Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ still has room to improve

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“Little Fires Everywhere” is a new Hulu original series, originally written by Celeste Ng, that adapts the tale of the Shaker Heights residents, the Richardsons, and the bohemian travelers, the Warrens.

The series features heavyweight actresses and executive producers, Reese Witherspoon (Elena) and Kerry Washington (Mia) along with newcomers like 16-year-old actress Lexi Underwood. 

It’s clear that the producers and the directors are trying their best to differ from the source material by angling it as a mystery. The suspenseful moments that mark the turn are Mia’s dreams which often leave her panting and frightened. Other variances from the source material include Mia and Pearl being depicted as African American women. This change might be a nod to Hollywood trying to bring more diversity into their stories. 

There were high hopes for the series, especially because the novel was so enjoyable. Yet the potential the series had falls flat due to its endeavors to stand out, taking away some of the best aspects of the novel. 

For example, changing Mia’s ethnicity from a white woman to an African American woman seems like a cheap attempt at adding diversity. One of the more refreshing features of the original story is that a non-person-of-color could be struggling. It shows that the privilege of being a white person doesn’t benefit Mia in the long run. Switching Mia’s racial identity plays into an age-old stereotype African American women have been relegated to for far too long. 

Another change that takes away the effect of the story is the shift of Izzy Richardson from rebellious advocate to rebel without a cause. Izzy is supposed to be a difficult person for Elena to deal with, but for the most part, she is young, trying her best to stand out and is an advocate for other outcasts in a society that tells people to fit in. 

In this version, her actions mostly cause her mother pain and help cement her identity as a social outcast. Her actions benefit herself and no one else, which is quite a letdown from the fiery and social-justice-minded character readers know Izzy to be. The lack of purpose in Izzy takes away from the power of the work itself.

There is still potential for “Little Fires Everywhere” to be as good or better than its source material. There are only three episodes out, so the story lines could build up the characters as multifaceted people with complicated feelings and motivations. 

The talent certainly is available with actresses like Witherspoon, who has come to make room for herself and others in an industry where they would likely be forced to retire or play the mom or dad, and Washington, who was the highest paid actor in 2018 and played one of the most powerful leads. 

If anyone can save a series from its own demise, it’s these two  influential figures on our television screens. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)