This article contains spoilers through Season 2, Episode 2 of Big Little Lies.
In the fall of 2017, in response to the expansion of the #MeToo movement, a series of articles sprang up advising parents how to talk to their children about sexual assault. Start the conversations when the kids are young, the articles commonly advised. Acknowledge that the conversations might make the kids feel uncomfortable, but don’t let the discomfort be an excuse not to have the dialogues. The advice varied, but one thing they shared was an air of resignation about the topic at hand: Parents might not be able to protect their kids from the world, the articles suggested, but at least they could help to prepare them for its sad realities.
On yesterday’s episode of Big Little Lies, viewers saw that tension in action—in one of the show’s most quietly magisterial moments to date. The single mother Jane Chapman (played by Shailene Woodley) found herself talking to her son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), one of the second-graders at Monterey’s Otter Bay elementary school, about sexual assault—because another secret, in a city where coastal fog doubles as a metaphor, had been revealed: Ziggy had learned that Perry Wright, a parent at the school who had died at the end of Season 1, is his father. Ziggy had heard this news not from his mother—Jane herself had only recently discovered her rapist’s true identity—but rather through gossip. Chloe, the precocious daughter of Jane’s friend Madeline, had overheard her mother talking to Jane about Jane’s assault. And Chloe, being a girl fashioned fully in her mother’s image, had passed the information along to Ziggy.