What does this mean for the series?
To the average viewer, probably not much. If anything, Big Little Lies season 2 largely looked and felt like Big Little Lies, but that's sort of the problem. An Arnold-directed season was a thrilling prospect because it promised to add something new to a show that had seemingly reached its natural conclusion, with Season 1 finishing the story Moriarty told in her novel. In fact, a main gripe with the season was a narrative one, seemingly invented to keep the intrigue going beyond the text: Just why did the central characters involved in the death of Perry Wright need to lie when self-defense is such a clear explanation for his fatal tumble down the stairs? Perhaps there's more of a justification in the chunks of Arnold-shot footage that were excised from the final project. But that's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.
Regardless of how the season shook out, Big Little Lies now has a big PR problem. As O'Falt explained: "A show dominated by some of the most powerful actresses in Hollywood hired a fiercely independent woman director -- who was now being forced to watch from the director’s chair as scenes were shot in the style of her male predecessor."
Neither Witherspoon nor Nicole Kidman -- the two aforementioned "powerful actress," who also happen to be executive producers on the project and are seen as largely responsible for getting it made -- have commented publicly on the controversy, but there are questions as to whether they did enough to protect Arnold's work or whether they were complicit in removing her from the project. Before the penultimate episode aired, Witherspoon Instagrammed a still of the lead actresses from the opening credits and captioned it, "I've got all my sisters with me." The official account for the show replied, "We are family." The exchange is a minor show of solidarity that seems to leave one key person out.