Reactions were mixed when it was announced that Big Little Lies would have a second season. The first was beloved by fans and critically acclaimed, but no one knew if another season would live up to it. And the Big Little Lies Season 2 finale proved that it might not have. Though the season had plenty of high points (see: Klein, Renata), the resolution of its biggest story arc left a lot to be desired.
Throughout Season 2, the Monterey 5 were reeling from Perry's death. They struggled to manage their guilt while keeping what happened a secret and the cracks were starting to show. In some cases, that aftermath was nuanced and complicated, like Celeste's inability to detangle Perry's abuse from her love for him. But in other cases, it completely fell flat. Bonnie, already an underdeveloped character in Season 1, was further sidelined. Though her remorse over pushing Perry to his death was the driving force of the season, she spent most of her time wandering aimlessly or stuck in a hospital room. By the time she finally confessed in the last few minutes of "I Want to Know," it didn't feel like the release of coming clean. It felt like further punishment.
Part of what was so great about the Season 1 finale was that it showed the women mostly at peace, supporting and comforting each other like a coven of friendly witches on the beach. Though Bonnie was clearly conflicted even then, one got the sense that the other women would be there to take care of her and uplift her. You knew they would be okay because they were finally free of everything that had been weighing on them up until that point.
The Season 2 finale completely invalidated that by sending the Monterey 5 into the police station to own up to Perry's accidental murder. It was a cruel inverse of the first finale. Sure, the women were still together, but in one scene they were healing and moving on, while in the other they were paying a price they shouldn't have to pay. That wasn't specific to the finale, though; Season 2 spent nearly its entire runtime unraveling the beautiful closure of Season 1. It completely isolated Bonnie and had Madeline lash out at her at every opportunity. The women weren't taking care of each other, after all. Or at least they weren't taking care of Bonnie.
Zoë Kravitz turned in a stunning performance, but she was forced to play the same note over and over again for six episodes. The arrival of her mother seemed promising, because it could excavate Bonnie's past and reveal what led her to push Perry that night. Instead, the tension was immediately neutralized by her mother's coma. And it didn't help that the only two black women on the show were turned into magical, mystical beings. That's a trope that doesn't need to be perpetuated.
There also seemed to be some disconnect between the crime committed and the context that surrounded it. Yes, killing a person is bad, no matter the circumstances. That goes without saying. But Perry was a violent, abusive man who was beating Celeste mere moments before he went over that ledge. He might have killed Celeste if someone didn't intervene. And now these women are obliterating their lives for him? Celeste is really going to risk losing her kids again so soon after getting full custody?
The Season 1 finale ended on an unexpected but satisfying note. Getting away with murder isn't usually framed as a positive, but in these specific circumstances, it was a happy ending. Now Big Little Lies has betrayed itself by taking that hard-won freedom away from these women.