In the premiere episode, one of the first things viewers quickly learn about Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgard) mother Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) is that she’s fairly unhinged. During a family dinner she decides to display her grief through a startling scream that scares more than just the people on screen.
Also in the premiere, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) crosses paths with Mary Louise who randomly remarks on the Monterey mom’s slight stature. When Madeline asks why her height matters, Mary Louise states that she has a problem trusting short people.
In a confrontation between herself and Madeline, Mary Louise notes that Madeline’s not a fan of hers before launching into a school-age tale of bullies and befriending them. When Madeline questions if she’s the bully in this scenario, Mary Louise’s response is priceless. “On your awesome days, I suspect you are a godsend, but on your bad days, decidedly less so,” and Madeline responds by calling her a “f***in’ weirdo.”
When Mary Louise suspects something is up with Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) erratic behavior, she goes snooping. It’s so expected of what viewers have come to know about the character that you can’t help but understand her stereotypical mother-in-law behavior.
Teaming Up With the Enemy
As with any mother who loses a child under extreme circumstances, Mary Louise wants answers. When she can’t get any from Celeste and friends, she turns to Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey). The move also seems to bring together two of the show’s least likable forces.
Fans thought Mary Louise’s scream was going to be the most iconic moment this season, but it was later replaced. Celeste slaps her mother-in-law after the woman claims she doesn’t believe her son raped Jane (Shailene Woodley) and questions why Perry would stray from his own wife, hinting that Celeste wasn’t enough.
When Mary Louise approaches Celeste for a conversation — one in which she reveals she’ll be pursuing custody of her grandsons — Madeline asks if that’s a cue for her to leave and Mary Louise’s resulting side-eye is everything.
Renata (Laura Dern) welcomes Mary Louise over for some tea with the intention of discussing her and Celeste’s custody battle, but she didn’t consider that she’d be met with resistance. Instead of answering Renata’s questions, Mary Louise insinuates that the business woman doesn’t spend enough time with her daughter and that the lack of furniture in her home means her bankruptcy issues should be her priority.
During one of the first custody proceedings in her case against Celeste, Mary Louise has the audacity to ask for joint custody requesting weekends with her grandsons. While the move may seem well-intentioned, Mary Louise’s aside to Celeste asking about how Max and Josh are doing is layered with subtext.
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While she continues to try and uncover answers about son Perry's (Alexander Skarsgard) death, we're taking a look at some of the moments that have made Mary Louise one of the greatest Big Little Lies characters so far.