Mare of Easttown is a terrific WOW of a mystery series from HBO. The main cast is all women, each of whom delivers an award worthy performance. Series creator Brad Ingelsby crafted a mesmerizing script with real characters and an array of twists and surprises.
I see the potential for several Emmy nominations for this cast for both lead and supporting actress. Brilliant work all round, ladies. Brad Ingelsby should get one for writing, too.
Mare of Easttown stars Kate Winslet as Detective Mare Sheehan. She is a mess with a life in shards. As a cop, she relentless but she has a shifting moral center, doesn’t follow procedure, and heads off without backup.
Mare lives with her cranky and down-to-earth mother Helen (Jean Smart). I’m pretty sure Jean Smart is going to get an Emmy nom for Hacks, but she should be in line for one here, too.
Mare’s talented lesbian daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) is in her last year of high school. The three women are raising Mare’s grandson Drew (Izzy King). Mare’s son Kevin, the boy’s father, committed suicide in Mare’s attic almost two years ago. Siobhan has found a way to process her grief better than her mom.
Mare’s ex-husband Frank (David Denman) lives right behind her. He is celebrating his new engagement.
Loss is a major thematic element in this series with Mare’s loss of her son underpinning them all. She hasn’t dealt with the grieving process well and prefers to work rather than deal with her emotions or her family’s emotions.
Mare’s lifelong best friend Lori Ross (Julianne Nicholson) is the other key woman in the story. Lori’s family is important in the crime storylines in the series. There’s Lori’s husband John Ross (Joe Tippett), her 13 year old son Ryan Ross (Cameron Mann), and her daughter Moira Ross (Kassie Mundhenk). Moira has Down Syndrome and is physically smaller than her brother, but she’s making plans to go to prom so she must be older than he is. Even so, he’s protective of her and attacks a boy in the school lunchroom who torments her.
The various crimes in Mare of Easttown
The series begins and ends with early morning calls to Mare from Glen Carroll (Patrick McDade) or Betty Carroll (Phyllis Somerville). They want help with prowlers who look like ferrets and missing pizza slicers. Betty dies part way though the series and Glen takes advantage of the gathering after her funeral to confess to everyone that he had an affair with Helen, Mare’s mother. They do bring some much needed humor into the series, but don’t write them off as mere comic relief.
A year ago, the daughter of Mare’s friend Dawn Bailey (Enid Graham) vanished. Mare doesn’t have a clue as to what happened to her and Dawn is raising a public outcry about it. About midway through the series, another girl goes missing and Mare finally gets a lead in that case.
The main investigation in the series is the murder of Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny). She was found shot and thrown naked (why?) in a creek. Erin had a one year old son who needed ear surgery. She and her father Kenny (Patrick Murney) were cousins to the Ross family. The boy’s father Dylan (Jack Mulhern) wasn’t worth much, but his parents were a big help with the little guy.
Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson) brings in Det. Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) to work with Mare on the missing persons case. When the murdered girl is found, he helps with that case too.
Mare knows everyone in town. She understands their problems. She played basketball in high school with a lot of them. But when it comes to murder, she investigates everyone. Baby daddy, baby daddy’s new girlfriend, the church deacon, the husband of her best friend, even her own ex-husband. Nobody is safe from her dogged pursuit of the clues. The reveals and surprises in the investigation are so well done, I actually began looking forward to the delicious twist at the end of every episode.
Chief Carter is generally on Mare’s side. He knows she’s a good detective. But she does something illegal in the custody battle with her grandson’s mother, Carrie (Sosie Bacon). The Chief takes Mare’s badge and gun and tells her to get grief counseling before she can come back.
The series ended quickly after the killer was found. One odd note at the end was that all the people who had mistakenly been jailed for the killing weren’t released immediately.
Mare meets a new man in town, the writer Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce). They begin a tentative romance. Also, her partner Det. Zabel had a terrific crush on her. A hallmark of this series is no makeup on the women and ratty hair most of the time. By sprinkling a date into Mare’s life now and then, she had an excuse to brush her hair and put on lipstick, but it was never glamorous. She was a working cop, period.
Siobhan had a romance with a radio DJ named Anne (Kiah McKirnan) and almost didn’t want to leave town for college because of it. Ah, young love . . .
Overall, everything about this story about family, grief, mercy, and truth is outstanding. Craig Zobel directed every episode. I liked the use of a simple and bright melody on a piano in key scenes, especially the final seconds of the series.
Here’s the trailer.
If you can possibly watch Mare of Easttown, I heartily recommend it. It’s equally as good as other mysteries I have raved about recently such as The Undoing.