Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere‘ is a drama series starring Reese Witherspoon that attempts to cover some pretty intrinsic and ambitious themes. The mini-series is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Celeste Ng. The novel is the winner of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction and Amazon’s Best Novel Award.
The ‘Legally Blonde‘ actress stars as Elena Richardson, a mother of four living with her family in an upscale neighborhood. The series follows her picture-perfect family when an artist named Mia and her daughter move into their neighborhood. Elena plays by the rules and the series attempts to explore the risk of believing that following rules can avoid disaster. Witherspoon also serves as an executive producer for the series.
Some of the other themes that the show tackles include the “weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity [and] the ferocious pull of motherhood.’ The first season consists of eight episodes, each with a runtime of little over fifty minutes.
Little Fires Everywhere Episode 1 Recap:
The year is 1997. The first episode of the Hulu series begins with a house having caught fire. The police tell a disturbed Elena that somebody intentionally started the fire with her inside the house. The police think that Elena’s daughter, Izzy might have something to do with the fire.
Then, the episode goes four months back in time. Elena notices an African-American woman living in her car on her (Elena’s) way to work. She calls the police. The woman, Mia had been living in her car. She is a nomad with no permanent address and little money. She has a daughter named Pearl and the two go to see a house. The house turns out to be the upper story of a place that Elena rents.
Elena allows Mia and Pearl to pay the rent on a monthly basis since they cannot afford a lease. Elena has four kids: Moody, Izzy, Lexie and Trip. Izzy is a rebel and constantly gets into conflicts with Elena. During her first night at the house, Mia has a nightmare of a man staring at her in the subway.
Moody sees Pearl in her front lawn and starts talking to her. They quickly become friends. Elena sees Mia on the street and tries to strike up a conversation. She asks if Mia might be interested in being a house helper. Mia gets slightly offended by that and refuses.
Moody invites Pearl to his house. Pearl gets fascinated by seeing the Richardson family’s large and luxurious house. Meanwhile, Elena tells Izzy that she could change her hairstyle to fit in. Izzy does not like that, and she burns half her hair on one side, on purpose using a straightener.
Moody gets Pearl a bike and the two ride to an abandoned van where the former has collected several things. They hang out there. On the other hand, Izzy has an orchestra performance at school. Elena does not approve of her short clothes and gothic look before the performance. In the school’s washroom, Izzy asks her former friend why they branched away. The friend calls Izzy a freak.
During the orchestra performance, Izzy does not play her instrument on purpose. Then, she turns her head. She has written “not your puppet” on her forehead with a marker. On the other hand, a neighborhood watch officer finds Moody and Pearl trespassing. Mia gets furious at Pearl. Izzy tells Mia that it is not a big deal.
At their house, Mia tells Pearl that they are not as privileged as the Richardsons and threatens to move away. Pearl lashes out at Mia for not having had a permanent home and tells her mother that Elena puts her kids first.
Pearl goes to give Moody his cycle back. Trip invites her home. It appears as if Pearl has a crush on Trip. Mia goes to the Richardsons’ house to pick up Pearl. She talks to Izzy who is spray-painting in the front yard. The two seem like they would get along. Mia tells Izzy that she should have acted more graciously when the latter had asked the former about being a house helper. Mia accepts the job.
Mia has built a bike for Pearl and she surprises her with it when they reach home. She sees the subway nightmare once again. However, this time, Elena replaces the man staring at her. On the other hand, Elena calls Mia’s reference. The person at the other end does not know Mia. Mia develops a photo of Elena in her car.
Little Fires Everywhere Episode 1 Review:
The first episode of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ proves to be a slow set-up, but one which holds some promise. To begin with, nothing much seems to happen in the first episode. However, this could be the tone that the entire series adopts: a slow, meditative suburban, small-town kind of tale.
Starting with the good, all the characters are developed convincingly. In the hour-long episode, the show manages to depict all its major characters and their personalities without feeling rushed. The characters of Pearl, Izzy, Moody and Mia are given more screen space but the episode allows one to let the others breathe around the viewers. The rest of the characters will surely be given more attention later on.
Speaking of the plot, it is difficult to say what direction the series is heading to. There is a hint of a thriller element (just a sliver) with the tease about Mia’s past. Some amount of suspense regarding her virtue is raised. The initial scenes of the episode suggest a form of whodunnit premise with the mystery surrounding the person responsible for lighting the Richardsons’ house on fire. However, that thread seems to lose steam when the episode settles into telling a story about two suburban families.
Overall, the first episode proves to be slightly more enjoyable than watchable. This is mainly because the characters are developed well and there is a hint of some overarching themes like class distinction and possibly, maternal envy. There is also potential for some soapy drama. Pearl having a crush on Trip, for instance is definitely going to lead to some conflict between Moody and his brother. The nature of Izzy and Mia’s relationship is also interesting, making viewers wonder what form it would take. Friendship? Rivalry? It could be either.
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