HBO’s new miniseries Big Little Lies is a lot of things. It is a high-society murder mystery based on a book by bestselling author Liane Moriarty. It is a star-studded affair, featuring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Adam Scott, among others, and comes from a creative team including David E. Kelley and Gus Van Sant. It is a big swing by HBO as the network looks for ways to draw in viewers that don’t involve dragons or murderous cowboy robots. Although I guess we can’t really say there won’t be a dragon or murderous robot cowboy on Big Little Lies. Something to keep an eye on.
But anyway, in addition to all of those things, Big Little Lies is also a show about people staring into the ocean. Oh my God, so many people stare into the ocean on this show. To prove my point, I’ve rounded up every time a character did so in the premiere. I’ve also ranked them, because apparently I have opinions about people staring into the ocean. Who knew?
So grab a glass of wine, conjure up all the problems facing you and your wealthy family, and stare into the crashing waves with me for a few minutes. It’ll be fun. Ish.
These two shots are excluded from the rankings based on a technicality: neither really features anyone “staring” into “the ocean.” In the first, Reese gives the ocean a fleeting glance while riding in the car after twisting her ankle. (Side note: Reese’s character keeping her heels on all day after injuring her ankle instantly makes her tougher than most professional football players.) And Nicole is facing the ocean, sure, but more staring at her kids, through the viewfinder of the camera. I am only including them here to let you know that I am not including them. We have standards.
7. Reese Witherspoon and Adam Scott staring into the ocean while arguing
Pretty decent ocean staring, for the most part. Not too bad at all. Reese’s character is even having an existential crisis as she does so, which is a nice little touch. I feel like a solid 50-60 percent of personal crises are discussed while gazing into a body of water. That could be a little high. I watch a lot of shows about rich people.
But even as solid as this one is, it loses points for neither character holding an alcoholic beverage, and that’s why it comes in last. It’s a tough break, but Big Little Lies is the big leagues of ocean staring. Go big or go home.
6. Mysterious blue dress woman staring into the ocean
This is almost certainly Shailene Woodley’s character, but we never see her face, so we can’t be sure. In any event, “woman in formal dress running shoeless on the beach in half a panic and then stopping to stare into the ocean, for reasons we don’t know yet but might involve a murder” is some strong ocean staring.
5. Nicole Kidman staring into the ocean because her husband is trash
If you don’t have a glass of wine in your hand while you look upon the open sea, the next best thing to have is a deep look of concern on your face because your husband is a big pile of trash in a suit and sunglasses. Bad trash. Like, “the day after a fraternity party” trash. Stale beer and cigarette butts and a shirt with vomit from two separate sources on it. That’s good for these rankings. Not so good for Nicole’s character. The thing about her husband being trash.
4. Adam Scott and his beard staring into the ocean
Look, I’m gonna be honest here. I’m only ranking this one this high because… did you know Adam Scott could grow a beard like that? I know I did not. That’s a good beard! Maybe it’s because he has such a young, boyish face when he’s clean-shaven. Maybe that’s what’s throwing me. Because if you had asked me, say, two weeks ago, to picture the kind of beard Adam Scott would grow (and I consider this a normal request), I would have gone with something less… full. Like a bad playoff hockey beard. Scraggly, disconnected, patchy. Not this. That’s for sure. I’m kind of proud of him? That’s normal, right?
3. Laura Dern staring into the ocean while drinking wine because no one likes her even though she has seen Hamilton many times
This is some strong ocean staring right here. A powerful, wealthy woman is holding a glass of wine with her back turned to her doof husband while she rants and raves about people being jealous of her. This is good. This is very good. This is almost “Julie Cooper from The O.C.” good, even though it’s exponentially less evil. Still. A lovely start.
2. Nicole Kidman staring into a turbulent, crashing ocean from her bed because her husband is trash and also this is a metaphor
Do you get it?
1. Laura Dern staring into the ocean at night
I truly hope that the next episode opens at sunrise the following morning and Laura Dern is still out on her patio sipping white wine and staring into the ocean. Like she was just out there all night in silence, watching the waves and pondering life’s mysteries. If that’s the case, I think we have an early Emmy favorite.