
Also, Ed already told Nathan that he’s still scarred from getting bullied back in his school days, and in this episode, Renata tells Gordon that the wounds you get as a child “can last forever.” It seems like a subtle callback to what Ed said, and a not-so-subtle hint that whoever the killer is has some old problems he (or she) has yet to sort out.
Who’s the least suspicious?
Gordon Klein (Jeffrey Nordling), who just wants his wife to calm down long enough so they can f— (loudly) in his office bathroom.
So who’s dead?
Not letting go of my Jane theory, especially because of all the moments we see this week that involve the ocean: There she is, running alongside it. There she is, zoning out while staring at it in the present day, so deep in thought that Ziggy struggles to regain her attention. In a flashback at the end of the episode, we see her shedding her dress — a dress, we learn, she wore the night Ziggy’s dad raped her — and walking into the water. It reminds me of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which ends with the stifled main character (century-old spoiler ahead) wading into the ocean, presumably to drown and free herself from the restraints of society. If Jane is indeed the murder victim, she obviously didn’t drown herself, but maybe this ocean imagery is all a clue that she can’t ultimately escape her problems and the ridiculous standards of this beach town, that death is where her Monterey story will end, no matter how it happens.
There’s also some eerie foreshadowing that Ziggy has some rough times — a.k.a. maybe being motherless — ahead: After Jane tells the truth about his father to Madeline, she talks about how important it is to be a good mom to him. “That kid,” Jane says in a moment that comes off more ominous than sweet, “he’s gonna have a good life.” Is he?
Big Little Lies airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.