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How Will Meryl Streep Shake Up ‘Big Little Lies’?

On Season 2, there’s really one huge lie—and Meryl’s there to suss it out

HBO/Ringer illustration

“It’s gonna get us,” Bonnie says in the Big Little Lies Season 2 teaser trailer. “It’s gonna get us all.”

“What are you talking about?” Madeline asks. Bonnie’s expression doesn’t change.

“The lie.”

Of course, “the lie” is not going to get anyone on its own. That’s where Meryl Streep comes in. Big Little Lies did not need the most nominated actor in Oscars history to join Season 2. Adding her to an already star-studded cast that collected five acting Emmy nominations and three wins in its first season is as unnecessary, exorbitant, and luxurious as Renata and Gordon Klein remodeling their beachside house. We’ve known Streep is Season 2’s secret sauce for months, but the biggest question entering Sunday’s premiere is how she’ll shake up second grade.

Streep is playing Mary Louise Wright, the mother of Perry. [Massive spoiler alert ahead.] In the Season 1 finale, “You Get What You Need,” Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) died when Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) pushed him down a flight of stairs to stop him from attacking Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Renata (Laura Dern), and Jane (Shailene Woodley). The trailers haven’t exactly been subtle about what Perry’s mom is after in Season 2.

“My son is dead, and I want answers,” she tells Celeste in the same trailer. She also lays bare that she doesn’t trust Celeste or the other women involved.

“I want to know what happened that night,” Streep’s Mary Louise tells Madeline. “I’m very tempted to ask you but I … I don’t think I would get the truth, would I?”

Streep’s trailer clips also likely explain the final frame of Season 1, which was shown through the eyes of a mystery character watching the gang and their children on the beach with binoculars.

Perry’s death was the result of more-than-justified self-defense, but for some still-unknown reason, the Monterey Five coordinated a lie and told the police it was an accident. Why they did that will likely be the central mystery of Season 2, but there’s plenty of evidence that Streep’s character can uncover something that points not just to a cover-up, but to premeditated murder. As she tells Celeste while folding her grandchildren’s clothes, she doesn’t buy Celeste’s story.

“You left some things out, didn’t you?” Streep says. “You were planning to leave him. And you learned of his infidelity just 10 seconds before he died. You left that out too.”

Perry’s mom surely sees that as a motive, and odds are that if this revelation is in the trailer, she is only going to learn more as the season goes on. If Perry’s mom discovers that Ziggy is Perry’s biological son, the entire balance of the show will shift, especially if she shares that information with the authorities. From the police’s perspective (not to mention all those judgy parents), it would seem wildly implausible that Celeste and Jane would enroll their children in the same class and become friends while having no idea about their connection. Combined with Celeste’s frantic phone call to her nanny moments before Perry’s death—instructing the nanny to take her children to her secret apartment—it could easily be painted as a plot.

Big Little Lies is not Game of Thrones, and there’s only so much theorizing that can be done. Whatever Streep does this season during her investigation will pale in comparison to what she’s embodying. The first season explored the lengths these helicopter parents (Principal Nippal did invent the phrase, after all) will go to defend their children. Renata tries to get Ziggy kicked out of school. Madeline sabotages a 6-year-old girl’s birthday party. Jane tries to poke Renata’s eye out. The dangers range from real to imagined to invented, and often the kids are a misguided motivation to hash out personal grudges. This is a show in which one character tells another they’ll have “Dumbo squat on your face” because they chose the wrong day to attend Disney on Ice.

But now they’ll have to contend with their worst nightmare: a mother whose parental pain dwarfs their own. She’s older, wiser, and has a lot less to lose. She’s not a helicopter parent—she’s an Apache Helicopter parent. The title of the Season 1 finale was “You Get What You Need,” but now the Monterey Five may reap what they’ve sown.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.