Tiny Beautiful Things – Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot” Recap & Review


Clare Pierce is an Admissions Coordinator at a retirement home as episode 1 of Tiny Beautiful Things begins. She is married and has a teenage daughter, Rae. It is revealed through an unfortunate incident when she comes back home drunk through a window that Danny, her husband, has kicked Clare out of the house.

Danny drives her back to her best friend Amy’s house, where she angrily throws her drink at the car as he drives away. In truth, Clare is not staying at Amy’s place and heads back to the old age home. She sleeps in an empty bed in Beverly’s room. Beverly is a patient at the facility with Alzheimer’s disease.

Clare writes a fan letter to Sugar, an anonymous columnist who writes for The Mantros Advice Column. Clare was kicked out of the house and her daughter hates her. She does not have a permanent place to sleep either.

Clare is looking for comfort from a woman she doesn’t even know, inspired by Sugar’s advice in a previous column that involved her talking about her sister, who died of cancer. “Grief is something you cannot shed or erase,” Clare says. “It stays with you forever.”

Clare is called by Krystal, Beverly’s daughter, to her room. She is furious as Clare slept in Bev’s room at night. Sam, an old friend, visits and Clare is thrilled to see him. He works for the Mantros writing the requests he receives as Sugar. Because he wants to make things interesting, Sam proposes that Clare should be Sugar and take over the advice column from now on, but she isn’t excited about it. He accepts he made up the story about the sister with cancer but Clare is disgusted, as she actually wanted a ride to her therapist’s place. Sam gives her a few unanswered letters he has received and she reluctantly takes them.

Danny is there too and they are going to couples therapy, where we get to the bottom of the issue. Clare gave a part of Rae’s college fund away to Lucas as he was having money problems and Clare’s childhood home was about to be destroyed. He blew it all and cannot pay it back. Clare promises to pay it on his behalf. The therapist, Mel Green, calls Clare insecure about getting older.

After the session, Clare forgets her phone and goes back up. She finds Danny and the therapist talking to each other in the room.

She then goes to Amy’s bar, where Amy consoles Clare and assures her that Danny is not cheating. She is perturbed by Mel’s “getting older remark.” The cabbie who drops her off hits on Clare, as she sees her younger self in the mirror and is about to have sex with him. However, things get complicated and Clare cannot stop laughing when she sees the cabbie has a water bed… and then she breaks down crying realizing her predicament. Clare leaves his house in shame, and as she does she receives a message from Lucas who has left a childhood memory on her porch.

Clare is encouraged to read the letters on the bus ride. The first question for Sugar is about what Clare would tell her 20-something self. “People worthy of your love will love you more than for what you look like” is the bottom line of Clare’s response. It is revealed that Clare struggled with a heroin addiction when she was in her 20’s. At that time, she thought she didn’t deserve the tiny beautiful things in life.

In the past, we see Clare’s mother going with her to exchange the gift she brought for Clare on Christmas – a long winter coat. Clare gets a new jacket, which is quite expensive but her mother doesn’t say anything. The coat Clare’s mother bought can’t  be returned as she had lost the receipt. She has saved for months to afford it, and that was the last thing she gave Clare before she died.

Clare goes home and cries holding the coat. Rae comes out and takes the box inside for Clare. “When a gift is given, say thank you,” which she didn’t say as often to her mother.

The Episode Review

Tiny Beautiful Things is based on the novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Episode 1 lays down the premise and the central narrative of the story quite well. A lot of the lines were directly picked up from passages in the novel, like the ones we have quoted in this recap. But it remains to be seen if the adaptation remains true to the source material.

One could easily envisage seeing Laura Dern in Kathryn Hahn’s shoes. It is a great positive for the series that she is an executive producer along with Reese Witherspoon. They are the perfect profile to be at the helm of a show with such strongly complex and controversial themes about women. Hahn gave an impressive account of herself. So did Sarah Pidgeon, who will be the one to look out for.

Episode 1 did not take long to start spinning. It quickly established our protagonist Clare Pierce and her mess of a life. Given the crisp runtime, things don’t even seen all that slow, even with the heavy substance of the writing. We have high hopes for this show and hopefully, episode 1 is a precursor for things to come.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Tiny Beautiful Things here!


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