Big Little Lies is hinting at a dark secret in Mary Louise Wright (Meryl Streep)'s past, which is connected to the actions of her son, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), and also the death of her other child, Raymond. So far, Mary Louise has been mostly concerned with discovering the truth of what happened to Perry, who was killed in the season 1 finale by the so-called Monterey 5, but it's what she is hiding that might prove most important to Big Little Lies.
In the absence of Skarsgård's Perry, it is Streep's Mary Louise who serves as the villain of Big Little Lies' sophomore outing. She may not be as outright vicious or despicable as her son, but Mary Louise is definitely conniving and, in a more low-key way, wicked. She refuses to believe her son was bad or evil, despite all the evidence pointing towards his crimes.
Mary Louise herself doesn't seem innocent either. It's highly unlikely that she is completely unaware of what her son was really like. Furthermore, this being Big Little Lies and all, she has some skeletons in her own closest, with talk of an accident in Perry and Raymond's childhood that seemingly holds the key to her entire character, although it's only been vaguely hinted at so far.
What Big Little Lies Has Revealed About 'The Accident'
Big Little Lies first mentioned Perry's brother, Raymond, in the second episode of season 2. He came up as part of a conversation between Mary Louise and Celeste (Nicole Kidman), with the former attempting to convey to the latter how she has experienced a loss of her own previously. It's revealed that she lost Raymond in some kind of "accident". This is then given another mention in a flashback, which shows Perry himself telling Celeste about the fact he had a brother who died when he was just five-years-old.
The latest episode of Big Little Lies, "She Knows", gave us more context to this mysterious event. Celeste reveals that Perry told her Mary Louise's husband departed after it. To this, Mary Louise responds: "Yes, he blamed me, and he left. And I deserved the blame - to be left. He started a new life, he got a new family, he became a devoted father so I'm told. It's good. People can move on after tragedy, just not together, sometimes."
So, we know there was an incident of some kind, which led to Raymond dying and Perry's father walking out on him and his mother, But was it really an accident? Or is there something much darker at play here? Given Big Little Lies is a murderous melodrama, it seems quite likely that Raymond was actually killed - the question is by whom?
Could Perry Have Killed His Brother Raymond?
Based on what little we know of the circumstances around Raymond's death, alongside how much we've seen of Perry's violent tendencies, then it's not too much of a stretch to put two and two together and get the end result of Perry killing his own brother. We saw in Big Little Lies season 1 the kinds of evil acts he was capable of, such as raping Jane and beating Celeste, so the adult Perry was capable of murder, but was he already acting that way as a child?
Mary Louise doesn't think so. She insists he was the sweetest little boy imaginable, and that might be true. But it's also very believable that she's a grieving mother lying to herself, and has been long before Perry's death. That he killed his brother as a child - and maybe it really was an accident, with a fight going too far - and she has been covering it up ever since. Her actions and denial led to her husband leaving, and Perry being mollycoddled by his mother did nothing to temper the violence and rage within him.
This was hinted at when Celeste and Perry's children, Max and Josh, were fighting earlier in Big Little Lies season 2. When Celeste stops Max, who in the first season bullied Amabella, from hurting his brother, she yells: "No, you will not be like him!" On the surface, that just means he won't be abusive in the same way Perry was to her. But it could also be Big Little Lies' way of telling us that Perry didn't just fight his own brother, he ended up killing him.
Could Mary Louise Have Actually Killed Her Own Son?
Raymond died when he was just a small child. We know that Perry was violent and abusive, at least as an adult, that there was an 'accident' which led to Raymond's death, and it caused his father to leave. It all adds up, then, that Perry was the one who killed his brother. Case closed, right? But what if that's just a little too obvious? In the first season of Big Little Lies, it weaved together a compelling murder mystery that managed to surprise us all in the end. It wasn't Perry killing someone, or Celeste or Jane (both of whom had clear motive) killing him, but instead Zoë Kravitz's Bonnie who murdered Perry. This is a show full of twists, so it'd be surprising to give this away so easily.
That's where Mary Louise comes into things. She has likely spent her whole life covering up a dark secret about her son. Now that a different (albeit not too dissimilar) secret about him is out, she is doing everything she can to clear his name. There was presumably a rather intense relationship between the pair, since after Raymond's death it would've been just Perry and his mother together, but it could go further. She might be trying to continue protecting him because it's all she's ever done, or because she knows the truth that she is the one to blame. Mary Louise's husband left after the accident, but why? If it was their son who had murdered their other child, then there might've been a chance they could've found a way to see it through together. But if it was Mary Louise who murdered Raymond, then that's a very different story.
We've already seen that Mary Louise is not as well-meaning or nice as she'd like people to think. There's the already iconic scream from the season 2 premiere, and the way she snapped and yelled at the children when they were misbehaving. It's a leap from there to a child murderer, but it shows us someone who is prone to emotional outbursts, which could have turned violent. Big Little Lies hasn't yet explained why Perry acted the way he did, and although it doesn't necessarily need to because there isn't any excuse for his behavior, it has suggested interest in a reason. Jane previously said that violence could be in Ziggy's DNA because Perry is his father. If Big Little Lies is exploring the idea of violence and abuse being inherited, then maybe Perry was either abused himself as a child, or at least watched his mother abuse his brother. And if she was violent to Raymond, then it's possible she went too far and killed him, and then spent the rest of her time making sure Perry never told anyone, either by coddling him and/or abusing him too.
What This Would Mean For Big Little Lies Season 2
Given that Big Little Lies is seemingly making the accident one of its core mysteries in season 2, then there has to be some narrative purpose to it. After all, Perry is dead, so simply revealing that he murdered his brother doesn't change very much, especially when we already know what he was capable of. Revealing that Mary Louise killed her own son is more of a game-changer because it's a much, much darker side to her than what we've seen so far, but again it only explains her past and relationship to Perry, rather than where her actions might be going in the future.
It's possible that's all there is to it. That this is just part of the Perry puzzle, further fleshing out his life, but it'd feel a little disappointing if there wasn't more. And Big Little Lies might be giving us just that, by way of the most recent plot developments. As of the fourth episode, which is the midway point of the season, Mary Louise is attempting to get custody of Max and Josh from Celeste. This is because she worries for their safety, but it could well be linked to Raymond's death. Mary Louise knows what it's like to lose a child, so she may be seeing similar warning signs her, and is taking preventative measures to ensure history doesn't repeat itself, such as Max killing Josh.
It could, however, be a lot worse. If Mary Louise has a history of abusing her children, then she could be looking to abuse Max and Josh in some way too, as a replacement for what she lost when Raymond died (and is struggling with again after Perry's death). She may even genuinely want to help or think that she is, but that actually ends up hurting them (much of this calls to mind another twisty HBO series, Sharp Objects, which looked at parental abuse and also contained some shocking twists). If Mary Louise is abusive and does get custody of Celeste's children, then it sets up Big Little Lies season 2's endgame: the Monterey 5 once again have to confront the villain, either to kill her like they did Perry, or turn her into the police, which would be a fitting irony given how focused Mary Louise is on the police work into her son's murder. Big Little Lies may end with season 2, so this would bring its cycle of violence to a close with it.