‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Episodes 1-3 Reviewed
by Rachel Bellwoar
Little Fires Everywhere could’ve made “Who burned down the Richardsons’ home?” the next “Who shot JR?,” and maybe we’ll still see some marketing to that effect when the first three episodes based on Celeste Ng’s novel stream on Hulu this Wednesday. Mostly, though, Little Fires Everywhere gets that question out of the way by letting viewers know what’s coming and then not harping on it.
From there, the show swings back to August 1997; four months before the fires are set. Sometimes there are flashbacks that go back even further but the only thing we’re told about the future is that the Richardson’s house will burn. What else the future holds for Shaker Heights is unknown (or at least not being teased in the three episodes that I’ve seen so far).
What this should tell you is the show has enough drama going on without needing to resort to reminding viewers about how bad it’s going to get. It’s bad the moment Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) sees the Warrens living out of their car and decides to call the cops on them. Later, when she realizes they’re the same family trying to rent one of her properties, she agrees to a monthly rent schedule despite her usual rule of requiring new tenants to pay for their first year. That might not sound like a big deal, but this is a woman who’s made being a stickler an art and if she’d left the family alone after that, they could’ve continued on with their lives with only that tangential connection between them.
Elena has a nasty habit of making her opinions known, however, and when it comes to Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her teenage daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood), this means making it clear that she disapproves of Mia’s parenting decisions. Mia is a professional artist. While that means money is tight, she’s also less averse to the moving around than her daughter has become at this point. It’s also strongly implied that she’s been through some trauma, but Mia doesn’t talk about it and it’s unlikely that Pearl knows the details.
Unlike Elena and her youngest daughter, Izzy (Megan Stott) – or Isabelle, since Elena refuses to call her by her nickname – Mia and Pearl have a close relationship, but both daughters start to see things in the opposite’s mother that they prefer or wish their own would emulate. It’s that classic scenario of wanting what you can’t have or only seeing the parts of a person you want to see. Elena’s other daughter, Lexie (Jade Pettyjohn), makes a Beverly Hills, 90210 reference at one point (there are a lot of 90’s TV references on this show) and there’s an episode in the first season of that show (“Perfect Mom”) where Brenda wishes her mom could be more like Kelly’s, and vice versa. This isn’t a new concept, but the appeal of a show like Little Fires Everywhere is getting to see it play out between Witherspoon and Washington.
As mentioned already, though, this show has a lot going on and a subplot involving Mia’s coworker, Bebe Chow (Lu Huang), feels like it should’ve been saved for another show instead of added onto this one. Why set more fires when the ones already lit are burning so hot?
Little Fires Everywhere premieres this Wednesday on Hulu, with new episodes streaming weekly after that.