EXPATS. Amazon’s new drama hit? Review of the first episodes
Can we expect one of the most promising series of the year already in January? After watching the first two episodes of Amazon’s new production, I’m getting closer to making that statement. The idea of adapting Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel emerged around 2018, but filming only began in 2021. As you can easily guess, the lockdown and mandatory quarantines posed obstacles, so we had to wait over two years for the premiere of the series, produced by Nicole Kidman. However, I can assure you with a clear conscience that the first episodes compensate for the long wait and promise an exciting and multidimensional story that has the potential to match brilliant productions like Big Little Lies, to which Expats already has many references from the start. What is the latest Amazon series directed by Lulu Wang about?
We move to the bustling life of Hong Kong, which we get to know not from the perspective of native residents but from three Americans who, for various reasons, decided or were forced to give up their previous lives and start anew in a place incredibly distant from where they grew up. Margaret (Nicole Kidman), once a successful career woman, is now neurotic and emotionally broken, dedicating herself solely to caring for her children and supporting her husband’s impressive career. Hilary (Sarayu Blue), a former friend of Margaret, is now trying to keep her distance and pretend that her marriage is not heading towards a breakup. Mercy (Ji-young Yoo) takes on various odd jobs, and during one of them – a birthday party at a wealthy couple’s house – she accidentally meets a woman whose life she inadvertently destroyed. All the heroines are connected by a tragedy that shook their entire environment some time ago. Despite attempts to move on and reconcile with the demons of the past, the women still live with what happened to Margaret’s child, who is responsible for the family drama, and how long it will take them to return to normal life (if such a possibility exists at all). We start with a pile of hints, an atmosphere of conspiracy, and mysteries, gradually reaching the truth – who is to blame, and whether such a colossal mistake, made even unknowingly, can still be rectified?
In the case of Expats, we are dealing with a work that already addresses important social issues, such as racial privileges, the gap between social groups, and, of course, the despair after the loss of a child. The creators handle the dosage of emotions well – the first two episodes are a restrained but still hypnotic and extremely promising introduction to a story with great potential for another social hit. Lulu Wang, known for the critically acclaimed The Farewell in 2019, once again proves her creative maturity and takes care of each of her characters. However, after the premiere of the two-hour episodes, one would like to see more vivid dialogues and stronger scenes, especially the one at the night market, crucial to the whole story, but average and lacking the necessary dramaturgy. So far, the script is a combination of several well-known social productions that, although satisfying and providing ambitious and intelligent entertainment, have the chance for more (hopefully not wasted). From Wang’s new series, I would expect a focus on the emotional layer, a deeper examination of the female characters who play the leading roles in this story, and the success of Amazon’s show depends on their portrayal. Let’s hope that everything is still ahead of us, and the real intrigue will begin next week with the release of the next episodes of the series.
Expats, for now, fulfills the role of a touching production with a dark secret in the background, but we will have to wait a while for more sparks. Nicole Kidman once again proves that she still has that something, and characters of internally complex women are her specialty. If you enjoyed The Undoing, Big Little Lies, or Little Fires Everywhere, Expats is another series that must be on your watchlist.
New episodes of the series will be available on Fridays on the Amazon Prime platform.