25 of the most toxic relationships on TV

10 of 25

Big Little Lies. Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård.

photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/courtesy of HBO

Celeste and Perry White

It’s the violence. There’s really just no other way to look at it. He beats her. There’s not the suggestion of violence, or the threat of it to control her, or even just the mild grab. No, Perry beats Celeste and hurts her badly.

No matter how Celeste likes to paint her relationship with Perry, the only thing there is to consider is his violent rage. He’s left her bloodied, bruised, and although she doesn’t like to admit it, fearing for her life. Like so many abusive relationships, theirs looks seemingly perfect from the outside.

In fact, the other characters often comment about how idyllic their life is, but we can see what seethes underneath. Celeste loves him, and some might say he loves her too, but anytime one person has to fear for their safety, the relationship is no longer redeemable.

I applaud Big Little Lies for handling the nuances of this sort of relationship and not painting it with a broad brush, teeing it up for a cliched “very special episode” moment. I’m also encouraged by their willingness to portray the victim’s complicated feelings about leaving their abusive spouse. For anyone whose never had to endure what Celeste does, the knee jerk reaction would be to shout at your screen, “Just leave him already.” But for everyone whose ever been in this kind of place, they know that Celeste’s struggle is far closer to the truth of the matter.