Big Little Lies‘ second season launched last week on HBO with Meryl Streep’s Mary Louise unnerving the Monterey Five and, in the process, unleashing a scream that will undoubtedly become a centerpiece of the next awards season. However, Laura Dern’s Renata began this batch of episodes in an equally strong manner, and during Sunday night’s episode, she figuratively told Mary Louise to hold her overpriced martini. The so-called “limited series” arguably boasts more collective talent than any other current primetime cast, all rolling in a melodramatic stew. Dern previously told us that she “could have no more fun than playing Renata, my god,” and she recently confirmed to Vogue that this role is a “delicious opportunity.”
Indeed, and while it’s early call to make, Renata’s staking a major claim on this season’s satire-tinged drama. If not for the existence of Meryl scream, Dern’s ridiculously successful, legitimately hard-working CEO character would have nabbed much of the attention during the season premiere while dancing on her own balcony, celebrating her fabulous life during a photoshoot.
Not that I’m pitting women against each other here. Nope, Big Little Lies is a culmination of glorious performances, each boosting the rest of the series up to steeper heights — even if one would never have suspected fine acting while only being aware of the soapy-film atop each story arc. Well, co-star Reese Witherspoon popped onto Twitter to hint at even greater Renata moments to come shortly before episode two began. (What homicide investigation?)
Sure enough, things got juicier. In episode two, Renata’s husband, Gordon, who (until now) seemed to be content living in her shadow while wearing tracksuits, got busted by the feds for a number of white collar crimes, including securities fraud and wire fraud. Not only did he put himself on the hook, but he gambled the marital money pool, which threatens to send Renata’s perfect life crashing down around her. And Renata — after painstakingly building her empire — spent several scenes losing her mind while screeching through a meltdown (which HBO has partially made available on YouTube). The audience loved it, and Laura Dern screeching, “I will not not be rich!” has become a legitimate social media moment.