#parent | #kids | ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ changes the book ending. Here’s why

This feature contains major spoilers about the final episode of “Little Fires Everywhere.”

If you read “Little Fires Everywhere,” what unfolded in the final episode of Hulu’s adaptation likely came as a surprise. And that was the plan from the start.

Both Celeste Ng’s best-selling book and the series, set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, begin with the seemingly perfect Richardson family reeling over a fire that has ravaged their home. In the final episode, now available to stream, viewers at last learn the culprit — and there’s more than one. It’s three-fourths of the Richardson children: Lexi (Jade Pettyjohn), Trip (Jordan Elsass), and Moody (Gavin Lewis). It’s a stark deviation from the book, which had black sheep sibling Izzy (Megan Stott) as the sole arsonist.

It’s yet another narrative liberty that Liz Tigelaar, the showrunner and executive producer, and the show’s writers took in adapting the book, which explores themes of motherhood, race and class through the antagonistic relationship between Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) and Mia Warren (Kerry Washington), women who go to drastic lengths to protect their children — or so they believe. Tigelaar hopes the book’s enthusiasts will find that it adds depth and dimension to Ng’s original ending.

“I actually hope it took the end of the book and it just added even more complexity and layers to it because we had the space to do that,” says Tigelaar. “In the book, you know basically from the beginning, on the first page, that [Izzy] started this fire. We liked the idea of doing more of an over-arching mystery, so that we didn’t really have the answer to the end at the beginning.”

Ng is a producer on the series, but she hasn’t been precious about the tweaks and additions to her storytelling in the novel’s translation into a TV series. The ending was no different.

“I felt like it was consistent with who the characters were,” she told The Times, referring to the show’s fire starters. “I’m sure there will be fans who are like, ‘That’s not how it happened in the book.’ But I don’t feel like it’s out of character, for that to happen. I feel like it’s just different.”

“We gave the teenage kids more of a character arc in the show. And the idea is there has to be an arc for everybody. That was sort of the impetus of having the kids start the fire,” Tigelaar says. “The idea with the kids was kind of to create growth and hopefulness and the idea that you can be different than your parents and don’t have to follow the same patterns. That house has been a trap, but the trap can go away.”

But Tigelaar knew changing a critical detail in the story would need to be earned. Inside the writers room — a compact space at the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles — the hive mind behind the drama gathered around a conference table in late January 2019 as Tigelaar stood in front of a white board to map out their plans for a surprising ending to a story already familiar to many.

“This is where everything has to line up,” she said, addressing the room.

Helping to line everything up was the show’s female-heavy writing staff: Rosa Handelman, Shannon Houston, Attica Locke, Raamla Mohamed, Amy Talkington and Nancy Won. (Harris Danow, the sole male writer, was not there the day The Times was observing.)

Here’s an edited and condensed snapshot of some of the discussions surrounding the episode’s pivotal moments leading up to and following the house fire — as well as follow-up thoughts from Tigelaar once the episode was completed.

The writers of Hulu’s limited series “Little Fires Everywhere” work on the final episode at Paramount Studios.

(Los Angeles Times)


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