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'Tiny Beautiful Things' Kathryn Hahn
Hulu screenshot

Hulu’s Tiny Beautiful Things starts off with a bang… and a thud… and an expletive, as Kathryn Hahn‘s drunken Clare crawls through a window to break into her own home. Why, you ask? Well, her life is completely and totally falling apart.

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Inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s collection of essays of the same name, the eight-episode limited series follows Clare Pierce as she takes over the Dear Sugar advice column. But before that happens, we witness a confluence of Clare’s interpersonal, professional and familial life that depicts nothing short of ruin: She’s been kicked out of her house by her husband Danny (Welcome to Chippendales‘ Quentin Plair) — hence the drunken break in — and her daughter Rae (Willow‘s Tanzyn Crawford) can’t even have a conversation with her without rolling her eyes. With no place else to go, Clare resorts to sleeping at the retirement community where she works, secretly sharing a room with an elderly resident until she is reprimanded and placed on leave.

Clare tries to cope by seeking solace in advice column Dear Sugar, but she soon discovers it’s a sham. Her friend, an average white man and not the remarkable, doting woman she envisioned all along, has been writing the column. He then bestows Dear Sugar duties unto Clare, thinking she’d be a better fit for the job — ya know, despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise.

But what initially set off Clare’s undoing? She gave Rae’s college fund away to her younger brother, Lucas, to save their childhood home without first consulting Danny. The marrieds attend couples therapy, but Clare doesn’t fully buy into the process. She doesn’t trust their therapist, Mel, who wonders aloud whether Clare’s instability is due to latent anxieties about her decaying beauty as she approaches 50. Clare also suspects that Danny might be sleeping with Mel, so she goes and hooks up with her Uber driver. That triggers flashbacks into her past, including a different, heroin-fueled hookup.

Additional flashbacks reveal that Clare has faced personal turmoil for much of her life. We follow her younger self (played by The Wilds‘ Sarah Pidgeon), Lucas (The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Owen Painter) and her mother, Frankie (Nurse Jackie‘s Merritt Wever), who was diagnosed with cancer when Clare was 22. During a final voiceover, she encourages a Dear Sugar reader to relish in life’s tiny, beautiful things. (Hey, that’s the name of the show!) She wishes she had done the same when her mom was still alive. And in the final frame, we see Clare in the present day, outside her home again. She’s a total mess and stands alone, clutching a stack of letters addressed to Sugar.

What did you think of the series premiere? Grade Episode 1 below!

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