The Spelling Bee
Episode 1 of Little America begins at the Economy Value Inn with a young boy called Kabir greeting a couple as they arrive to check in. It’s here he hears a new word, immediately prompting him to look the word up in the dictionary before his Father makes him a promise; if he can learn all the words in the dictionary he’ll buy him a car.
A woman arrives at the motel soon after, looking to speak to his Father, just as Kabir looks up the word ‘deportation’ in the dictionary. Kabir says goodbye to his parents, who promise they’ll only be gone for a short period of time while they sort their papers out. As they leave, Kabir is made manager and his Uncle arrives to look after him.
It’s been four months and with Kabir’s spelling and vocabulary increasing all the time, he competes in the state spelling bee and wins, meaning he gets to go to the All American Spelling Bee. As he stands with the spotlight on him at the Spelling Bee, he manages to make it into the final (which takes place over a year since his parents left) as a montage shot sees him remember times with his parents in the past.
He meets Laura Bush and begs for her help but she reiterates that it takes time and asks him to write a letter instead. We then cut forward again to see Kabir grown up and working in the Inn, listening to music and hanging out with friends. It turns out his Uncle left and with just him there, he winds up throwing a wild party. In the morning, Kabir silently awakens on his own and after some time, sifts through the dictionary of his childhood where we see most of the words highlighted. As day turns to night, he answers the phone and heads down to the airport, where his Mum and Dad arrive and return home, having finally sorted their papers out.
As the episode closes out, we receive news around what happened with Kabir and his parents in a nice touch, adding some depth to the story.
Although at times some of the episode is a little on the nose, in particular with the camera hovering over the word deportation as the woman arrives at the inn, on the whole the episode does well to shed light on this issue from Kabir’s point of view. There’s some good material here too and the feel-good ending is a great touch, and something that makes this a nice, heart-warming episode to begin things. It’s not perfect, and at times the episode does suffer a little from the heavy-handed message at the core but the well-shot montage segments are enough to make this an enjoyable start to this anthology.
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