Prime Video releases the Expats limited series on January 26, 2024

The six-part limited series Expats from creator, director, and writer Lulu Wang debuts on January 26 with two episodes. The series is based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s book “The Expatriates,” with Lee serving as a writer on the series, as well as Alice Bell, Vera Miao, and Gursimran Sandhu. While Wang directs all the episodes, she writes and directs two of the episodes.

The Farewell (2019) is Lulu Wang’s feature film. Starring Awkwafina as a Chinese American named Billi in her unforgettable role, she goes to China to visit her grandmother, who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I remember this film fondly and would certainly revisit the movie.

EXPATS SYNOPSIS: Set against the vibrant and tumultuous tapestry of 2014 Hong Kong, Expats centers on three American women—Margaret (Nicole Kidman), Hilary (Sarayu Blue), and Mercy (Ji-young Yoo)—whose lives intersect after a sudden family tragedy. The series interrogates privilege and explores what happens when the line between victimhood and culpability becomes blurred. Brian Tee plays Margaret’s husband, Clarke, and Jack Huston plays Hilary’s husband, David.

After watching the first two episodes, I found the first one engaging as it soon becomes evident that there has been a recent tragedy in the family. There is a lot of tension as Margaret (Kidman) is planning a 50th birthday party for Clarke (Tee). They appear to be trying to move on with their life, not only for their own sake but for the other two children, Daisy (Tiana Gowen) and Phillip (Bodhi del Rosario). The tension is thick at the party, and when Clarke welcomes/thanks the guests, he mentions the loss of their young son Gus (Connor James). Mercy, one of the catering servers, becomes visibly ill while serving the guests. Questions arise for the audience as to why she acts this way.

When the second episode is viewed, the audience learns the backstory of how Margaret, Hilary, and Mercy (Ji-young Yoo) know each other. The drama is set in the first episode, but since the episodes are offered nonlinearly, this can also be confusing for some viewers. Someone has skipped ahead in the book chapters to find the drama and then returns to the beginning to read who everyone is. Some audiences may be okay with this, but at the end of the second episode, this may leave the audience not feeling compelled to follow the series if they anticipate each episode will leave them baffled.

Some scenes are also included in the first two episodes that only sometimes connect to the family drama. At first, it may be a way to show the audience some sights and sounds in Hong Kong, but as the episodes continue, there is a tie back to them and the characters.
Kidman’s performance as Margaret is superb as she clearly shows the range of emotions that can be anticipated from a mother who has lost a child. Sarayu Blue portrays her friend, who has been distant but tries to be supportive on the night of the party. She has marital issues with her husband, David (Huston), and some reasons are evident in the second episode. Blue’s performance is excellent as she portrays a very self-centered character. Mercy is also self–centered, and there appears to be a deeper back story with her parents and her decision-making with friends and acquaintances. Accepting responsibility is not her strength.

In the first two episodes, plenty of wealth is evident, and having housekeepers/nannies to help run the household is “normal.” Essie (Ruby Ruiz) is the housekeeper for Margaret’s family, and Puri (Amelyn Pardenilla) is the housekeeper for Hilary and David. Margaret is seen as saying that Essie is like family, but she has concerns about the children being so close to Essie. Pastor Alan Mambo (Blessing Mokgohloa) leads the church that Clarke has attended (as seen in the first episode), and yet Margaret seems to have issues regarding religion in one scene with Phillip. Now, we see how religion is brought into this drama. These characters may not be the leads, but their lives and stories are all part of the fabric of the lives of the Americans living and working abroad.

Expats premiere with its first two episodes on January 26 on Prime Video in the U.S., with a new episode premiering every subsequent week until February 23.

Source: Amazon Prime Video

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