Meet Mia Warren and Elena Richardson in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Episode 1 Recap

The new Hulu mystery drama Little Fires everywhere stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Both are also executive producers on the miniseries, which is adapted from the book of the same name. Here’s a recap of the first episode, titled, “The Spark.”

Meet Elena

'Little Fires Everywhere' Episode 101: Elena (Reese Witherspoon)
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Episode 101: Elena (Reese Witherspoon) | Erin Simkin/Hulu

Elena Richardson (Witherspoon) has the perfect suburban life in Shaker Heights. She lives in a perfect house, with four perfect children, a perfect husband, and the perfect part-time job at small local newspaper. At least, that’s what she would like you to believe. But in December 1997, it all burns to the ground. So what happened?

The timeline backs up to August. This is when Elena, while driving to work, sees what appears to be a woman living in her car. After reporting this to the neighborhood watch, she encounters the woman once again. Mia Warren (Washington) and her daughter, Pearl, are looking to rent a unit in her duplex. Elena sees the opportunity to do a good deed, and agrees to their terms.

Meet Mia

'Little Fires Everywhere' Episode 1: Mia (Kerry Washington) and Pearl (Lexi Underwood)
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Episode 1: Mia (Kerry Washington) and Pearl (Lexi Underwood) | Erin Simkin/Hulu

At this point, it becomes clear where the points of contention could be between Mia and Elena. Mia doesn’t expect handouts from anyone, and values privacy. Elena, on the other hand, thinks of herself as something of a good Samaritan. She values transparency, and expects rewards for her actions.

Mia is a photographer, and it’s evident that she has past trauma. She has nightmares about a man (played by Jesse Williams) who watches her on the subway. Mia and Pearl move from city to city frequently, and the former takes jobs such as waiting tables where she can to get by. But Pearl dreams of staying in one place.

Meet their kids

'Little Fires Everywhere' Episode 101: Izzy (Megan Stott)
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Episode 101: Izzy (Megan Stott) | Erin Simkin/Hulu

The eldest Richardson kids, Lexie and Trip, are the picture-perfect teens: excelling at academics and athletics. Meanwhile, Moody, her second-to-youngest, is the same age as Pearl, and the two befriend one another. He plays the guitar and she writes poetry. Moody invites her over, and Pearl and Elena connect as writers.

Then there’s Izzy. On the day of the fire, Izzy is missing, and it’s insinuated that she could be to blame. Back in the summer, she is rebelling, burning her hair and refusing to fit into the mold her mother expects of her. When Mia comes by, she offers Izzy advice on a kind of paint, saying, “We artists have to stick together.”

Race relations play a role

'Little Fires Everywhere' | Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon)
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ | Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) | Erin Simkin/Hulu

From the beginning, the idea of the white savior is present. Elena is not what anyone at the time would have called overtly racist. But, as her husband Bill points out, she sometimes makes “loaded” statements, and her decision to offer Mia a job as a “house manager” (re: maid) had implications.

One of the most poignant scenes in this narrative comes when Lexie asks Pearl why she (as a rising sophomore) hasn’t started planning for college. She then says, “Well, with all this affirmative action stuff, you’ll be a shoo-in,” adding, “that’s what Brian always says.” Elena rushes to reassure Pearl, “That’s her boyfriend. He’s African-American.”

What’s going to happen next?

'Little Fires Everywhere' Episode 101: Pearl (Lexi Underwood) and Moody (Gavin Lewis)
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Episode 101: Pearl (Lexi Underwood) and Moody (Gavin Lewis) | Erin Simkin/Hulu

Because this was a full hour-long episode on a streaming service (not 42 minutes like most network dramas), there’s a lot more that happened that wasn’t covered here. Bill (Elena’s husband, played by Joshua Jackson) and Elena are likely going to have some issues to work out in regards to intimacy. Moody and Pearl will inevitably grow closer. And Izzy still has a lot of rebelling to do.

In any case, as Mia (and Pearl) are going to be spending more time at the Richardson’s home, we expect to see tensions continue to rise between Mia and Elena, as well as their developing bonds with the other’s daughter. Little Fires Everwhere promises to be full of twists and turns, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.