The season 2 finale of “Big Little Lies,” headlined by a tense courtroom scene, was watched by just under 2 million total viewers during its initial broadcast.
The 1.98 million figure is the highest initial viewership for the series to date, and jumped to a record 3.1 million viewers across when HBO’s other platforms (HBO GO and HBO NOW) were taken into account. By comparison, the show’s first season concluded with 1.9 million total viewers in linear viewing, which rose to 2.5 million overall.
The Season 2 premiere nabbed 2.5 million viewers combined in both linear airings and on streaming options HBO GO and HBO NOW. That was approximately a 34% increase over the first season premiere, which pulled in a combined 1.8 million viewers. Per HBO, Season 2 is averaging 12 million viewers per episode, a solid bump on the 8.5 million multi-platform viewers per episode from season 1.
While there was drama on screen in the season 2 finale as Nicole Kidman’s Celeste took on Meryl Streep’s Mary Louise in court for custody of her sons, there was also controversy behind the scenes this season. An IndieWire story claimed that creative control over the series was “yanked away” from director Andrea Arnold in favor of executive producer and Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallee.
HBO responded by saying it is “extremely proud” of Arnold’s work on the series.
“There wouldn’t be a Season 2 of ‘Big Little Lies’ without Andrea Arnold,” said the cabler in a statement. “We at HBO and the producers are extremely proud of her work. As with any television project, the executive producers work collaboratively on the series and we think the final product speaks for itself.”
In her column discussing the issues with season 2, Variety critic Caroline Framke deemed that the “biggest culprit of the season’s decline…isn’t isn’t the direction, but the writing.”
Season 1 of the series ultimately took home eight Emmy Awards in 2017, competing in the limited series category. It won the award for best limited series along with acting wins for stars Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Alexander Skarsgård.