Fascinating and yet still a little too slow, episode 3 of Prime Video’s Expats further explores its main characters with little to no action.
After a semi-successful series premiere, I was looking forward to watching episode 3 of Expats and learning more about the characters we were introduced to just last week when the series began. This is also the middle point for the Prime Video show – as the series will consist of six episodes in total – so I could not help but expect a great episode that would keep me hooked for the rest of the season. Episode 3 digs a little deeper into the character dynamics and the context they move in after introducing the setting in previous episodes, but is it going to be enough?
Much like in previous episodes, episode 3 of Expats follows its protagonists after the tragedy that disrupted the lives of the Woo family and those around them forever. Margaret Woo (Nicole Kidman) and her husband Clarke Woo (Brian Tee) seem to have different coping mechanisms for grief as the former embarks on an investigation for their missing son and the latter turns to religion. At the same time, we follow Hilary Starr (Sarayu Blue), Margaret’s neighbour, as she tries to save her marriage, and Mercy Cho (Ji-young Yoo) continues her affair with a man who can understand her trauma.
Episode 3 of Expats starts on Mercy, who seems to be constantly alone and yet always surrounded by people. The scenes with large group settings were probably my favourite part of the entire episode. While there may be little action going on in these scenes, they are a meaningful way to illustrate Mercy’s feelings and how her life is now. They are also one of the few moments where the audience can finally catch a glimpse of what life in Hong Kong looks like, as we see Mercy experience of the city, which is vastly different to that of the much richer characters. We also constantly hear the background dialogue switching between English and Cantonese, as a testament to Hong Kong’s history and culture.
Episode 3 also focuses a lot more on Henry, Margaret’s husband, who we had only seen in a few scenes in previous episodes. I liked seeing more of Henry as his own character, rather than just Margaret’s husband, as the audience gets to see his reaction to the family tragedy and the way he deals with grief. This is particularly interesting as it stands in stark contrast with Margaret’s exploration of her loss. Expats does not seek to preach to its audience whether one way is better or more acceptable than another but it offers a visual representation of multiple valid ways to face such a significant and life-changing experience. In this sense, I would have liked to see more from the Woo kids as not much is explored in terms of their own grief.
More so than other episodes, I found it hard to connect and relate to the incredibly rich and privileged minority that make up the main cast of Expats. While what the characters go through is undoubtedly horrible and not something you would wish on anyone, episode 3 constantly reminds us of their situation, which includes both their tragedy and their wealth. As the episode went on, I could not help but think that I would be much more interested in seeing the lives of the people who serve them in their daily lives, those characters who are always present but never really have the opportunity to talk or have their stories seen.
Overall, Expats episode 3 is still far too slow. As Margaret attempts to learn more about what actually happened to her son, I expected the Prime Video show to pick up its pace now that the audience has already been introduced to the characters and the context of the series. Instead, it only does so in the second half of the episode, thus grabbing my attention only after its halfway mark. The various plotlines, while fascinating to watch, also feel too separated from each other as the series keeps jumping back and forth between the three main characters it chooses to follow.
There is a lot that the series does right, especially in terms of directing and cinematography with some scenes that visually stand out. There is also a lot I think Expats could have done better and that I hope to see in the second half of the season. While I appreciate the show’s exploration of important themes like grief and motherhood, which comes back in episode 3 as well, there are more motives I would like to see explored. The Prime Video series would benefit from including the Hong Kong context more and a further exploration of the working class characters as a contrast to the lifestyle the main characters lead.
Episode 3 of Expats is now available to watch on Prime Video.