Some fans have complained that Big Little Lies Season 2 feels disjointed and inconsistent, and it now turns out there may be a reason for that. The HBO series was plagued by deception and manipulation at the highest level behind the scenes, according to a new report by Indie Wire, all in the hopes of recapturing the magic of Season 1.
Big Little Lies was nominated for 16 Emmys in its first year and it won eight of them. It was a critical darling and a commercial powerhouse, so it makes sense that HBO wanted to recapture the magic. However, according to Indie Wire's Chris O'Falt, Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallee was committed to Sharp Objects, and Big Little Lies could not wait for him to be finished to start filming.
Instead, the show hired acclaimed indie director Andrea Arnold. Arnold was given an unusual amount of control and creative freedom over the show, deferring to writer and executive producer David E. Kelley only for changes to the script. However, sources close to the production now say that Kelley and HBO planned all along to put Arnold's show through heavy edits, giving it back to Vallee in the hopes of simulating his take on Season 2.
They did their best to do just that, sources say. Arnold shot the season with complete freedom, hiring her own cinematographers and editors and spending time on minutiae that Vallee never would have used. Insiders said that Arnold was never told she was expected to create the show in Vallee's style, nor did she know that he would come in at the end to work with her raw footage.
Some fans have noticed the consequences of this lack of communication in the production team, as it is reflected in the final product. Critics complain about choppy edits and a strange visual tension, with no internal rhythm to the visual style. This is reportedly the result of producers trying to hammer Arnold's style into Vallee's.
Arnold held her lofty level of control over the show until the end of 2018, sources said. After that, the editing of the series was abruptly moved from her home base in London, England to that of Vallee in Montreal, Canada. HBO also called for 17 days of additional photography, where Arnold took a back seat to Vallee, who had control of the set, though he was not officially the director.
“There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of Big Little Lies without Andrea Arnold. We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work," said a statement from HBO at the time. "As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself.”
The secrecy behind the scenes has many fans scratching their heads at Big Little Lies Season 2, a show which exceeds the source material of the book it is based on. As the season goes on, some feel that each episode is getting closer to Vallee's style and further from Arnold's.
Big Little Lies airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.