Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Living the Dream

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Madeline's play to use Amabella's birthday in a vindictive fashion didn't quite turn out as planned.

It seemed the only person who suffered on Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 3 was Chloe. She was missing out on a party that was going to be a rollicking good time for a ride in a limo with champagne and Carole King. 

This was the first hour of the series in which Madeline was more of a prop introducing the stories of other characters, and it worked very well.

Happy Birthday Amabella - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 3

Renata was very close to allowing her anxieties over the party and because of her rivalry with Madeline get the best of her.

It's hard to see your daughter worried over her big day, and the first grade is a time when attendance at a birthday party matters. When parents get involved, it's all kinds of ugly.

The real kicker was Renata gave in to the pressure.

Gordon: Honey, he tried to choke her. She's afraid of him. How could we possibly invite him?
Renata: Yeah, but with Chloe MacKenzie not coming, and...fucking Madeline!

The anxiety over Amabella's happiness was too much for Renata despite Gordon's better judgment. Even groveling didn't satisfy Madeline.

Madeline Does Not Budge - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 3

It's the worse we've seen of Madeline so far. Her attempt to make things festive in the limo was embarrassing, and the mothers knew they were doing something awful. If they'd had any brains about them at all, they would have turned around and gone to the party.

But Madeline also learned that her strong will could only get her so far as a mother.

Was she equally as manipulative when Abigail was younger? Perhaps that's why it is so easy for Abigail to move out of the house to find herself.

You know, divorce is very difficult for kids, but it also allows them to do things other kids could never dream of doing. 

If your mother gets a little too clingy and starts making decisions of which you're not overly fond, you can move out of the house and in with dad. If Nathan hadn't married Bonnie, would it have been so easy to get away from her mother and Ed? Probably not.

Maddie, I just wanted to say that I know you're her mother, and Abby know it, too, and I will never try to encroach. Never. [hugs Madeline]


Bonnie seemed sincere in her offering to Madeline, but her history has proven she has some of the same traits as Madeline. She likes to stick her nose in where it doesn't belong. 

We don't get much else on Bonnie. Was she a larger character in the book? It seems like we're missing something from her, a deepening of character I'd like to explore.

Madeline's plans to ruin Renata's day with Amabella also backfired because Renata and Gordon found a way through the turmoil to get closer.

Gordon Supports Renata - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 3

Once again, the Greek Chorus thinks very little of either Renata or Gordon. But Gordon is there to support his wife in every way we've seen as of yet. In every way she needs, he appears to be a good husband. 

When she was falling apart at the seams, wondering how she ever became the uptight, corporate woman she always feared becoming, it was Gordon who offered her a way out, reminding her of what he once saw in her and still sees today.

Making love somewhere risque is sure to get the adrenaline pumping, and it did that for Renata. She was calmer and more unencumbered by the end of the day.

Renata: It felt really nice to be desired today. It meant a lot. Thank you.
Gordon: Honey, I always desire you. Usually, it just annoys you.
Renata: No. You want to have sex all the time. Today, you desired ME.

That was a lovely moment because it's so real. Desire after marriage (or even long relationships) can be difficult to maintain, and falling into routine sex is a drag. To recognize it is a good step and offers promise desire can be captured more often.

I wish that for Renata and Gordon, who for all their flaws, have the most natural and comfortable marriage on Big Little Lies in my eyes.

Their sex is definitely in sharp contrast to what we know of Perry and Celeste. Even knowing they had an appointment with a therapist on the calendar, they couldn't keep from pushing each others' buttons.

Therapy Time - Big Little Lies

At first, it seemed Perry was being a bit of a jackass in relation to Celeste and the way the family maneuvers. He blames her a lot for things that seem to be out of her control, whether it is orientation day vs the first day of school or the birthday party vs Frozen on Ice.

Considering how volatile their relationship is, you'd think Celeste would already know that Perry craves time with his family and wishes to be involved in any activities. It's not their first therapy rodeo, either. Did they learn nothing about each other the first time?

Perry challenged Celeste to a "who is unhappier" showdown when he suggested he was the worse off party being separated from the family and left out of activities because she deliberately plans things with the intent that they spend time apart.

At this point, who knows what the two of them do? 

It was surprising to me that Perry was the first to reveal he gets physical with Celeste, and then he was also the second to admit it. He continued talking about it during therapy as if it was a cry for help. 

Celeste seemed surprised he would question her love for him, but his responses are typical of someone in his situation. He uses many different excuses for his behavior and blaming her for not loving him would be at the top of the list.

Would you dance with me? I just want to hold you, look into your eyes, be in love with you. Feel you being in love with me. Would you?


I would find it impossible to live like they do. First of all, I don't like bruises nearly enough to be quelled by diamonds (which I'm also not that keen about), and the inability to feel safe in my own home would never work for me.

When Perry asked Celeste to dance with him, the act itself and the words were beautiful, but I couldn't help thinking how uncomfortable I would be in his arms. His incredibly strong-looking, very handsome arms. 

Should one want to cower in fear of what's to come with the man they love? And if Celeste isn't cowering, then the bigger question is why. 

There was a moment, though, right after Celeste screamed she would leave him if he manhandled her again (which cannot be the first time she said it) and just before switching to Ziggy and Jane and the family tree that we were left with a five-second snippet about the murder victim.

It's sometimes difficult to remember there is a victim, but in that instance, all signs pointed to Perry. Why flash to the police right after Celeste talks of leaving Perry in a very agitated voice and to Jane who speaks of a well-dressed man with shoes similar to Perry raping her?

The History of Ziggy - Big Little Lies Season 1 Episode 3

The connection between the well-dressed man who treated Jane very well until he screwed her, left her with Ziggy in her womb, and then politely showed himself the door and the investigation didn't escape me.

Perry travels a lot. He's in hotels a lot. Who knows what he does while he's out. If a woman wasn't in love with him, would she consider their angry sex as passionately as Celeste?

Regardless of who it was, it brought back to light the ignorance of presenting first graders you do not know with a project like a family tree.

Even Madeline, knowing what little she did about Ziggy and Jane, unwittingly set into motion a situation from which it will be difficult for Jane to recover. Even the mention of a dad on a leaf sets Ziggy's wheels in motion. Every boy wants a dad.

Madeline holding herself together while she waited for a second off road to let out the emotion she built up from the encounter was pretty amazing. The strength that woman has should be lauded.

Big Little Lies continues to hold my attention, bringing up discussion points about friendship, marriage and raising children, among other things. Life is hard, you guys. Let's never forget that.

Before I go, kudos to the lighting team for showcasing certain situations in unique ways only with lighting. The school counselor under her dim desk light looked positively demonic as she spoke to Madeline and Abigail, and the counselor shrouded in darkness talking with the Wrights explained her significance well, too.

What's going on in your head? Is Perry the victim? Do you believe he might be Jane's Saxon? Hit me up in the comments, and don't forget to check out the Big Little Lies quotes for all the best lines.

Living the Dream Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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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 3 Quotes

I will leave you. You touch me like that again and I will FUCKING leave you!!


Gordon: Honey, he tried to choke her. She's afraid of him. How could we possibly invite him?
Renata: Yeah, but with Chloe MacKenzie not coming, and...fucking Madeline!