If you ever needed more proof that television is the medium to be in these days, look no further than Big Little Lies (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Crave). After what felt like the longest possible wait (more than a year anyhow), the series returned Sunday night with the one and only Meryl Streep as a part of the cast, which is definitely a TV first.
Because you know, having movie actors like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoë Kravitz apparently wasn’t enough female star-power for this show.
But even great actors can stumble, which made us curious about how Streep would actually perform in her new role. Plenty of series have fallen into the “stunt casting” trap before and big names haven’t actually added much meat to a story, so to speak. Thankfully in the case of Big Little Lies, Streep’s addition really is more, in that her signature scene-stealing helps all of the actors take their own performances to the next level.
To back up a bit, the episode, “What Have They Done,” picked up more or less a year from where we last saw the Monterey Five. As their children geared up to start the second grade, we also learned how each of the characters have been dealing with the repercussions of lying about Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgäd) death.
Madeline has been throwing herself into real estate while talking loudly at anyone who will (or won’t) listen. Jane is apparently relieved to be rid of her dark secret, and is celebrating with lots of ocean dancing. Renata is pleased as punch to actually have a group of friends, Bonnie has become something of a sullen teenager, and Celeste has been having the worst night terrors.
Enter Streep as Mary Louise, Celeste’s mother-in-law who has moved in to help with the boys, but who is obviously also there to get answers about her son’s sudden death. She isn’t buying the Five’s story about what happened any more than the rest of the town is, and that makes her someone to worry about.
And given that we’re just getting started on this season, it’s obvious the women are going to really have to worry about her. Mary Louise had just as many—if not more—scenes than some of the other actresses in the premiere, as she should. She’s Meryl freaking Streep. Heck, she even got her own car sequence during the opening credit’s notable number, driving the point home even further: we’re going to be seeing lots of her this season.
Of course just because we had ample time to meet Mary Louise doesn’t mean we know much about her. She seems like the perfect opposite to Celeste’s calm and polite demeanor, and she may be particularly talented at pushing buttons. Watching her take Madeline down a few pegs, not once, but twice in the premiere was one of the best parts of the whole episode.
Meanwhile, we can only imagine how much fun that dinner scene with Mary Louise, Celeste and the twins was to film. We can’t imagine any other actor just letting it all out with a scream like that and then pulling it back in as quickly or convincingly. Celeste’s reaction to it all just made it that much better. We suppose that’s what having two Oscar winners at the table will get you.
Considering the episode itself was mostly setup for all of the bigger plot points to come though (Renata’s husband’s drinking problems, Madeline’s’ infidelity, Bonnie’s depression), we’d like to think it was the perfect introduction to a character that could very well unravel these women in the weeks to come. That makes us ridiculously excited to see where Streep is going to take this woman next.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go stare at the ocean and contemplate the possibilities.
Big Little Lies airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Crave.