WARNING: Spoilers for Little Fires Everywhere ahead!
With its eighth and final episode, Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere bows out with a bang: Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) unsolicitedly divulges Mia Warren’s (Kerry Washington) past to her daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood); a court verdict concludes a contentious custody battle between two mothers; and pent-up tensions erupt in a life-altering family meltdown.
With no plans for a second season (yet), that’s officially a wrap on the miniseries based on Celeste Ng’s hit 2017 novel. But how exactly did the ending reflect that of its source material? Here, we briefly lay it all out.
Who Starts the Fire?
In the show: It’s the Richardson kids. In the final moments, Izzy, the youngest of the Richardson siblings, is broken after learning Mia and Pearl are moving out of town. Mia, a rule-breaking artist, had become a mentor and mother figure to Izzy, who felt like an outcast in her own mother’s strict, rule-abiding, and idealistic household. Losing Mia, on top of her mother’s resentment and the bullying she endures at school, pushes Izzy to her limits. Desperate to start anew, she takes a can of gasoline and plans to set her room—and her house—on fire, but her siblings stop her before she can do so. The confrontation escalates into a screaming match between Izzy and her mother, Elena, who ultimately admits, “Do you think I wanted a daughter like you? I never wanted you in the first place.” Izzy then decides to run away.
Her siblings, Lexie, Trip, and Moody, are disgusted by their mom’s ugly revelation. They realize they don’t want to end up like her. They finish what Izzy started, setting each of their rooms on fire, but they make sure their mother gets out of the house safely. When a fire chief asks Elena who started the blaze, she covers for her kids and says it was her.
In the book: Izzy starts it all. Like she is in the show, Izzy is dejected after learning that Mia and Pearl have left, and that her family is to blame. One night, she dumps a can of gasoline onto her sister Lexie’s bed (Lexie is staying at a friend’s house), strikes a match, lets the house burn, and runs away.
What Happens with Mirabelle/May Ling?
In the show: The judge sides with the McCulloughs. After a brutal court battle, Linda and Mark McCullough win custody of baby May Ling, whom they adopted after her birth mother, Bebe Chow, abandoned her at a fire station. Bebe is crushed and Mia comforts her at her apartment. Later that night, after the McCulloughs go to bed with May Ling (renamed Mirabelle) at home, Linda wakes up in the middle of the night to find that the baby is gone. A later scene finds Bebe in a car, reunited with May Ling.
In the book: The McCulloughs also win custody of Mirabelle/May Ling, but it’s unclear that Bebe kidnaps her. Her last appearance in the book notes that she watches her daughter from outside the McCulloughs’ house, waiting for the lights to turn off.
How Lexie’s Abortion Is Revealed
In the show: During the court case, Elena is determined to find dirt on Bebe Chow to help her friend Linda’s case. She goes to a Planned Parenthood, hoping to learn if Bebe had visited the facility while pregnant. While snooping through documents, she discovers “Pearl Warren” had an abortion, but doesn’t know that it was actually her daughter, Lexie, using Pearl’s name as an alias. She visits Mia to break the news, but Mia tells her what really happened: that Lexie had the abortion under Pearl’s name then stayed with the Warrens after the procedure while Elena was out of town. Elena kicks Mia and Pearl out of the apartment. Later that night, during the Richardsons’ big family argument, Lexie confirms to her mother that she had an abortion.
In the book: Mia doesn’t tell Elena what Lexie did. But she does leave hints of it behind after she and Pearl leave Shaker. After the Richardsons’ house burns down, they shack up in the rental apartment where the Warrens stayed. They find artworks that Mia left behind, reflecting each Richardson family member. Lexie’s piece includes part of the pink medical slip from her Planned Parenthood appointment. (In the series, Mia’s parting art piece is a whited-out model town of Shaker with a giant golden bird cage in the center, holding one of Izzy’s earrings inside.)
Where Do Mia and Pearl Go?
In the show: Mia’s childhood home. After Elena’s tense visit, Mia tells Pearl the truth about her birth father and mother, and Mia’s late brother. They pack up their things and leave. Per Pearl’s suggestion, Mia drives to her parents’ house, where she grew up, so Pearl can meet her grandparents for the first time.
In the book: It’s unclear exactly where they go, but the book notes that part of their journey includes driving through Iowa, which is west of Ohio, and in the opposite direction of Mia’s home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Where Does Izzy Go?
In the show: It’s unclear. After her explosive face-off with her mother, she leaves in the night. She dreams that while hitchhiking, Mia and Pearl find her and pick her up, but she wakes up in a nondescript bus. Showrunner Liz Tigelaar considered the idea that at age 15, it’s likely Izzy returns home to her family after a few days.
In the book: To Pittsburgh. She takes a Greyhound bus and has the address to Mia’s parents’ home, which she found in her mother’s things.
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