‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 1 Recap: Welcome to Tranquillum

Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers promises to deliver viewers an uncomfortable narrative full of complex characters, something episode 1 immediately starts building toward. Dubbed “Random Acts of Mayhem,” the series premiere sees the show’s ensemble cast embarking on a 10-day wellness retreat. Despite their desire to heal, however, it’s clear the guests at Tranquillum House have their own demons to conquer. Judging by episode 1, that may prevent the group from getting along.

The premiere focuses mostly on setting the stage for the next eight episodes. It introduces the characters and setting of Nine Perfect Strangers, ending on a note that promises drama and tension ahead.

[Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 1.]

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 1 introduces the show’s large cast of characters

Heather (Asher Keddie) and Frances (Melissa McCarthy) standing across from one another in Hulu's 'Nine Perfect Strangers' Episode 1. The two have their hands clasped in front of each other and look uncomfortable. There are trees and greenery in the background.
Asher Keddie and Melissa McCarthy in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ | Vince Valitutti/Hulu

Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 1 spends most of its runtime establishing its large cast of characters, which consists of the nine guests staying at Tranquillum House and the resort’s staff. Each of the characters has their own incentive for joining Masha’s (Nicole Kidman) wellness retreat — whether it’s a failed relationship, book deal gone wrong, or something that hasn’t been revealed yet.

The premiere opens with the Marconi family headed to Tranquillum, but it’s obvious Napoleon (Michael Shannon) is the only one excited about the whole thing. His wife Heather (Asher Keddie) and daughter Zoe (Grace Van Patten) seem less invested in the trip. Married couple Ben (Melvin Gregg) and Jessica (Samara Weaving) face a similar dynamic, with Jessica dragging a reluctant Ben to the resort to “fix” their relationship.

Melissa McCarthy’s romance novelist, Frances Welty, proves one of the most neurotic characters Nine Perfect Strangers. Episode 1 kicks off with her screaming “death to the world” on the roadside after losing out on a book deal. Tony Hogburn (Bobby Cannavale) comes across her doing this and tries to help. Sadly, that only sparks animosity between the pair.

The final two guests appear to be on completely opposite sides of the spectrum regarding Masha’s healing tactics. Carmel (Regina Hall) idolizes Masha and seems genuinely thrilled to partake in her retreat. Lars (Luke Evans), on the other hand, expresses skepticism at every turn.

Episode 1 of the Hulu series promises conflict between its characters

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Apart from introducing the characters and their motivations, Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 1 promises conflict by having them start off on the wrong foot with one another. Frances and Bobby toss insults at one another after their awkward roadside encounter. Frances insults the Marconi family by commenting on how “perfect” they seem. Lars greets Carmel with snide remarks the moment he meets her. Even Tony and Ben get into a tiff over parking.

The minor drama from the premiere hasn’t amounted to anything serious yet. However, the character interactions make the perfect ingredients for explosions later on. And Nine Perfect Strangers certainly suggests that’s where things are headed.

The staff at Tranquillum House even notice something off about the group of guests. Delilah (Tiffany Boone) tells Yao (Manny Jacinto) that “the vibe seems a bit charged.” While he doesn’t seem concerned, her worries may serve as foreshadowing. Could this group implode over the course of their healing journey?

The setting of ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ will heighten the tensions

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As the guests settle into their temporary lodgings, Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 1 sets the stage for a retreat like no other. The trailer for the Hulu series alluded to Masha embracing nontraditional methods of healing, but the premiere underscores that something strange is afoot at Tranquillum. It goes beyond confiscating guests’ phones and planning their diets. “Random Acts of Mayhem” shows Masha watching the other characters through cameras scattered across the island. Her staff also sifts through their belongings and takes prohibited goods out of their suitcases without asking.

Of course, Masha isn’t exactly shy about her unique healing strategies. She flat out tells Frances that the privileged, well-off people who attend her retreats come “for the suffering.” Likewise, she promises to “f— with” every single guest during their orientation. She makes that vow after recounting her own workaholic past and being shot — a story that sees Zoe breaking down and running out of the retreat.

If nothing else, fans can expect Masha to cross boundaries and make the characters (and viewers) uncomfortable moving forward. That seems like part of the spectacle for her, with Kidman’s character dramatically telling the tale of her own near-death experience. To be fair, she is mesmerizing in the role. It’s easy to understand why the characters would be drawn to her and her promises.

Whether she’ll deliver on them is another story, but it’s something viewers will find out over the course of Nine Perfect Strangers. Not much happens in the premiere, but it contains plenty of promise. Similar to Masha’s vows, the question is whether the series will fulfill them.

The first three episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers are currently streaming on Hulu.