Every good teen show needs a love triangle, and despite its top stars being adult women Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon, Little Fires Everywhere is solidly a teen drama in my book. I am very invested in the relationships between the teenage Richardson brothers and Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood), their new neighbor in Shaker Heights who, in episode 4’s “The Spider Web,” officially made herself the center of a love triangle.
“Pearl is the only girl Moody has met in Shaker that shares his ideals, and is a thinker and is artsy and a little bit different — he falls head over heels immediately,” Gavin Lewis, who plays Moody Richardson, explains during Refinery29's trip to the Little Fires Everywhere set. “It’s a struggle for Moody to get Pearl to like him ‘like that.’ He’s sort of stuck in the friend zone.”
It’s unclear if Pearl is aware of the crush Moody has on her — they are, as far as she believes, solidly friends. Of course, anyone who has ever watched any show knew full well of Moody’s feelings long before he admitted his crush to brother Trip (Jordan Elsass) in search of romantic advice. Moody took Pearl to his secret spot! He got her a bike! This is teen drama shorthand for burning love.
And, it should be noted, that Moody initially seems like the obvious choice for Pearl’s future boyfriend, what with his passion for poetry and Nirvana. Trip, meanwhile, is the vapid jock far less thoughtful than the sensitive Moody — his advice for wooing Pearl in episode 4 is to be as mean to her as possible, so she “thinks she did something wrong.”
“Trip is a player, he’s a ladies man, he gets all the girls,” says Jordan Elsass of his character. “Very slowly, you start to see him find his true self. He’s not just this boring athletic kid. He’s not a one-dimensional person. Just because he’s not the brightest bulb in the box, doesn’t matter.”
Pearl doesn't care that Trip has a reputation for being less-than-a-genius: She is totally smitten with Trip, and distances herself from Moody — possibly because she knows she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. When she helps Trip with his math homework, it’s clear: There’s palpable chemistry between these two.
In episode 4, they have sex, but Trip — perhaps overcome with guilt over pursuing his brother’s crush, or maybe surprised to find he actually has feelings for Pearl — flees quickly, making Pearl wonder if she really did do something wrong.
Still, don't count Trip and Pearl's relationship out yet.
"I want to say that everybody will be rooting for Trip once they finish the series. I would be rooting for Trip! Once you start to see Moody’s true colors, and once you start to see Trip’s true colors, I think people will be a little more understanding of both sides [of the love triangle,]" teases Elsass.
So what’s to become of this love triangle? Right now, Moody is unaware of his brother’s hookup with Pearl, but it may be just the thing to ignite a feud between the two siblings. Pearl is not a prize to be won, but that’s hardly the point here: Trip betrayed his brother, and now has to deal with the fallout.
Could the tensions between brothers be enough to start a literal fire — as in, the one that engulfs the Richardson household in the near future? While it doesn’t seem that Trip or Moody had anything to do with it right now, one of them burning down the house to spite the other is now very much in the realm of possibilities. In teen drama world, crazier things have happened.