‘Expats’ Episode 1 Recap Summary: Are Hilary And Margaret’s Friends Now?

Expats, the brand-new Amazon Prime Show created by Lulu Wang, chronicles the story of expatriates living in the megacity of Hong Kong. The show specifically covers the story of rich expats who live a luxurious life and are surrounded by people who are as wealthy as they are. The hustle and bustle of the city is portrayed in a rather claustrophobic way, but it depicts the noise and loneliness aptly. The show is the story of Margaret, a housewife living with her two kids and her husband Clarke in the city. A tragedy occurred that changed the trajectory of her life. The show has the elements of melancholy found in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and the first two episodes have a rather sober approach to her life after ‘the incident.’


Spoilers Ahead


Expats begins with a voiceover talking about three different accidents that lead to survivor’s guilt on people who caused them, something nobody wants to talk about. There is a voiceover that breaks the fourth wall about wanting to have a conversation with people who caused accidents through no fault of their own. They are the people trying to make amends, but no one seems to want to know what they are up to.


Why Did Margaret Want To Throw A Birthday Party For Her Husband?

Margaret was planning a 50th birthday party for her husband, Clarke, by inviting everyone they knew. It is implied that Margaret and her family are well off and live in the posh area of the city. Margaret noticed her son’s drawing of a man with a child. Her reaction to the drawing was negative. Philip claimed that picture to be of Jesus, and she asked him not to make the drawing ever again. There is an air of sadness in her family as an incident has occurred, and everyone seems to remind Margaret about it, despite the fact she was feeling uncomfortable talking about it. She was overwhelmed by her in-laws, who were constantly complaining about how it didn’t make sense to  throw a party as the family was recovering from a tragedy. Margaret and Clarke wanted to get back to normalcy, as stated by a family counselor, and chose to move ahead with the party.

Was Margaret Not On Good Terms With Hillary?

Hillary was Margaret’s downstairs neighbor, and she was not happy to see her and the kids in the elevator. It was obvious since the tragedy that struck Margaret’s family that the relationship between her and Hillary had soured, and the former can’t seem to look her in the eye to converse. There was a falling out because of the incident, which probably involved Margaret being on the side of the accused, as inferred from their brief conversation. Margaret invites Hillary and David to the birthday party for old times’ sake, and her friend reluctantly agrees to it.


What Was The Relationship Status Between Hillary And David?

David and Hillary were having a tough time in their marriage, and there was a distance between the two. It feels like the couple has been through tough times and is recovering from them. David was a recovering alcoholic, and on the way to the birthday party, he walks out of the car, stating he wants a divorce. Hillary, who was trying to hold it together for a while, did not stop him this time. Hillary was finding it hard to believe David would want an out, but he was confident about his move and refused to come to the party. There was some tension between Margaret, Clarke, Hillary, and David, which was not disclosed at this point in the episode.

Was Mercy Living Two Different Lives?

It is revealed that David was having an affair with Mercy, a young Korean woman living in Hong Kong and trying to juggle multiple jobs she must manage to earn money. Mercy was indeed living a dual life; on the one hand, she was surrounded by her rich friends and living a life vicariously through them. On the other hand, she was drowning in guilt due to an accident that involved her. Mercy was trying to find a balance between the lives she led, and she ended up having to lie to her friends and join her part-time job as a waitress at a party for some supplementary money. Mercy was the personification of the youth of today, who wanted enough income to sustain a certain lifestyle. A hustle for a rich life like that of her friends cost her a lifelong sadness she will probably never recover from.


What Happened At The Birthday Party?

At the birthday party, Margaret, as usual, was overwhelmed by her in-laws and was insisting on staying back in Hong Kong as long as she could. Margaret and her husband, Clarke, were trying to dial down the noise created by his mother, especially after she came across as an insensitive woman. Clarke gives a toast to Gus at the party, and it is implied they know him, but it’s not revealed who the person could be or how he was related to Margaret and Clarke. Mercy located Philip at the party, and she felt sick to see the event she was working for. She quickly had to run away from the party, but not before Margaret spotted her and had a meltdown over it as well. At this juncture, there is nothing mentioned about the accident that connected Mercy with Margaret and her family. The meltdown proved that Margaret was probably not over the tragedy, and she was angry at having seen Mercy at the party rather than pleasantly surprised.

Are Hilary And Margaret Friends Now?

Hillary had left the party midway because she could not stand Margaret and her family acting normal. She was not judging her friend, but the whole facade of the birthday felt like they were explaining to their friends that they were okay, but only Hillary could witness the pain in Margaret’s eyes. She was on her way back home when she learned of the meltdown and promptly returned to her friend. It seems they reconciled over this tiny incident, and Margaret planned to spend time frolicking around the city with her. Hillary was more than happy to give her friend company, as she believed Margaret needed support at this juncture. It only needed one ice-breaking conversation at a party for Margaret and Hillary to come back as friends and start from where they left off.

Hillary revealed her marriage was over, and Margaret confesses to having the desire to abandon her family. Margaret also confesses to having an apartment and describes she loves to be alone, away from the noise in her home and mind. Margaret has some underlying trauma; she was not coping with it the right way. These mechanisms would provide her with temporary relief from the grief she was facing, but they are not a long-term solution. They open up about their issues because they can’t seem to find time for their thoughts. Hillary was preoccupied with worrying about David, while Margaret was spending time shunning the memory of losing Gus. Margaret asked Hilary to take her to the night market, a place that was crucial to the incident that changed her life. On returning home, Margaret was distraught at seeing police, but she learned a resident in the building had died. The sight of the police seemed to have created a sense of panic, which is an indication that the incident involved the presence of officers in uniform. Margaret was not okay, and nothing was normal for her anymore since the incident.

Margaret and Hillary headed home, but not before the former indicated David was a liar. David was probably involved in the incident that made Margaret say such negative things about him. Hillary, who wanted to come across as a supportive wife who has just been abandoned by her husband, but she had words to support his actions. The two may have been friends for the night but ended up having gone their separate ways.



Expats Episode 1 ended with Philip taking the drawing away from his mother’s room and placing it in his study. The picture probably indicates that the child is now with Jesus. This would mean the child is no more, and Philip would want to keep the memory alive through the drawing. The child could be related to the family, which is why it was important for Philip to keep the piece of paper to himself instead of hiding it away.

Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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