Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Somebody's Dead

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It's hard to believe a chance encounter that turns three unique women into fast friends can lead to murder, but that's what the "Greek chorus" of Big Little Lies would have us believe.

On Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1, we're introduced to Madeline, Jane, Celeste and Renata and their children. All but Renata become fast friends. Renata is on the outside looking in, but it probably won't be that logical for the kids.

Each of the women seems to be facing challenges at this point in their lives, but none of it appears to be worthy of murderous intent – yet.

Three Good Friends - Big Little Lies

As I noted in my Big Little Lies advance review, I didn't read the book on which the series is based, but I do know about it and the plotline. Please don't compare the two in the comments. There are changes to the story throughout the first six episodes, so any attempt to guess what happens won't work. 

The ending remains to be seen.

The picturesque town of Monterey was all abuzz about the new school year and awkward event that occurred during Otter Bay Elementary's Orientation Day and the town's decision to fight against a production of Avenue Q, a play in which Madeline was highly invested.

Somehow, the two events and the players who had the highest stakes in each were key to the death during an elite fundraising event.

To hear the members of the chorus tell it, the key players were from another world, with other world problems, but they are that other world, with children in the same school, participating in or fighting against the same play and raising funds for the same charities.

When the rubber meets the road, though, everyone would much rather point fingers and tell tales than admit to socializing with or being envious of the people you're surrounded by every day. Who wants to say "they're just like me" if they're in a heap of trouble?

Jane and Ziggy - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1

Jane is new to town. She's not like the other mothers we meet in Monterey. She's not well off, doesn't have a partner or a swanky job. She's a kind person and a good mother.

Come meet my knight in shining armor. She rescued me like a wounded dog in the street. And you know what else? She's funny.


While talking with her new friends, Madeline and Celeste, Jane allowed Madeline to frame her move to Monterey around the good public school education, when in fact, she never offered up her reason for moving to the new town at all.

With all the running she's doing and the recollection of herself in a blue dress, she seems to have come back. Maybe this is where she met Ziggy's father.

What she said about the others, though, I found interesting.

You guys are right. You are so right. And for some reason that makes me feel wrong.


She likened her new experience to being on the outside of her own life looking in, and it's a feeling I've had before. It's a surreal moment, almost too good to be true. 

I hope that's not an indication Jane made the wrong move and Monterey won't be good for her, but it's hard to imagine she's feeling good about it so far, given the first day she had with Ziggy.

Her little boy was full of excitement upon entering Otter Bay School and even upon exiting until the teacher decided to gather the class around for a truly bizarre experience.

Renata and Amabella - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1

Renata is a woman who tries too hard. The way she spoke to the other women made it clear she wants to be their friend, but doesn't quite know how to go about it. She's not a full-time mother, and that's something that eats away at her.

All things considered, Renata handled the bizarre school situation well. Everyone did, except the teacher.

Maybe there's a saying of which I'm unaware. We'll call it, "Only in Monterey," for the purposes of reviewing Big Little Lies. If this had happened in real life, probably even if it happened in Monterey, charges would have been filed. At the very least, it would have been more than Renata's response in front of the group.

Can you say you're sorry to Amabella? She's hurt quite badly.


It was hard not to feel sorry for her at that moment, because what could she do? Renata was in a no-win situation. Her daughter had strangle marks on her neck, and the teacher decided it best to handle it by way of a witch hunt.

Amabella most likely chose Ziggy because she didn't know him, feeling he was the least likely to bring repercussions for her. After all, if it was a well-known kid, Amabella could have been called a liar. By choosing someone nobody knew, it was a safe call.

The Greek chorus joked about it and the battle lines being drawn, but the way it was handled? That teacher should have been fired on the spot. All efforts against Avenue Q should have moved to a new and more fruitful battle.

Instead Ziggy, Renata and Amabella were all stigmatized as a result of an event that was most likely none of their fault. Three victims all forced to immediate defensive positions.

Celeste and the Twins - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1

Mr. and Mrs. Wright were the envy of Monterey, but not in a good way. They were seen as "too much" by the town, who together decided there should be a statute of limitations on how long a couple should be allowed to be gooey with one another.

Never fear, Greeks, the envy you have isn't well-founded, because even the perfect people have wounds behind closed doors.

Celeste is a statuesque and quiet woman. She doesn't brag about her life in public or do anything untoward to bring such nasty thoughts in her general direction. 

Her husband travels a lot and they have two beautiful kids. There also appears to be a power struggle going on in the house, and while Perry might worry about his sons associating with violent children like Ziggy at school, he doesn't have the same qualms about his own behavior being an issue.

Is it ironic that Perry got violent with Celeste in his attempt to ensure the twins wouldn't associate with a boy who may or may not be violent? It's more likely just sad. It's sad because Celeste looks at her husband with such loving eyes that you know it's not the first time that happened, nor will it be the last.

Will that be a secret one of them takes to the grave?

Madeline and Chloe - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1

Finally, we have Madeline, the strong and feisty spitfire of a woman whose name rolls off the tongues of the Greeks with such ire you know they would give anything to have her meddlesome qualities and her ability to stay on top of things.

Madeline is the kind of woman you hate not because you envy her, but because you secretly want to be her best friend and don't understand why you haven't been granted the privilege. 

You'll never admit it, but you want someone with her heart to fight on your behalf, to run to your side when you're feeling down. How can she know so many people and her circle of close friends be so small? What about you??

So it's at Madeline's feet most of the woes of the town will fall, at least until the time you are brought into her circle, which will likely be never. 

But your woe is me sad sack attitude is the very reason Madeline isn't choosing you. Madeline likes honest, real people, who are willing to pick her up when she's down. She wants the same from others that she expects of herself.

Even Madeline's husband, Ed, doesn't quite understand her. When Madeline talks her ex Nathan and his new wife, Bonnie, Ed expects there will be a big argument about the subject sometime soon because of how much Madeline still cares. 

Telling Ed he's her everything isn't enough for Ed, because he still thinks she's pining for Nathan. She's just angry that he wasn't what he is now for her when she needed him while she was raising the daughter who now dotes on Nathan and Bonnie.

And Abigail is a tough teen to handle. She's petulant, rude and disobedient. The mirror opposite of younger daughter, Chloe, who will finish off Madeline's cuss words so Madeline doesn't have to, "you were thinking it." Calling Madeline "woman" while eating dinner was a particular favorite.

Abigail: You seem a little wobbly. Are you having one of your massive periods?
Madeline: No. No. What people don't tell you is that you lose your children. As beautiful and wonderful as you are now, the little girl whose hair I used to detangle and had bad dreams and used to crawl into my bed? She's gone. I guess that's what I'm feeling a little bit. Compounded a little bit by the fact your sister's going into the first grade. I'm losing my babies. Which has been clinically compared to a massive period, I think.

Madeline's life is changing, too. She's losing her kids and coming to the realization she doesn't have a backup plan in place. Without a career and with the town trying to close down the play, what will she do to pass the time? It's frightening.

So, yes, meeting Jane might be just what Madeline needs to get her through the immediate tough times. A new project: introducing the new girl to her new town.

Then again, that could be what invites murder into Monterey, just as a member of the Greek chorus insinuated.

I've already fallen in love with these characters. Madeline and her family, followed by Renata and hers, are my favorites. They're so different and want from life the same things, but go about it differently. 

I don't want someone to be dead and someone else to be going to prison for killing them. Worst yet, I hate that this is a limited series, so knowing these characters has an expiration date. 

"Somebody's Dead" is a wonderful introduction to this new HBO series, and I'm looking forward to hearing what everybody else thinks. Hit the comments and share your thoughts!

Somebody's Dead Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (17 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

And bring me something chocolate that won't make my ass look fat.


Come meet my knight in shining armor. She rescued me like a wounded dog in the street. And you know what else? She's funny.