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Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

A tight-knit group of expatriates lives in Hong Kong. Most of them moved there for work. Most of them live at the Peak, a luxury apartment complex known for its great views. And most of them have live-in help: chauffeurs, maids, nannies, etc.

Margaret and Clarke Woo joined this group of expats a few years ago. And they certainly check all the boxes. They moved to Hong Kong because Clarke got a promotion. They live at the Peak. And they hired Essie, a Filipino woman, as their nanny after their third child, Gus, was born.

Life is good—or at least it used to be.

Champagne Problems

Margaret, who had given up her own career to relocate with her family, began feeling stifled by the “housewife” lifestyle, however luxurious it might look. Raising her children became a struggle, too, when Essie stopped disciplining them and started coddling them.

Now, what Margaret should have done—what she probably wishes she had done—was reestablish boundaries with Essie and make it clear how she wanted her household run.

Instead, she listened to the advice of her privileged friend and neighbor, Hilary, who reminded Margaret that even though the Woos consider Essie to be “family,” she isn’t. She’s an employee who can be replaced.

And so instead of allowing Essie to help on a family outing to the Temple Street Night Market, Margaret asked Mercy, another expat looking for a fresh start in Hong Kong, to tag along as a sort of nanny trial run.

And what happened next changed the Woo family’s lives forever.

Real World Problems

Although Mercy had demonstrated good babysitting instincts, she let go of young Gus’ hand to check her phone. Her eyes were only off him for a moment.

But in that moment, Gus disappeared, never to be seen by his family again.

It’s been a year. And the Woos are trying to move on with their lives, as recommended by their doctor. But the worst part of Gus’ disappearance is not knowing what happened to him. Is he alive? Is he dead? Will they see him again someday?


Unfortunately, they may never find those answers. Too many lies were told that night—by Mercy and by neighbors trying to hide their own secrets. And since the Woos don’t want to leave Hong Kong in case Gus reappears, they’re unable to move on, haunted by the people who lied to them and the son they’ll probably never see again.

Plugged In Problems

If you look at the individual episodes of Amazon Prime Video’s Expats, they’re rated 16+. However, that’s probably an error since the show itself is listed as 18+, and the content here is strictly TV-MA.

Obviously, the subject matter involves a parent’s worst nightmare. We see the Woo family’s grief. We hear so-called friends criticize them as they try to recover. And although Clarke seeks Christ in this calamity, Margaret veers as far from the church as she can, even forbidding her other son from drawing a picture of Jesus.

Sex and nudity are another problem. And in one scene, a man smacks a woman across the face during sex because she asks him to. There’s also an extramarital affair. And a couple’s disagreement about whether or not to have children is repeatedly brought up.

Language includes everything up to and including the f-word (which is pointedly used by a few children in defiance of their mother).

So yeah, even if this show had been properly rated, Expats probably isn’t something you want to expose your family to. In fact, it’s the sort of programming that makes you want to pack up your things and become an expatriate from this sort of entertainment yourself.

Episode Reviews

Jan. 25, 2024 – S1, E1: “The Peak”

The Woo family attempts to move on from a tragic event by celebrating Clarke Woo’s 50th birthday.

We hear the stories of three tragic accidents: a woman who fell asleep at the wheel after a long hospital shift, killing three people; a plane that killed 20 people in a cable car due to foggy weather; and a 12-year-old boy whose brother was paralyzed after falling while the boys were rough-housing. And we’re told that all the people who caused the accidents lived with regret ever since.

Margaret grows scared when she sees police outside her apartment building. When she learns they’re there for her neighbor (who died alone in his apartment), she says, “Thank God,” instead of expressing sadness—relieved that they’re not visiting her. Later, the body is wheeled out under a sheet. A woman says she’d kill herself if a tragedy happened to her. A few people discuss a plane that disappeared in the middle of the ocean, and a news channel features testimonies from the grieving family members.

While a couple is having sex (we see nudity), the woman tells the man to hit her, and he smacks her across the face. We hear a woman’s boss sexually harassed her.

We see a man’s bare rear as he exits the shower and wraps himself in a towel. Women wear revealing outfits, including form-fitting dresses, cropped tops and leggings with a sports bra. We see a woman from the shoulders up as she bathes. Someone mentions a striptease. A man having an extramarital affair argues with his wife, and the wife later tells her friend she fears their marriage is over.

Margaret freaks out when her older son, Philip, draws a picture of his younger brother with Jesus. She instructs him not to do so again and throws away the drawing, but Philip later pulls it out and hangs it on the fridge. Margaret asks Clarke where Philip could have learned about Jesus since their family isn’t religious, and Clarke (who has secretly been attending church) lies to her about it. A priest gives a sermon, saying, “like a mother hen, God shelters you beneath her wing.” We hear a family is Buddhist.

We learn a man is an alcoholic, and he admits he had a beer to his wife even though he’s supposed to be quitting. People drink alcohol. Mercy’s friend embarrasses her by saying Mercy used to drink a lot in college.

People can be rude, though a few folks apologize for their snappiness. A teenage girl is disrespectful to her mom. A woman spits out food at a party as an insult to the hosts. People lie, gossip and spread rumors. Someone vomits.

We hear two uses of the f-word, four misuses of God’s name and one use of “h—.”

Jan. 25, 2024 – S1, E2: “Mongkok”

It’s revealed that the Woo family’s youngest son, Gus, was kidnapped a year ago.

We’re shown several scenes where Gus wanders off from his parents and guardians. When Mercy is watching him, she lets go of his hand to answer a text message, resulting in the boy getting kidnapped (offscreen). Mercy later admits to lying about holding Gus’ hand. And we hear some other lies related to his disappearance.

Mercy jumps off a boat to get the attention of her peers. They dare her to swim under the boat where she nearly drowns. And when she surfaces on the other side, she realizes they don’t care since none of them are waiting for her. A bird dies after flying into a window.

We see a couple from the shoulders up as they have sex. (They’re naked, but the camera angle hides anything critical.) Another couple kisses in bed, but the scene changes before they do more. Couples kiss elsewhere. We hear a little girl got into trouble at school for kissing a boy on the mouth. Mercy says her parents are separated.

Some women wear revealing outfits, including form-fitting clothes and cropped tops. A woman strips to her underwear and jumps into the sea. (Later, Margaret notices the soaking woman shivering on deck and offers her a towel to dry off.) We see the tops of a woman’s thighs as she urinates. When she exits the stall, we see the same on a young girl using the children’s toilet.

A mother says she didn’t want her third child while she was pregnant but that she changed her mind as soon as he was born. Another woman, who doesn’t want children, goes back on birth control but lies to her husband about it, because he wants to be a dad.

People drink alcohol. A recovering alcoholic tells his wife she should still have a drink if she wants to. We later see him alone in a bar (it’s unclear if he drinks), and he lies to police about where he was. Two people smoke a joint of marijuana secretly.

Margaret scolds a friend for being rude to a local employee, and the woman is indignant. Later, Margaret complains about her nanny’s lack of discipline. A woman says she’s “cursed,” and recounts having tarot cards read. Another woman expresses her believe in magic.

There are five uses of the f-word, including twice by children in defiance of their mother. God’s name is abused four times.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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