Tonight, Sky Atlantic will screen the climactic episode of ‘Big Little Lies’, the seven-part, California-based sort-of-murder-mystery (all episodes are on Now TV as well). The series first stood out for its cast: very few TV shows can boast not one but two A-list film stars – Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon – plus a supporting cast of recognisable faces including Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard and Adam Scott. But from the first episode, it lived up to the hype. Beautifully written and stylishly visualised by ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ director Jean-Marc Vallée, this isn’t just the best TV series of the year, it might be the best movie too.
Plot-wise, the setup wasn’t promising. A pair of upper-crust California mothers – Witherspoon and Kidman – join forces against Dern’s brittle businesswoman when her daughter accuses relative pauper Woodley’s little boy of bullying. There were also flash-forwards to the aftermath of a murder, although we didn’t know who’d been killed or how. From this fairly simple set-up, the show grew exponentially, digging into every character’s secrets, exposing the web of dependency, self-deception and falsehoods that underpin all their lives. As a look at the way twenty-first-century women live, love and balance their ever-shifting social roles, it’s completely fascinating. As a character-based drama, it’s flawless: Kidman, for one, may have hit a career peak.
Tonight’s final episode is where it all comes together, and it’s as perfect an example of sustained, nail-biting tension as you’re ever likely to see. We’ve been building to this for weeks: the final revelation not just of the murderer but of their victim too. By this point we know the characters inside out; we know the pain they’re suffering and the strength they possess. To watch all the disparate plot strands intersect and bounce off each other is breathtaking – a balancing act that never sets a foot wrong.
There’s been talk of bringing ‘Big Little Lies’ back for a second series; original author Lian Moriarty has said she has ideas for a continuation, and there are certainly enough lingering questions to justify it. Whether that happens or not, this first run is a perfect, self-contained work of art: thrilling, moving and memorable. Watch it, now.
'Big Littles Lies' is available now on Now TV, Sky Box Sets, iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play.