little fires

Stars: 2.5/5

Hulu original miniseries “Little Fires Everywhere” tackles racial and socioeconomic issues in nowheresville Ohio when Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) moves with her teenage daughter into the affluent white neighborhood of Shaker, in part thanks to stranger Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) lowering her rent. Their following interactions highlight their lifestyle differences often attributable to being black and white, respectively.

On its March 18 release to Hulu, there are only three episodes of “Little Fires Everywhere” available on which this review is based. By the end of the third episode, one notable event occurred that was not an unremarkable and potentially everyday occurrence.

The mystery leading to said event was introduced, developed and concluded within that episode and was tangential to the actual focus of the show: the contrast between the Richardson and Warren households.

All development related to the series main characters is set up on the precipice of action and relevance by the end of the three episodes, so the show certainly has an upward trajectory and merits high hopes for the coming episodes every Wednesday.

“Little Fires Everywhere” opens with a house fire and mentions a few key characters before cutting to four months prior. If it opened at the story’s actual beginning, most audiences (especially those unfamiliar with and unamused by dramas) may fall into an unexpected nap.

The titular phrase is said in this introductory and exciting scene and introduces the admittedly fitting metaphor as “little fires” start catching with the Richardson clan.

Right off the bat, the themes of the show are clear: race, economic status, privilege and motherhood. Mia and Elena obviously have similar goals and priorities in their children with equally obvious differences in opportunity, income and race which affects how they interact with the world.

They effectively act as foils to each other, with Mia living a nomadic and spontaneous lifestyle as an artist with her daughter Pearl in tow with her while Elena leads a structured and formulaic “perfect” suburban life.

While these issues are pervasive in America, the scenarios through which they manifest in the show are often low stakes and boring for a viewer unaccustomed to the pace of dramas.

The Richardsons’ struggles mostly consist of high school politics, unless it pertains to the mother. The mother deals both in high school garbage and attempting to inject herself into Mia Warren’s life and private ongoings from the moment she took on the white savior role by generously renting an extra house to Mia.

From that point on, their interactions are stilted, awkward and generally unpleasant to watch. Elena always manages to offhandedly make subtly racially charged comments to the Richardsons and her daughter’s boyfriend Brian. She appears to go out of her way sometimes to force an awkward exchange and subsequent silence. 

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