In retrospect, the parents’ testimony functions as tidy misdirection, and a reflection of the melodrama that the residents of this tony central California town read into the lives of their neighbors — while overlooking the real “drama” of Celeste and Perry’s abusive relationship, a tragically ordinary version of the violence they’re determined to sniff out. Their willful misunderstanding of their fellow parents’ lives mirrors the position of the show’s audience; even when faced with glaring evidence, I had convinced myself that Amabella’s bully couldn’t be one of the twins, that the man who raped Jane and fathered Ziggy couldn’t be Perry, because that would be too obvious.
But as the finale suggests, when something is staring you straight in the face, you have a responsibility to return the gaze. It’s Bonnie who shoulders this duty, as Vallée shrewdly demonstrates: At the school fundraiser, he trains his camera on Bonnie’s face as she looks across the crowd and sees Perry arguing with Celeste, who storms away from him and heads down the dark, palm-tree-lined path where Renata, Jane, and Madeline are gathered. Bonnie follows, lingering above the staircase and watching as Perry approaches the women and tries to convince Celeste to go back to their car and talk.
She barely knows the couple, but it’s clear to Bonnie that something isn’t right between Celeste and Perry — which she intuits through their body language alone. It’s telling that Vallée portrays the show’s final reveal — the revelation that Perry is the man Jane has been searching for, the one who raped her all those years ago — in a wordless sequence of glances between Jane, Madeline, Celeste, and, finally, Perry, who lunges at his wife as soon as he understands what the women have realized. The situation is too obvious for words.
“I love that my theories about a show were actually right for once!” my roommate exclaimed when the episode ended. In the end, Big Little Lies plays to the expectations not of the most discerning, Easter-egg-hunting TV viewer or clever critic eager to unveil the season-ending twist that no one else has even considered; instead, the show rewards the instinctual feeling — I knew it — that many women know all too well.