The story of Big Little Lies focuses on a group of women fans refer to as "The Monterey Five." They are the main characters from the original novel written by Liane Moriarty: Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Celeste Wright, Jane Chapman, Renata Klein, and Bonnie Carlson. But while the fans, and those who cover the show, have been tossing around this nickname since the show arrived back in 2017, the series itself never used it — until now. So, who are the Monterey 5 on Big Little Lies? Let’s break it all down. Warning: Spoilers for Big Little Lies Season 2 follow.
As viewers of Big Little Lies original miniseries are aware, the "Monterey Five" weren’t exactly a tight-knit group until the show’s final act. Though Madeline and Celeste were BFFs, and Madeline took Jane under her wing after the new-in-town single mom was there for her in a moment of need, Renata and Bonnie weren’t exactly friends with the group, and Jane wasn’t exactly a natural fit to Madeline and Celeste’s highbrow lives.
Renata, especially, was an antagonist towards everyone, a high-powered CEO who couldn’t figure out how to fit in with the mommy-crowd, and willing to lash out at anyone she felt was disrespecting her. Bonnie was less a foil to Jane or Celeste, but to Madeline, she was an instant rival, the new wife of Maddie’s first husband.
But then, at the school trivia night fundraiser, Celeste’s husband Perry went down the stairs, with only these five to witness it, and know the truth of what happened. Though the viewers know it was murder, with Bonnie being the one to push Perry down the stairs as the others struggled to pull him off of Celeste, the five of them have formed a united front to say it was an accident and he slipped. (Though to be clear, Bonnie is far less enthusiastic about the cover-up than the other four, and clearly feels a whole lot more guilt than her counterparts.)
However, the intense closeness between the group since the accident occurred has not gone unnoticed in the town. Monterey is a gossip haven, especially among the well-moneyed set of parents that send their kids to school along with the children of these five women. It turns out they’re using the same phrase to group our heroines together as those at home have been using: The Monterey 5.
When Jane discovers the moniker she and her pals have been given, she runs in shock to let everyone else know how they have been tarred by the gossip as well. Celeste seems concerned, but both Madeline and Renata put on brave faces, refusing to worry publicly about this development. Renata is convinced the case is closed, even as she declares "Well, the case isn’t closed," which is the most Renata thing ever, while Madeline figures everyone will talk, and they just have to keep moving until they get to the other side.
It remains to be seen how long it is until the Monterey Five find themselves under scrutiny once more for the events of that evening. Until then, I personally hope Madeline embraces this to the point of getting tee-shirts made.
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