For a show that was uncertain a second season would even be in its future, Big Little Lies Season 2 proves there is still a lot to explore within the lives of the Monterey Five.
Big Little Lies Season 1 did a terrific job exposing the seedier side of of the life of small-town socialites.
Season 2 unpacks the damage done after the women made a pact in response to the tragic Perry situation instead of trusting that the truth would prevail in their favor.
Critics received the first three episodes of the upcoming season for review, and the time was gone in an instant.
Meryl Streep joins the cast as Mary Louise Wright, Perry's mother, who is ostensibly there to help Celeste (Nicole Kidman) cope in the wake of her husband's death and to provide moral support to the kids.
There would have been plenty of fodder for Celeste and her best friends Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) and new friends Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) and Renata (Laura Dern) even without Mary Louise's arrival, but with it, a perfect antagonist was born for women who have already done a damn good job of being their worst enemies.
Mary Louise may have arrived with the idea of helping her daughter-in-law in the wake of Perry's death, but she's sticking around to find out what happened to her beloved son.
It's not very often anymore that Streep plays women who aren't beloved, and she's having a gas as Mary Louise verbally jabs Celeste, Madeline and anyone with whom she comes in contact.
Mary Louise is not a weak-willed woman, and she has an opinion she'll share about just about anything, including her feeling toward anyone with whom she happens to be sharing a conversation.
Streep is delightful with Mary Louise's bitterness. She uses subtle movements that humanize the character and never take her too far to the edge of her rancor.
There is one scene in particular when she's trading barbs with Madeline (her favorite of the group to engage in battle) in which she's thoughtfully trying to decide what to say next when she picks her necklace away from her chest and lays it across her chin, playing with the charm on the end of it.
It seems like such a little thing, but it's an unexpected and inspired peek into the woman's mind that elevates what is already a highly charged scene.
Robin Weigert returns as the doctor who was treating Celeste and Perry, and she gets at least one new patient.
The sessions with Dr. Reisman help to better understand the emotions driving the women to their particular choices, and there is still a lot Celeste has to understand about her relationship with Perry in the wake of his death.
Each woman is dealing with the aftereffects of that night at the school benefit differently, and they could all use a little help processing it.
Madeline desperately wants to support her friends, but she's also struggling with separate issues that threaten her home life.
She will have to conquer some of her deepest insecurities to overcome her obstacles, and Mary Louise picks at them like a scab on a partially healed wound.
Jane attempts to move on and open her heart again after her rapist was revealed to her friends.
She's also struggling with what it means to her friendship with Celeste and the unexpected fate of their children.
Renata is still a crazy whirlwind of business and high-brow demands on the community at large, and Dern continues her award-worthy performance in the role.
Bonnie, who wasn't even a part of the elite group, is a significant focus of the new season, giving Kravitz more to do as the character steps out from under the umbrella of the new wife and hot property on her husband's arm.
James Tupper and Adam Scott continue to provide genuine laughs as Nathan and Ed.
Their open hostility toward one another perseveres, goaded by their differing communication styles.
Jeffrey Nordling as Gordon immerses himself and Renata into a situation that upends their cushy world and sends Renata reeling. Still, like Celeste before her, Renata's appetite for the bad-boy man in her life gets scrutinized.
The story also engages the children and how they're reacting to their stressed parents, rumors about each other in school, and to the very lessons they're getting taught at wonderful, wonderful, Otter Bay Elementary.
Their inclusion shines a light on how kids today get their information, how they determine right from wrong, and what drives some of their darkest fears.
Of course, how the adults live dictates not only how their children grow, but addresses their own insecurities and fears, as well.
If you're looking for a continuation of the thrilling mystery that was at the heart of Season 1, you're bound to be disappointed.
But if you're seeking more of the heart-wrenching portrayals of characters baring their souls in the most unexpected ways, then this will suit you very well.
The already high-caliber cast gets a boost with the addition of Streep, and her Mary Louise, while just as much of a mess as all the characters we already know, manages to push some of them to even more explosive reveals.
At its best, Big Little Lies offers significant insight into darkest desires of the well to do.
It speaks perfectly to the adage that people in glass houses shouldn't cast stones. Nobody is perfect, this cast of characters plays well into that imperfection.
If the season continues as strong as the first three episodes of Season 2, and there's no reason to suggest otherwise, then this will easily be one of 2019's juiciest and most gratifying series returns.
Big Little Lies Season 2 premieres Sunday, June 9 at 9/8c on HBO.
Will you be tuning into HBO for the upcoming season?
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Return on Sunday for a full review of the first thrilling episode.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.