I’m not a TV or movie reviewer. I’m not a TV or film critic. I don’t even play one on TV. (See what I did there?) But occasionally something pops up that makes me pause and then pull out the keyboard tray. This time, it’s the Amazon Prime series, Little Fires Everywhere.
This series had all the right elements. It started with intrigue. Someone burned down a house. But not just that. Someone burned down the house with the mother inside it. Who is to blame? A name is dropped. Was it Izzy? Why would she do that? We must watch more to find out.
As the series unfolds, we get more and more roped in. It isn’t that every show ends in a cliff hanger. It’s that every scene leaves us feeling unresolved. Is this person the arsonist? Did they have a motive? Oh man. Whodunit? We must know. NEXT episode, please.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the series and you intend to, you should stop reading because I’m going to ruin the series in 3… 2… 1…
(You were warned. Last chance.)
Finally we get to the final show in the series. That is when we learned who did it and why. The fire was set by her own children. Why? Because Mom pushed them too hard. Mom was a perfectionist who drove her life around rigid lines. She was introduced by her “crazy” colour-coded calendar on the fridge. Her clothing was impeccable. Her hair and makeup were flawless. She weighed herself daily and recorded the fluctuations. She measured her wine.
She measured her wine.
How could she? What a monster.
She also had a career. Yes, there is a career running in the background but it gets sort of strange and uncomfortable nods. Was she talented? Who can tell? We know that she gets passed over for promotions because she keeps getting pregnant as a young woman. We know she had the potential to go bigger, like her hot, unfettered college boyfriend went on to do. She chose marriage and an endless round of pregnancies, including the fourth to Izzy who would eventually be accused of burning down the house with her mother inside.
There were a lot of lessons in the series. The main one is that if you are the mother of a large family with a myriad of schedules and needs, and you are organized and have a career, you are a bad person. If you expect your husband, who mostly flutters in the background fixing the things she had overzealously done on her own and berating her for not being able to cope with simple things like having four children under five, to help out, you will be disappointed. Just to recap: if you develop superhuman skills of organization to have a perfectly clean house, a career, four children, and a husband who contributes zero to your emotional needs, you’re probably going to end up with your kids burning your house down. And you will have deserved it.
There’s some other intrigue as well, like the artist who lives in her car with her child.
Actually hold on. Can we talk about her car? That thing was like a magical Mary Poppins carpet bag. If you’ve ever packed suitcases into a car for a trip, you know that a small car can only hold so much. But for her, when the car was unpacked, it produced an entire art supply store along with wardrobe, bedding, and general household materials. Not to mention she’d been living in it for over a decade and it was still driving just fine. That thing was pure magic. I want a car that holds that much and doesn’t need an oil change. (OK – maybe hers did.)
And there was the abandoned baby. And the adopted baby. And the trial. The Mom played a role in each of those. Mostly she showed compassion and loyalty to people she loved and even strangers. But sometimes she overstepped and got it wrong.
Then there was Izzy, the child who would eventually be accused of burning down the house. The series keeps hinting that Izzy is the wounded, unwanted bird. She was a burden to her family. An outcast. There’s a cringy scene where The Mom yells some nasty unmotherly things at Izzy. I can’t comment if a mother would really say those things or not. Who knows what happens behind closed doors. What I do know is that when the chips fell, it was the wounded Izzy who checked out and got into the magical carpet bag car while the other children, the wanted and beloved children, burned down the house.
Here’s the outcome of all of this: the entire thing was the mother’s fault. Not the dad’s for being a checked out father. Not their dysfunctional unsatisfying marriage. It was her fault. Yet again, TV and film producers thumbed through their well-worn copy of Freud’s “Let’s Blame Mother” and decided to make sure women knew their place. Don’t get too uppity. Don’t get too organized. Don’t have a career. Don’t get too tightly wound. If you do any of those things, your kids will burn down the house with you inside it and it will be your fault.
Whose fault was it? Her fault. Her fault. Her fault. (Thank you, Margaret Atwood. Your words have come in handy as always.)
I would highly recommend watching the series because it was good, but skip the last episode because it’s cringy and angering. Women don’t need another series to know society thinks we can’t be good mothers and good career women. That’s not new. What is new, however, is that somehow the writers of the final show thought this was good writing. It wasn’t.
Amazon Prime, you could have had a winner. But you went for the cheap shots at women, and that made this series a dud. I’m sending this back to you with red pen inked all over it with some suggestions that include: don’t blame mother. Maybe have a plot twist where you show the dad being held accountable for not being a partner in the house. Women would pull our chairs close to the TV if you could pull a series together where the writing, the acting, and the plot were as good as this promised – but you don’t run on a stereotype where the mom carries the burden and the husband pitches in only when is necessary and told (mostly by his wife) that he needs to step up because we have already seen it. Maybe show what happens to a wife who carries the emotional burden of a family. Or what happens to kids who have a disassociated dad.
Overall, I’m disappointed and a little angry. This one is not a recommended watch. Why? Because if you can’t watch the entire series – and have to skip the last episode because it’s nasty to women – you shouldn’t encourage the writers at all.