Roush Review: 'Little Fires Everywhere' Scorches With Emotional Intensity

Matt Roush
Little Fires Everywhere Hulu Review
Review Erin Simkin/Hulu

Even without the Reese Witherspoon connection, this lacerating eight-part domestic potboiler feels like the natural successor to HBO's hit Big Little Lies. And the secrets and lies here are doozies.

Also based on a gripping bestseller (by Celeste Ng), Little Fires Everywhere trades Lies' luxurious beachfront property for the rigidly planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Even the height of grass is regulated, "to avoid uncertainty and disaster," according to a town brochure.

Hulu's 'Little Fires Everywhere' May Have Surprises for Fans of the Book

Hulu's 'Little Fires Everywhere' May Have Surprises for Fans of the Book

EP Liz Tigelaar talks working with author Celeste Ng to honor the source material while digging deeper and introducing a few tweaks.

Into this 1990s suburban Stepford utopia arrives an agent of chaos: nomadic single mom and mixed-media artist Mia Warren (Scandal's brooding Kerry Washington), who's devoted to daughter Pearl (Lexi Underwood). They quickly earn the patronizing and suffocating scrutiny of control-freak supermom Elena Richardson (an expert Witherspoon, also risking typecasting).

Elena, who plans even her sex schedule with eternally patient husband Bill (a mellow Joshua Jackson), prides herself on her good intentions, but she stirs up a WASP's nest of conflict when she offers her rental property to Mia. Their instantly taut relationship is further complicated when she suggests Mia work for her as a "house manager" (liberal-guilt shorthand for maid).

Little Fires Everywhere Hulu Joshua Jackson

(Hulu)

What ensues is a tangled web of family interconnections, as Pearl becomes entranced by the bustling Richardson household and a rattled Mia finds an ally in Elena's rebellious and artsy youngest, Izzy (Megan Stott).

Tension builds between the moms in an entertaining series of passive-aggressive standoffs, and while Elena is most obviously the villain — especially once she starts looking into her rival's cloudy past — Mia is just as flawed with her aloof veneer of defensive pride. Their families are further rocked when Mia takes on the controversial cause of an illegal Chinese immigrant (Huang Lu) seeking to regain custody of the daughter she temporarily abandoned.

Hulu Releases Trailers for 'Little Fires Everywhere,' 'Normal People' & More (VIDEO)

Hulu Releases Trailers for 'Little Fires Everywhere,' 'Normal People' & More (VIDEO)

Plus, a first look at Elle Fanning in 'The Great,' Zoe Kravitz in 'High Fidelity,' and the docuseries 'Hillary.'

Not everything burns equally bright in this twisty saga, which tends to stall whenever the focus turns to teen-soap angst, including a predictable triangle of Pearl and two Richardson sons. But any time the moms step into the spotlight — Rosemarie DeWitt is also terrific as a desperately needy adoptive mother — Fires scorches with emotional intensity.

Little Fires Everywhere, Series Premiere, Wednesday, March 18, Hulu