Judging Every Murder Suspect From 'Big Little Lies'
Note: This article contains major spoilers from the first four episodes of the HBO drama Big Little Lies and speculation about who is going to get killed.
HBO's Big Little Lies promised murder and mystery, but over four episodes, the star-studded event series has stuck to the latter. This Sunday's fourth hour, provocatively titled "Push Comes to Shove," was filled with violent threats from the main trio of friends -- Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley -- but everyone's still living, breathing, and scheming in Monterey. How much longer do we have to wait for the crime to be committed?
Part of that is by design: The show is based on a novel of the same name by Australian writer Liane Moriarty, so if you really want those spoilers you can just read the book or skim the Wikipedia page. But where's the fun in that? Now that the show is at the halfway point, let's take a look at the major players and who might commit the big murder teased through every episode.
Madeline Martha Mackenzie
Played by: Reese Witherspoon
Who she would kill: Anyone who gets in her way
Why she would do it: "Exactly how psychotic do you think I am?" asked Madeline in last night's episode. She was talking to her husband, the bearded tech-dad played by Adam Scott, but the question hangs over the whole show, and is the secret ingredient in Witherspoon's gourmet cupcake of a performance. By channeling her inner Tracy Flick, the Oscar-winning actress finds humor, pathos, and rage in even the most low-stakes problems of the show's privileged backdrop. You feel for her when her older daughter decides to move out of the house. You gasp when she kisses the Avenue Q director. You seethe along with her when the mayor of Monterey keeps saying "puppets fuck." And, if she's the one who decides to kill someone in the show's final episode -- last night she threatened to go for her ex-husband's new wife's throat -- you'll probably cheer along with her.
Played by: Nicole Kidman
Who she would kill: Her abusive husband, Perry
Why she would do it: Celeste is getting her groove back. Last night's episode found her putting on her most stylish lawyer outfit, going to a meeting, and scoring a First Amendment win for her friend Madeline's besieged theater production. Of course, this pissed off her husband Perry, played with oily menace by Alexander Skarsgård, who only wants her to stay at home with her skateboard-loving kids. "I want more," screamed Celeste and Madeline in the car after their big legal victory. Will "more" involve stabbing Perry to death with one of the pointy-heeled shoes Celeste keeps in her enormous walk-in closet? We can only hope.
Played by: Shailene Woodley
Who she would kill: Her rapist, Saxon
Why she would do it: Jane has the clearest motive of any of the main cast members and she's the only one we've seen shooting a gun at a firing range. (At one point last night, talking about Saxon, she literally said, "I'd kill him if I could.") Madeleine appeared to have found Jane's attacker online and tracked him down to San Luis Obispo, where he's apparently living as an interior designer. As long as Jane didn't actually jump off that cliff at the episode's conclusion, expect her to be packing heat at the upcoming trivia night.
Played by: Laura Dern
Who she would kill: Her nemesis, Madeline
Why she would do it: Besides an appearance at the big Avenue Q litigation meeting, this week's episode was light on Renata, easily the show's best non-Witherspoon character. My guess? She's licking her wounds after the birthday party betrayal orchestrated by Madeline a couple weeks ago. Renata will get her revenge: You don't make her throw her phone into the pool in rage without paying for it.
Played by: Alexander Skarsgård
Who he would kill: His wife, Celeste
Why he would do it: Skarsgård's character is so clearly a bad dude -- manipulative, cruel, and physically abusive -- that I think he's a red herring. He's violent and unhinged, a West Coast take on Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, and that makes him too obvious a choice to be the murderer. If anything, he's my favorite to get popped at the big party.
Played by: Adam Scott
Who he would kill: His wife's ex-husband, Nathan
Why he would do it: Adam Scott is really good at playing nice guys, but he's also got a darkness lurking inside of him. (Never forget that he was the bully Griff on Boy Meets World.) You see it in his beard, in his fetish for dressing up in Elvis and Dracula costumes, and in the awkward offhand comment he made to Zoe Kravitz's Bonnie that he "loves sweat on women." Maybe keep that one to yourself, dude. It sounds like something a serial killer would say.
Played by: Zoe Kravitz
Who she would kill: Her husband's ex-wife, Madeline
Why she would do it: Bonnie seems way too chill to kill someone. Even if she had a murderous impulse, she'd probably purge that negative energy through an intense karate chop-filled yoga workout. If she kills anyone, it'll be in a calculated and clear-headed way, like slipping some deadly kombucha to Witherspoon on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A big public murder at a party doesn't feel like her style.
Played by: James Tupper
Who he would kill: His ex-wife's new husband, Ed
Why he would do it: In one of the many "oh, this guy could be the killer" lines from the fourth episode, Nathan told Bonnie, "I'd love to have a reason to pop [Ed] one." Honestly, it was probably the least convincing threat. This guy seems like someone who likes to puff his chest out and talk a big game, but he's just a sad, buff dad at heart. A jerk, sure -- just not a murderer.
Played by: Darby Camp
Who she would kill: Everyone
Why she would do it: OK, I know it's not cool to say a child could kill "everyone" in the cast -- and if any kid is a suspect at this point it's probably young Ziggy -- but I don't trust any child who claims to love Leon Bridges this much. No real 8-year-old has the Alabama Shakes-loving taste of a Starbucks barista with an NPR obsession. She's clearly a cyborg and we'll find out soon enough: There are only three episodes of the series left. As Tom Petty, an artist who creepy playlist curator Chloe probably loves, always says, "the waiting is the hardest part."
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