Controversial Prime Video Drama ‘Expats’ Disappoints with Lethargic Pacing and Lack of Character Development

Hong Kong – The production of the Prime Video drama series “Expats” has stirred up controversy. The show, which follows the lives of wealthy foreigners living in Hong Kong, faced backlash when the government granted star Nicole Kidman an exemption from the city’s strict Covid-19 quarantine rules. This special treatment for Kidman, coupled with the government’s crackdown on civil rights, sparked outrage among residents.

Now that the six-part limited series has finally premiered, it seems that the controversies surrounding its production were more interesting than the show itself. Adapted from Janice Y. K. Lee’s novel “The Expatriates,” “Expats” is a visually stunning character study that leans towards being overly meditative. Despite this, Sarayu Blue delivers a remarkable performance that stands out.

The story revolves around Clarke Woo, played by Brian Tee, who is celebrating his 50th birthday with a lavish party organized by his wife, Margaret, portrayed by Nicole Kidman. The couple’s youngest son, Gus, went missing a year ago, leaving their family shattered. Their daughter Daisy obsesses over a vanished flight, and their son Philip draws unsettling pictures. The effects of their tragedy also impact other characters, such as Mercy, a Korean American twentysomething, and Hilary, Margaret’s former best friend.

Directed by Lulu Wang, “Expats” shifts between two timelines, before and after Gus’ disappearance, focusing on the characters’ struggles with human connection. The main characters all grapple with emotional stagnation, resulting in a slow-paced narrative. Margaret, like many American wives in Hong Kong, feels adrift in the city after leaving her career in New York. Hilary, on the other hand, has a successful career but a stagnant marriage. Mercy, burdened by guilt and a sense of bad luck, keeps her life in a state of inertia.

The series occasionally offers glimpses into the lives of domestic workers, highlighting the complex relationship between the upper class and those who cater to their needs. However, these moments are too brief, leaving the audience wanting more.

“Expats” doesn’t provide clear resolutions or easy closure, mirroring the unpredictability of life. It may feel like a collection of separate stories in search of a central home. Overall, the show receives a grade of C+.

“Expats” is now streaming on Prime Video.