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While digging into Mia's past, Little Fires Everywhere still can't take its eyes off Elena

Illustration for article titled While digging into Mia's past, Little Fires Everywhere still can't take its eyes off Elena

It took five episodes but Little Fires Everywhere is finally digging into Mia Warren’s past to fill in some of the blanks behind her fiercely guarded personality. However, this quest is still shown from Elena’s perspective. While we learn important bits and pieces of Mia’s background, the episode acts as a window into Elena’s younger self or, more specifically, an important relationship she had as a teenager that she let go of in pursuit of what she believed was a wholesome life.


In the opening flashback to Paris in 1976, Elena’s with her boyfriend Jamie and decides not to stay with him beyond their semester abroad. So he breaks up with her, because he prefers a life of adventure over her strict mother’s already planned life for them in Shaker Heights upon their return. In the present day, Elena’s fury is further ignited after she learns from Izzy that a portrait of Mia taken by famed artist Pauline Hawthorne—the same image she sold to her gallerist friend Anita for money to pay for Bebe’s lawyeris now printed in The New York Times, which was where she wanted to work when she was with Jamie. Izzy also takes this inopportune moment to reveal to her parents that she has been going to Mia’s studio every day to serve as her art apprentice.

The final straw is when Linda learns about Mia helping Bebe; in her fragile state, she blames Elena for this. The Richardson matriarch becomes so primal in her need to investigate her tenant that she leaves for New York City in the middle of the night, despite much protesting from Bill, after figuring out that Mia was most likely a student there at The School of Visual Arts.

At the school, she bribes her way into getting a roster of Pauline Hawthorne’s students and comes across the name Mia Wright with a McKeesport, Pennsylvania address. In her thinly veiled attempt to connect with the Times writer who published the story about Hawthorne’s portrait, Elena meets her ex Jamie, who works as a foreign correspondent with the newspaper, and he agrees to help her out.

This nostalgic insight into her past is an inevitable deterrent to learning more about Mia even if it gives Elena a much-needed grounded arc. She’s not just a rich, uptight mother who lives to pack school lunches and plan book clubs. She’s a woman who chose to give up what could have been an exciting career and romance and is now questioning her decisions. But it’s frustrating that this has to happen at the expense of putting Mia at the back burner yet again. Besides the opening scene from episode twowhich was nothing more than a young Mia having sex in a car while baby Pearl was in the backseatwe still know next to nothing about her. That changes somewhat by the end of “The Duo,” thanks to the information Jamie gave to Elena. We learn along with her that Mia had a brother named Warren who died, hinting that she chose the last name to remember him and to forego her maiden name Wright.

Once this exchange of information is over with, Elena and Jamie’s dinner goes smoothly and quite flirtatiously even before ending pretty brutally for her. After she reveals that she has regrets about her choices and invites him back to her hotel room, he picks her apart by calling her a narcissist. He also drops a reference indicating that this isn’t the first panicked call Elena made to him after their break-up. Elena is hurt and that only pushes her further. She doesn’t wait too long before going straight to McKeesport and worming her own way into the Wright home and meeting Mia’s parents. They drop a shocker of an ending on our plate: The child Mia was carrying when she last met them years ago was never supposed to be hers. After riding on the Elena roller coaster for the entire episode, it’s good to have a cliffhanger that will lead us directly into solving the mystery of what drives Mia and why she is so damn protective of Pearl and always seemingly on the run.


Lexie Richardson, meanwhile, experiences a new journey of her own in “The Duo.” She finds out she’s carrying her boyfriend Brian’s child but decides to terminate the pregnancy. In a beautifully directed scene at the hospital, including a shot of the nurse tightly holding a tearful Lexie’s hand while she goes through with it, the show expands upon the subject of motherhood, which can include a tough personal decision like the one Lexie makes.

She’s only told Pearlwho accompanies Lexie to the clinicabout any of this. Pearl also learns that her so-called friend used her name to undergo the surgery. In her defense, Lexie apologizes and tells Pearl that “if this got out, if people found out [that it was Lexie Richardson who got an abortion], it’d actually matter,” indicating that if it was Pearl who had to go through this emotional damage that it would probably not be as impactful. This line of conversation is reminiscent of the comments Elena casually passes to Mia.


Maybe that’s why Mia doesn’t hold back from Lexie when she’s looking for comfort the next day. Instead, she lays it on her about taking advantage of Pearl when she had plenty of people she could go to for help. This is a tough scene to unpack. On the one hand, Mia is taking steps to ensure her own child’s heart is protecter; on the other, her harsh but true criticism of Lexie is ill-timed because she just went through severe distress. Perhaps after Elena’s discovery of the circumstances around Mia’s pregnancy, next week’s episode will pull the curtain back entirely on her vigilant attitude.  

Stray observations

  • AnnaSophia Robb as young Elena is great in the opener here but just wait until episode six because she’s an outright star.
  • It’s sweet that Pearl and Trip are officially a thing now but I can’t help but feel bad for Moody. He has even more ammo to live up to his name now.
  • Izzy ends up burning the apology art she made for Mia for snooping through her stuff. Why does this kid have a lighter? Are the cops wrong for suspecting she did start the main fire?
  • A drama series with prominent storylines for several teens can get real tricky real fast. It’s good that the young kids in this cast are up for a challenge.
  • Kudos to Little Fires Everywhere for giving us a Shondaland crossover we didn’t know we needed with that short Kerry Washington and Jesse Williams scene.
  • Finally, let’s settle this: are Magnolia Bakery cupcakes really good enough to bribe someone into giving up confidential information?

Staff Writer (TV)