Opening every episode with Michael Kiwanuka’s Cold Little Heart has me swooning before I even know the names of the characters of the show. Even if first impressions show no sign of promise, the pleasant surprise of a beautifully crafted soundtrack warms my heart and asks me to continue on. Thankfully though, Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) and HBO gave their viewers a bit more than a drab sob story from melodramatic housewives from Monterey. That is Monterey, California, which is a fitting adaptation from the book’s original setting in Australia.
Now I have not read the book (yet), written by Liane Moriarty, although I want to now. Last I checked it should arrive at my doorstep in 2-3 business days.
The first episode is titled Somebody’s Dead. At first its forwardness shocked me, but the shock peaked my interest even further. I was nearly hooked from the very beginning, and it certainly helped to have the two perfect epsiodes to kick off the season.
I want to give a loud applause to the star-ridden cast of the series as well. How Vallee was supposed to handle all this star power was a constant concern for me leading up to, and honestly following me after the first few episodes, but I felt everyone was able to work very well together. I can say that I’m a fan of most of the work these people have done, and yes, even Shailene Woodley. I gave her a chance in this show and I was pleasantly surprised. Her performance certainly was not Emmy worthy, but I felt that she owned her role as Jane Chapman.
The relationship between Perry (Skarsgard) and his wife Celeste (Kidman) was one of the most uncomfortable and disturbing depictions of an abusive relationship on screen that I have witnessed in recent viewing. It appears that, after reading other reviews, I am not alone in this category. The relationship contributes an unsettling but nearly undetectable sub-plot in the beginning, but later, without spoiling the show, becomes an essential cog in the machine.
In closing, I was a huge fan of the series ending. Those who read the book before the show may have a different opinion, as with most cases of an adaptation’s climax and ending. With respect (without spoiling the show) the climax felt odd. I took it as this epic crescendo with a hard smack falling into an anti-climax, with both elements intertwined into one to find some sort of resolution that, in reality for the wives and widows of Monterey, never comes.
4.9 out of 5 Bixby Creek Bridges, because of the ending.