Prime Video’s newest drama, Expats, created by The Farewell’s director Lulu Wang, features an all-star cast ensemble led by Nicole Kidman. The six-episode miniseries is an adaptation of Janice Y. K. Lee’s popular novel, The Expatriates, and follows the lives of three distinct American women living in Hong Kong.
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The first two episodes provide the context in which the protagonists’ lives are intertwined and forever changed by one tragedy. Kidman plays Margaret Woo, a married mother of three who gave up her career to move to Hong Kong for her husband Clarke’s (Brian Tee) high-paying job. She’s desperately unhappy in her new role as a housewife and shows a strange level of jealousy towards the relationship between her Filipina nanny, Essie (Ruby Ruiz), and her children.
In the first episode, we watch Margaret trying to gain back a sense of normalcy a year after a massive personal tragedy, while the second episode shows her in the lead-up to the incident. Both timelines have in common how unhappy Margaret is with her life.
Margaret’s neighbor and best friend, Hilary (Sarayu Blue), lives in the same luxury building with her recovering alcoholic husband, David (Jack Huston). Unlike Margaret, Hilary is at the top of her career game but deeply unhappy in her marriage. Especially since she’s not sure she ever wants children while David is ready to become a father. Hilary also has a Filipina “helper,” like everyone in this small community of expats.
The show’s third protagonist is recent Colombia graduate Mercy Cho (Ji-young Yoo), who moved to Hong Kong seeking a fresh start. Instead of using her degree in her career, she job hops from meaningless gig to meaningless gig to stay afloat as punishment for causing the life-altering tragedy.
Not as compelling as it tries to be
The main downside to the series is that most of these characters, aside from Mercy, are unlikable and objectively awful people. For example, Margaret constantly loses track of her children, is passive-aggressive to poor Essie, and sees no problem kicking her toddler outside the apartment for acting like a child his age is expected to. It’s hard to relate to her internal turmoil when everything she does is irritatingly self-centered.
Hilary’s relationship with her husband lacks communication. Both are lying to themselves and each other, but their issues are not compelling enough to keep the viewer invested in their marital woes. However, Ji-young Yoo gives a stand-out performance as Mercy, who’s so desperate to escape her family’s supposed curse that she’s letting it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The rest of the performances are convincing, but the pacing and the storyline borders on boring. While the pilot tries to create a sense of mystery around the tragedy surrounding these characters, when the event is revealed in episode two, it makes it almost impossible to feel sympathy for Margaret’s situation.
Expats tries to explore themes of loss, guilt, and family, but it’s let down by a lack of characters to care about or even root for. It is a mediocre series about tone-deaf people so preoccupied with themselves they have no space left for anything else.
Where can you watch Expats in the UAE and Saudi Arabia?
Expats is now streaming on Prime Video in the Middle East. Amazon Prime Video is included in your Amazon Prime membership, costing AED 16 per month or AED 140 per year. Besides the streaming service, you will also get free deliveries and access to Prime Gaming- click here for a free 30-day trial.