“It’s a beautiful thing to know that your actions can affect another person’s life.” So begins Little Fires Everywhere, which focuses on the drama that leads up to an arson attack in Shaker Heights, a peaceful, progressive suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where everything is precisely planned – from the picture-postcard exteriors of the houses that line the streets to the successful lives their occupants lead. This defining line is uttered by Elena Richardson (the ever-excellent Reese Witherspoon – Big Little Lies, The Morning Show), a part-time local news journalist, who loves to play by the rules. Throughout this eight-part series, it becomes very apparent that the consequences of meddling in others’ lives are anything but beautiful.
Elena’s life with her lawyer husband Bill (Joshua Jackson – Dawson’s Creek, The Affair) and four teenage children is going swimmingly until Mia Warren (Oscar nominee Kerry Washington – Scandal, Django Unchained) – an artist and single mother – arrives in Shaker Heights and decides to rent the Richardson’s second home. Soon, Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl (Disney star Lexi Underwood) become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the pair and Mia soon becomes a housekeeper for Elena. But Mia has a mysterious past and a disregard for rules that threatens to destroy this carefully constructed community.
When Elena’s old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts and radically divides the town, putting Mia and Elena on opposite sides of the battle lines. Wary of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets from her new acquaintance’s past. But this growing obsession comes at a devastating cost.
The series begins with a shot of a distraught Witherspoon as she watches her beautiful home burn down. And it doesn’t take long for the police to reveal that it wasn’t an accident – in fact, multiple small fires were started in the mansion and the prime suspect is Izzy, Elena’s wayward daughter. We then go back to four months prior, just before Mia arrives in Elena’s life. As the plot unravels, like the book, viewers are encouraged to empathise with characters who’ve made terrible decisions and are, in turns, manipulative and selfish. You never quite know whose side you're on, and that’s the thrill of the story.
Fans of Big Little Lies will find a lot to love here – an overarching mystery, simmering tension between the two main families and questions about class, race and how well we really know our neighbours. Throw in a great soundtrack – the Alanis Morrisette remix in the trailer had us downloading it instantly – and some seriously good acting, particularly from Witherspoon and Washington. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the series holds in store.
Little Fires Everywhere is available to watch on Amazon Prime now.