Wednesday, March 18, 2020

REVIEW: 'Little Fires Everywhere' - Mia Moves to Shaker Heights and Becomes Entwined with Elena's Family in 'The Spark'

Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere - Episode 1.01 "The Spark"

The picture-perfect lives of the Richardson family are upended by the mysterious arrival of artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl in Shaker Heights, Ohio - an idyllic town founded on the utopian principals of harmony and order. Egged on by her guilty conscious, do-gooder Elena Richardson rents to the mother-daughter duo, irrevocably intertwining the fates of the two families.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Hulu's Little Fire Everywhere.

"The Spark" was written by Liz Tigelaar and directed by Lynn Shelton

Shaker Heights, Ohio presents itself as the epitome of perfection and exceptionalism. The rest of the world is lucky to interact with anyone who comes from this upscale community. The future is seemingly mapped out for everyone who lives here. It's a place of traditional family values and the appearance of kindness and consideration to one's neighbors. And yet, there is conflict simmering not too far under the surface over race relations and class struggles. Elena Richardson is a force of nature who essentially wants everyone around her to conform to what she expects out of life. That means scheduled sex two nights a week with her husband, Bill. That means her children have to become miniature clones of their parents. Everyone has to be respectable and follow the rules as laid out by the foundation of this town. This is seemingly the only world she has ever known. She projects a sense of legitimacy as well by mentioning the fact that she once got to interview attorney general Janet Reno. That is the highlight of her professional career. Her mentioning that over and over again makes it seem like nothing more than a good story with no true substance underneath it. She is a woman who puts on a smile when she is actually forceful and demanding of her family. As soon as the clock strikes midnight, she will skip past having sex with her husband despite the schedule they have. She is grateful that her eldest daughter, Lexie, has her future planned far out with her putting in all the requirements to be accepted into Yale. However, her youngest daughter, Izzy, is a source of tension. She is a fireball of energy who wants to rebel against the conventional and conservative practices of her family unit and home town. Part of it is a struggle over her identity. She wants to expand into the potential of being something more than what her mother tells her she has to be. Elena views it as Izzy being a spoiled brat who doesn't understand how good a life she has. That only further highlights the privilege of this family though. When newcomers to town, Mia and Pearl Warren, first enter the Richardson home, it is a display of extravagance that they have never had in their lives before. The Richardson teens may take it all for granted. Mia and Pearl have been living out of a car though. Mia positions it as a grand adventure. Her daughter should be grateful for the upbringing she has had because it is so unconventional. She has had life experiences that none of her peers could understand. Mia believes her daughter is a step ahead of the curve. She feels that she is doing her best to arm her and prepare her for the future. She knows that the world looks at people of color differently than the white citizens who make up the Shaker Heights community. Yes, Elena is proud to talk about the integration and seemingly positive steps towards inclusion in the schools and housing. However, she still calls the police on a black woman living in her car. She believes that isn't a rational choice that any sensible person should be making in their lives. As such, she feels more than validated when it comes to offering advice for how Mia could improve her standing in the world. Mia doesn't want that. Elena doesn't know her. Her advice comes from a place of racial indifference. Elena pushes back against the suggestion that she is a racist. She wants to be more than welcoming to prove that she doesn't act like that at all. But it does define her. She has no fundamental understanding of the white privilege she has. Elena pities Mia. The Warren family accepts this hospitality for the moment. But again, there is tension bubbling under the surface where it's clear that Mia is hiding major secrets about her past. Mia Warren may not even be her real name. Her life could be nothing more than a deception. One to invade this perfectly calibrated world that Elena has created. And yet, Mia and Elena can seemingly offer the perspective the other's children need right now. That forces them together on several occasions. That highlights the generational conflict of this piece because the children don't always have the same reactions as their parents. They are all striving for love and acceptance. But cycles can repeat as well. Mia may be running and that has a direct impact on her daughter. Elena believes that certain behavior is acceptable in society and passes that down to her own children despite the damage that it will do. These themes are right there at the forefront of the story and clearly heading to disaster. The show just needs a little more complexity as it builds to its fiery reveal.