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21 Biggest Changes Expats Makes To The 2016 Book




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Warning! SPOILERS about Expats episodes 1 and 2 and The Expatriates ahead.

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Summary

  • Expats starts the story in medias res, setting up a dynamic and multi-layered narrative structure.
  • The TV series makes considerable changes to the book, including the involvement of Clarke, the use of Cantonese, and the location of Gus’s disappearance.
  • The characters and their relationships are also altered, such as Margaret’s ethnicity, Hilary and David’s views on having children, and Hilary’s relationship with her mother.

Expats keeps much from the book it adapts, but the changes it applies also make the series feel different from the book on the surface. Debuting on Amazon Prime Video in January 2024, Expats focuses on Margaret, Mercy, and Hilary, three American expats whose lives become inextricably linked after a tragedy that affects them all in different ways. Created by The Farewell’s Lulu Wang, the Amazon limited series is based on The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee, which uses the three women’s different points of view to fully relay their thoughts and feelings.

Expats manages to retain much of The Expatriates’ original wording, with some sentences copied verbatim from the book, even though they appear in different moments or situations. However, Expats also makes considerable changes to the story, especially in regards to the structure, modifying it so that it can feel more dynamic and work best for a TV series. As a result, the two different timelines introduced in Expats episodes 1 and 2 manage to set up many multi-layered storylines, which end up highlighting the TV adaptation’s various differences from the book.

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21 Expats Moved Up The Timeline Unlike The Book

Amazon Prime Video’s drama starts in medias res

Nicole Kidman as Margaret in Expats-1

While Mercy’s monologue about the unwitting perpetrators of tragedies and Margaret’s meeting with Priscilla about Clarke’s 50th birthday party are the first things to happen in both Expats and The Expatriates, what they put in motion happens differently. Indeed, Expats starts telling the story in the middle of the action, with Margaret getting ready for the party the next day, while the book has the party happen well into its second half. Unlike the TV series, The Expatriates gives time to Margaret, Mercy, and Hilary to ponder on their history before propelling them through the intense events of Clarke’s party.

Expats’ shift in the timeline greatly suits its medium, as Expats episode 1 masterfully sets the scene by presenting the protagonists while also leaving much unanswered. However, Expats episode 2’s flashback fills in much of what was left unsaid, finally unveiling what happened that upended Margaret and her family’s lives and affected Mercy just as much, making them the favorite topic for the American expats in Hong Kong. This way, Expats episodes 1 and 2 manage to present all the different variables, past and present, affecting the story, before further developments push the story forward.

20 Clarke Isn’t As Present In The Book & They Aren’t Part Of A Church

Clarke can be seen in a church in Expats episode 1

Brian Tee as Clarke Woo and Nicole Kidman as Margaret in Expats episode 1

Expats episodes 1 and 2 highlight the importance of Clarke for Margaret, showing a loving relationship between the two even if their approaches for how to overcome the tragedy differ. Contrarily, Clarke isn’t as present in The Expatriates, featuring plenty in Margaret’s thoughts but not often being part of the action. Expats episode 1 showing Clarke in a church in his first scene presents him as a well-rounded character with his own ideas, but it also introduces a new variable, as no church is mentioned as something Margaret and Clarke attended in The Expatriates.

19 The Expatriates Makes A Point About Expats Not Speaking Cantonese

Margaret can be seen speaking Cantonese in Expats episode 1

Margaret can be heard speaking Cantonese when she furnishes her secret apartment in Kowloon in Expats episode 1, distinctly opposing the book’s message. Indeed, The Expatriatesmakes a point to show how separate the lives of the expats are from those of the locals, both through the expats’ encounters and in Mercy’s POVs, where she recounts the story of elderly local women shouting in Cantonese at expats who repeatedly ignore them. This difference potentially endears Margaret to viewers, as she seems to try not to stand out like the other expats, despite not particularly doing so in the book.

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18 Gus’ Disappearance Doesn’t Happen In Hong Kong

Margaret, Clarke & their family are in South Korea when it happens

Connor James as Gus and Ji-young Yoo as Mercy in Expats episode 2

It makes sense for Expats to keep the event of Gus’s disappearance in Hong Kong, but the ordeal is made even more tragic in the book because it happens far away from Margaret’s new home. Indeed, Gus disappears in South Korea in The Expatriates, as Margaret and her family are there with Mercy visiting extended family as Clarke deals with work-related commitments. The disappearance happening away from Hong Kong separates Margaret from her family for weeks in the books, as they return to Hong Kong while she builds a new routine of visiting the police station every day.

17 Margaret’s Ethnicity Is Different & Plays A Bigger Role In The Book

Margaret’s father being half Korean prompts their trip to South Korea

Nicole Kidman as Margaret and Connor James as Gus in Expats episode 2

Expats casting Nicole Kidman as Margaret inevitably changes this detail of the story, but Margaret is the daughter of a white American woman and a half-Korean man in The Expatriates. The detail isn’t inconsequential in the book, as Margaret brings the kids to visit family in South Korea with Mercy, and Gus’s disappearance happens after Margaret’s big reunion with relatives from her father’s side that she had never met before.

16 Margaret & Mercy’s Meeting & Timeline Is Pushed Up

They knew each other for longer & met through friends

Expats episode 2 shows Margaret contacting Mercy to help her with an outing with the kids very soon after their meeting on the boat, and Gus disappears the first time Mercy babysits him. However, Mercy had already looked after Margaret’s kids a couple of times before Gus’s disappearance in The Expatriates, and Margaret reprimands her in South Korea because Mercy walks out on them on a night when the kids are asleep and Margaret and Clarke are out of the hotel. Moreover, Margaret doesn’t come to Mercy’s help on the boat, instead, she’s introduced to her through a mutual acquaintance.

15 Hilary & David’s Ideas About Kids Were Opposite

Hilary wanted kids at the book’s start & David just supported her

Jack Huston as David Starr and Sarayu Blue as Hilary Starr in Expats episode 2-1

While Hilary didn’t originally want kids in both Expats and The Expatriates, the beginning of the book shows her intensely desiring the experience of motherhood, instead being unsure about whether adopting a specific child who visits her home for piano lessons paid by her. In addition, David fully supports Hilary in whichever path she desires, whether pregnancy or adoption in The Expatriates. The situation is completely opposite in Expats, where Hilary doesn’t even know if she wants kids while David longs for them, at least before Gus’s disappearance.

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14 David Was Never Sober & His Alcohol Problem Wasn’t Acknowledged

Hilary mentions David’s sobriety in Expats episode 2

Jack Huston as David Starr in Expats episode 1

David “reeking of alcohol” is often discussed in The Expatriates, especially by others and as a reason he is disliked, but his problem is never acknowledged as alcoholism, and he is never shown as sober. Instead, Expats episode 2 has Hilary explicitly acknowledging both his sobriety and the reason for which he is sober, which is wanting to start a family. This change inevitably makes David’s use of alcohol more severe, as it counts as a relapse based on what Expats showed – unless he lied to Hilary and never stopped drinking also in the TV series.

13 Mercy’s Parents Are Still Together At The Book’s Beginning

Mercy’s mother’s arrival after separating plays a big part later in the book

Expats episode 2 shows Mercy telling Margaret how her parents are separated and she had to move to Hong Kong to withstand her mother, as her father helped them go along. However, the separation of Mercy’s parents doesn’t happen until later in The Expatriates, and it’s also fundamental to the story. Indeed, Mercy’s mother moves to Hong Kong to be closer to Mercy only after the separation, and her move eventually lets them bond, prompting Mercy to share what she went through with Margaret and Gus, which leads to her mother fully helping her and supporting her in return.

12 David & Mercy’s Relationship Timeline & Meeting Are Different

They don’t meet when Gus disappears & their relationship is more casual

Ji-young Yoo as Mercy and Jack Huston as David Starr in Expats episode 2

Expats introduces David and Mercy’s fling right in episode 1, with the two even messaging each other, hinting at their relationship going on for some time. However, The Expatriates only has the two hook up in the book’s Part III, after casually meeting up in a restaurant Mercy mentioned when they drank together at a bar, with the two never exchanging numbers before hooking up. This greatly changes their relationship’s dynamic by having it seem more established in Expats, even if it can be interpreted as just as casual as it is in The Expatriates.

11 Margaret Never Believes A Neighbor Involved In Gus’s Disappearance In The Book

Gus disappearing in Seoul was probably the reason for that

Nicole Kidman as Margaret in Expats episode 3

Margaret’s accusations against Hilary’s dead neighbor Christopher in Expats episode 3 drives a wedge between them because of Margaret’s wish to search Christopher’s apartment, but nothing of the sort happens in The Expatriates. While the storyline is crucial because it highlights Margaret’s extreme reactions and attacks against anyone who tries to encourage her to think about how senseless finding Christopher at fault because of one picture is, it also never existed in the book, as Gus disappears in Seoul, with only Margaret’s family and Mercy present, making the presence of other acquaintances unlikely.

10 Charly Is A Man Courting Mercy In The Expatriates

Expats gender-swapped Charlie for Charly

Ji-young Yoo as Mercy and Bonde Sham as Charly in Expats episode 3

Like Mercy’s relationship with her mother, Expats changes much of her story and her becoming fast friends with Charly highlights a big difference with The Expatriates. Indeed, Janice Y. K. Lee’s book never introduces a close friend for Mercy, with her sometimes surrounded by university acquaintances, unable to form a meaningful bond with anyone. Instead, The Expatriates has Mercy quickly become romantically entangled with Charlie, a Chinese man she knew from her time at Columbia, who courts her expressively to explore a potential marriage with her in the future, and whose upbringing makes him very different from Mercy.

9 Margaret & Hilary’s Fight In Expats Episode 3 Never Happens In The Book

The vicious exchange didn’t have a reason to exist as they weren’t close friends

Margaret’s extreme attempts to get Hilary to give her the keys to Christopher’s apartment to investigate him leads to a vicious exchange where Margaret accuses Hilary of not being able to truly understand her because she isn’t a mother, but no such fight happens in the book. While Margaret and Hilary have known each other as children in California, they are never really friends in The Expatriates, only acquaintances because they both followed their husbands to Hong Kong. Their connection is initially fleeting, hinging on expat social functions, thus not warranting such a vicious fight in the book.

8 Margaret & Clarke’s Trip Wasn’t To Identify A Body

They travel to Seoul to meet a living boy matching Gus’s description

Nicole Kidman as Margaret and Brian Tee as Clarke Woo in Expats episode 4

Expats episode 3 making Margaret and Clarke travel to Shenzhen to identify a body that could be Gus’s darkens a similar turning point in The Expatriates, as their trip in the book brings them back to Seoul for a potentially happier occasion. Indeed, Margaret and Clarke travel to Seoul almost immediately after the police contact them about an abducted child who was just found and matched Gus’s description. Their hope skyrockets before shattering because the boy isn’t Gus but belongs to another family. Instead, Margaret and Clarke are more hopeful when leaving Shenzhen, as it isn’t Gus’s body they saw.

7 David’s Tragic Past Isn’t Explored In The Expatriates

The book doesn’t focus on his & Mercy’s connection as it isn’t prompted by Gus’s disappearance

Jack Huston as David Starr and Ji-young Yoo as Mercy in Expats episode 4-1

David’s childhood tragedy of paralyzing his twin brother Danny by playing too rough while fighting is a turning point in Expats episode 4 as it explains why he is drawn to Mercy after Gus’s disappearance, but it doesn’t exist in The Expatriates. While David and Mercy’s affair produces the same consequences in the book, David isn’t made a protagonist as in Expats, making the book never need to lure readers to feel sympathy for him, which can instead be a reaction after Expats’ David shares his tragic history with Mercy.

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6 Hilary & Her Mother’s Bond Is Different In The Book

They also don’t get stuck in the elevator but travel to Bangkok instead

Although Hilary was just as affected by her mother’s arrival in Hong Kong in The Expatriates, their reunion works more seamlessly in the book, and it doesn’t include her mother’s unkind words towards her life choices. Indeed, Hilary and her mother travel to Bangkok without David in The Expatriates, and the two even manage to connect over their wishes for the future, including Hilary’s desire to become a mother naturally or through adoption, while her mother gently suggests treatments. Their reunion clashes completely with the one in Expats, which instead involves the broken elevator and plenty of judgment.

5 David Doesn’t Learn About Mercy’s Pregnancy With Her In The Expatriates

She wishes to avoid him after the news & he doesn’t seem as supportive

Ji-young Yoo as Mercy in Expats episode 4

Expats episode 4 shows David suggesting that Mercy’s vomiting might be due to a potential pregnancy, but he isn’t as involved in Mercy’s pregnancy discovery in The Expatriates. Indeed, not only are Charlie’s comments making her wonder about a possible pregnancy, but Mercy also deals with the tests by herself, without anybody’s help. Mercy only blurts out the news to David on a day out at the beach, and finding her mother surprisingly at her doorstep in Hong Kong also gives her the chance to avoid him, letting her enjoy her pregnancy without facing David’s uncertainty as in Expats.

4 Essie & Puri’s Perspectives Were Never Shown In The Book

The expats’ employees’ names were known but their POVs were never shared

Amelyn Pardenilla as Puri and Ruby Ruiz as Essie in Expats episode 5

The domestic workers employed by the expats were mentioned in The Expatriates, but the book never greatly focused on their stories, instead presenting them only when they interacted with Margaret and Hilary. Expats episode 5’s shifted focus thanks to Puri and Essie’s day off and their heart-to-heart finally showed their perspective, on Gus’s disappearance for the latter and the difficulty of living in their employer’s home and establishing clear boundaries for both of them. Expats episode 5 recounting their lives by showing their days off made it possible to share their hobbies and feelings, making their stories visible and important.

3 The Expatriates Never Mentioned A Divorce Between Hilary and David

Their separation was more amicable than in the show because Hilary understood his reasons

Jack Huston as David and Sarayu Blue as Hilary in Expats episode 5

While David stopped inhabiting his shared home with Hilary just before Hilary’s mother visited, there was no mention of a divorce in The Expatriates. Indeed, the two separated in the book, but couldn’t formally divorce as Hilary chose to present the adoption application together with David so that they could have had better chances to adopt Julian. Moreover, Hilary received the news differently in the book when David told her about Mercy getting pregnant, just asking him to behave the right way, and not kicking him out of their home after a terribly vicious fight like in Expats episode 5.

2 Clarke Never Missed Work After Traveling Because Gus Could Have Been Found

Margaret & Clarke’s trip to identify a body in Shenzhen greatly changed how affected he was

Clarke’s problems with accepting what he prayed for in Shenzhen before having to identify what could have been Gus’s body showed him take the ordeal much worse than his book counterpart in The Expatriates. Margaret and Clarke’s trip to Seoul after the police found a boy who matched Gus’s description was just as difficult because the news gave them hope, and Clarke broke down after learning it wasn’t Gus. However, The Expatriates never had Clarke miss work because of how bad he felt, as he never wished for closure if it meant Gus was dead like he did in Expats.

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by Xtreme HD IPTV

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