Meryl Streep and her performance are running away with season two of Big Little Lies, justifiably so. She’s doing so much, with the screaming and the necklace twisting and the passive-aggressive digs at every character on the show. She’s investigating a murder with the faux-aloofness of a wealthy Columbo. It is perfectly acceptable to focus most of your attention on that because it’s an incredible thing that we might not see again for a long time. But please direct at least some of your attention toward the show’s sweet bickering boys, Ed and Nathan, because that might be even better.
The best thing about Ed and Nathan is that all of their interactions play out exactly the same. The setting and topic of discussion changes here and there. Sometimes they’re at lunch discussing their wives. Sometimes they’re dressed like Elvis at a fundraiser and discussing their wives. Sometimes they’re dressed like disco superheroes at a child’s birthday party and… discussing their wives. Okay, most of their conversations are about their wives. But the patterns are the same. Something like this.
NATHAN: Hey Ed, can I talk to you about something?
ED: [sarcastic comment]
NATHAN: [aggressive reply]
ED: [sarcastic comment]
NATHAN: [swearing and threats of physical violence]
It’s my favorite part of the show at this point. It makes me laugh every time, mostly because Nathan appears to go into each exchange with this naive hope that this will be the one that fixes everything and he ends each exchange moments later shouting cuss words at a man who is bicycling away from him. I almost feel bad for Nathan now. He really is trying. It’s a wild swing from where I was in the first season, when I thought Nathan was a meathead and Ed was the only sympathetic character on the show. Screw it. I’m fully Team Nathan. I will not be reading replies.
Perhaps it will help to look at how we got here. To trace back their beef to its origins. To see exactly how two grown men ended up having a childish slap fight in costume at a birthday party. Yes, we should do this. And we should start back in season one.
Context is important. Nathan (ex-husband of Madeline, current husband of bohemian yoga instructor Bonnie) has recently approached Ed (current husband of Madeline, excellent beard-grower) about helping him broker a peace with his ex. It went poorly. Ed accused Nathan of threatening him and started talking about being bullied as a child and Nathan, a man I have previously described as having the most I Played College Baseball And Could Have Gone Pro If I Didn’t Hurt My Shoulder energy of anyone on television, got very confused. Nathan didn’t understand the history, the multiple times Madeline went on and on about Nathan right in front of Ed, the way it drove Ed nuts and played into his insecurity about being the nice, safe option.