EXPATS Review – Lulu Wang’s New Series is Essential Viewing

Lulu Wang's new series EXPATS is a powerful reflection of privilege, culture, and societal structures.

Prime Video’s latest series, Expats, is a stirring exploration of privilege, societal structures, and the human condition, set against the vibrant backdrop of 2014 Hong Kong. Directed by Lulu Wang, known for her profound human storytelling, the series is a deep dive into the complexities of expatriate life through a lens that is both critical and empathetic.

Excitingly Human

Charly (Bonde Sham), Mercy (Ji-young Yoo)

Lulu Wang’s direction is a standout feature of the series. Known for her work in The Farewell, Wang brings her signature touch to Expats, capturing the nuances of each character’s journey with a sensitivity that resonates deeply. Her ability to draw out the intricacies of human emotions against the tapestry of Hong Kong’s tumultuous landscape is nothing short of masterful.

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One of the series’ most compelling aspects is its examination of privilege and ignorance among expatriates. Through its characters, Expats showcases the complexities and often the obliviousness of those living in a bubble of privilege. It’s a bold narrative that prompts viewers to reflect on their understanding and acknowledgment of their own privileges.

Exceptional Performances

Sarayu Blue (Hilary Star)

Nicole Kidman, as Margaret, delivers a nuanced performance, embodying the complexities of her character with finesse. Sarayu Blue (Hilary) and Ji-young Yoo (Mercy) complement Kidman beautifully, each bringing a unique perspective to the series. Brian Tee and Jack Huston, playing the roles of Clarke and David respectively, add depth to the narrative, skillfully portraying the struggles and conflicts of their characters.

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The visual representation of Hong Kong in Expats is stunning adding an uncredited character to the story. The series captures the essence of the city, from its bustling streets to the serene landscapes, painting a picture that is as real as it is enchanting. The setting plays a crucial role in the storytelling, serving as a silent narrator that adds to the series’ overall impact.

Exemplarily Authentic

(L-R) Amelyn Pardenilla (Puri), Ruby Ruiz (Essie)

Expats excels in its authentic representation of Hong Kong’s local culture, presenting the city in all its vibrancy and complexity. The series is particularly commendable for its exploration of the lives of domestic helpers, a theme that comes to the forefront in the penultimate episode, “Central.” This episode shifts focus from the expatriate community to those who work for them, offering a rich and diverse portrayal of their lives, talents, and characters beyond their occupations and societal status.

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Ruby Ruiz and Amelyn Pardenilla deliver standout performances in “Central,” bringing depth and humanity to their roles. Their portrayals go beyond the stereotypical depiction of domestic helpers, showcasing a range of emotions and aspirations that resonate with the audience. This episode is a significant departure from the main narrative, yet it seamlessly integrates into the series, enriching the overall story and highlighting the often-overlooked perspectives of these integral members of society.

The inclusion of “Central” in Expats is a bold and necessary narrative choice, one that deserves praise for its depth and sensitivity. The performances of Ruiz and Pardenilla are not only powerful but also hopeful, hinting at the potential for more opportunities for such talented actors to showcase their skills on a global platform. Their presence in the series is a testament to Expats” commitment to true diversity and inclusivity, setting a high bar for future productions in terms of cultural representation and storytelling that explore beyond genetic heritage.

Existentially Heavy Drama

Clarke (Brian Tee), Margaret (Nicole Kidman)

It’s important to note that Expats is a heavy drama, delving into themes that might not appeal to all. Having female leads and a noticeable lack of white men leading the narrative greatly raises my interest, but will inevitably lead many to overlook it. Plus it exposes privilege which in a Venn diagram of people with inane reasons to not give something a chance or loudly and ignorantly review bomb something, is the overlapping center.

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The series requires viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about privilege and societal structures. This, however, is also what makes the series so powerful and essential. I did want to mention the heaviness of the drama, as this is not a light watch. It’s a series to watch expecting to have your thoughts challenged and get noticeably emotional. The spacing between episodes, I believe, is favorable to the experience.

Exact and Essential Viewing

(L-R) Amelyn Pardenilla (Puri), Ruby Ruiz (Essie)

Expats is more than just a series; it’s a profound observation of life, culture, and human relationships. Lulu Wang’s direction, combined with the powerfully moving performances of the cast, makes it a must-watch. While it may not cater to everyone’s tastes, especially for those unprepared to confront their privilege, it stands as a remarkable piece of storytelling that’s perfect for viewers looking for depth and authenticity in their viewing experience.

Expats is a thought-provoking series that masterfully captures the intricacies of human life in a multicultural setting. Its exploration of cultural diversity, privilege, and human relationships makes it a standout addition to Prime Video’s repertoire.

I give Expats an exalted


Expats premieres with the first two episodes on January 26, 2024, exclusively on Prime Video.

About Expats


Release Date: January 26, 2024
Based on The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
Creator/Director: Lulu Wang
Executive Producers: Lulu Wang, Daniele Melia, Nicole Kidman, Per Saari, Alice Bell, Theresa Park, Stan Wloodkowski
Writers: Lulu Wang, Alice Bell Vera Miao, Gursimran Sandhu, Janice Y.K. Lee
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, Jack Huston

Set against the vibrant and tumultuous tapestry of 2014 Hong Kong, Expats centers on three American women—Margaret (Nicole Kidman), Hilary (Sarayu Blue), and Mercy (Ji-young Yoo)—whose lives intersect after a sudden family tragedy. The series interrogates privilege and explores what happens when the line between victimhood and culpability becomes blurred. Brian Tee, who plays Margaret’s husband Clarke, and Jack Huston, who plays Hilary’s husband David, also star in the series.

Are you looking forward to watching Expats? Did you read Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Expatriates, which the series is based on? Do you have family who are working menial jobs outside of their home country and sending money back to their families? Let us know what you think and hope for the series on Discord!

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Kevin Fenix

Professional Nerd | Amateur Human | Creative/Content Director The best way to describe Kevin Fenix is the kid you never tell what the buttons do in video games so you have a chance to win. Being 6’ 4” and Asian, he never really fit in, so he got comfortable standing out. Not only is it easy to find him in crowds, he dabbles in the culinary arts, does a little stand up and improv, and can honestly say Spider-Man is the Jesus-like influence of his life. Kevin Fenix loves dogs, movies, television, comics, comedy, and to shoot people… with video.