Little Fires Everywhere can’t help suffering from the unavoidable comparisons to Reese Witherspoon’s Big Little Lies.
That massive HBO hit was set in the gorgeously misted, casually rich environs of Monterey, California, while Fires (based on Celeste Ng's 2017 novel) takes place in the affluent but much less atmospheric Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights. Lies boasted a large A-list ensemble — season 2 even had Meryl Streep with fake choppers — while Fires is basically a two-actress showcase for Witherspoon and Scandal’s Kerry Washington. In other words, think of this eight-episode series as Medium Little Lies.
But its stars make it very watchable. Reese is a persnickety perfectionist homemaker, Elena, who hires Mia (Washington), an artist and single mom, as her part-time housekeeper. We know these two will become antagonists from the get-go, as Mia can barely stomach Elena’s patronizing kindness in giving her a job and (so Elena presumes) befriending a black woman.
The only question is how and when the fight will start. (The answer — this is no spoiler — comes at the end of episode 3.) Witherspoon, as always, makes us like someone who’s condescending, uptight and morally obtuse. Washington is a more compellingly combustive actress, howling and weeping. The story is framed by the most impressive house fire since Manderley burned in Rebecca.
The first three episodes launch Wednesday on Hulu.
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