There’s something enthralling about films or television shows set in small towns. It’s even more intriguing when the plot lies in the crime genre. That’s the case when it comes to Mare of Easttown. Secrets lurk within a small Pennsylvania town where everyone knows each other by their first names. It all starts when a heinous murder befalls the residents of the town. The series, written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel, on the other hand, is more than just a murder mystery. While the audience is perplexed by each revelation and cliffhanger, Mare of Easttown also showcases characters’ personal lives and struggles. We are reminded once more of how grief can consume a person and affect those around them.
When Easttown’s detective, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet, Ammonite), is awakened by her elderly neighbor and informed of a prowler on the front yard, it’s just the start of the day straight from hell. She’s soon reminded of her long-lasting guilt when Dawn Bailey (Enid Graham, The Sinner), a woman battling cancer, goes on to the local tv and publicly demands answers regarding her missing daughter, Katie (Caitlin Houlahan). The young woman went missing a year ago, but the police never found anything. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Young women continue to vanish, and a gruesome murder occurs as Easttown is rocked to its core. Mare joins forces with a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters, American Horror Story), to look into the murder and kidnappings.
The woman has to stay on top of the case while raising her teenage daughter, Siobhan, and her 4-year-old grandson, whose father – Mare’s son – committed suicide. The woman refuses to discuss him. In effect, her grief consumes her and impacts both her work and those around her. Winslet’s Mare is tough, short-worded, and concrete. She doesn’t have time for anyone’s bullshit. She is also not easily fazed or impressed; in short, she makes an excellent detective. Mare isn’t a big dater either, but that changes when she meets Richard (Guy Pierce, L.A. Confidential), a writer who recently moved to Easttown.
Winslet is fantastic as Mare. If you ever thought that the actress would be great as a fearless yet somewhat closed-off detective solving murders, you’re absolutely correct. Especially in pair with Peters, this powerhouse of talent instantly grips the viewers’ attention. As a detective Zabel, Peters seems to be rather disoriented by the small town’s tight relationships. Mare’s initial distance and reservation towards him don’t help. However, as the show progresses, the dynamic duo grows closer. After seeing Peters in mostly teenage roles, it’s quite refreshing to see him as a refined, mature county detective. The actor, known from the American Horror Story anthology series, is mostly seen on screen with Winslet’s Mare. Peters keeps up with the Oscar winner’s pace while displaying his character’s frequently appearing sense of humor.
Mare of Easttown possesses several great actors in its cast: Julianne Nicholson and Jean Smart as Mare’s best friend Lori and her mother, Helen, Angourie Rice as the main character’s teenage daughter, or Cailee Spaeny. Spaeny is portraying an adolescent mother, Erin McMenamin. She becomes one of the most fascinating characters as we see her hard life unwinding. After recently appearing in Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein’s Sundance debut film, How it Ends, Spaeny proves herself to be a highly skilled actress with a bright future in the entertainment industry.
The structure of Mare of Easttown seldom gets messy, but Zobel makes sure that we don’t lose interest. Even the first episode, which can usually be somewhat introductory, ends with a bang and forces the audience to dive into the next one. One gets invested right away. In Easttown, everybody is a suspect, and the directors make the viewers question the characters’ every confession and move. The creators establish an interesting portrayal of a small town. The drama series doesn’t solely focus on the crime, it also gives us insight into the characters’ personal lives and struggles. We follow Mare and Zabel’s investigation, and the secrets continue to emerge, luring us further.
The aforementioned picture of a small Pennsylvanian town is quite endearing if we can say so about such a series as Mare of Easttown. Said charm reveals itself in a few scenes; a scenery of houses along a pothole road or a sweet, elderly Betty Carroll (Phyllis Somerville, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) who keeps using Mare’s private phone number whenever she sees something suspicious instead of calling directly to the police station. It seems as the creators attempt to display the type of closeness one can surround themselves with if living in such a tight-knit community. At the same time, it’s a cautionary tale for the characters and the audience, where we’re reminded that the darkest place is under the candlestick.
One of the flaws of Mare of Eastttown may be that that it has too many characters and some of them are given more time than others. One of them is Siobhan, Mare’s daughter, a young woman on her way to adulthood. Because of the abundance of interesting town’s residents, Siobhan remains more in the background and it’s a shame, because it would be great to develop her more, especially as a character from the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite this, however, Mare of Easttown is a thrilling, surprising murder-mystery drama. Many cliffhangers and startling moments keep the audience invested as they follow Mare’s investigation and want to know who the killer/kidnapper is. Although it’s not anything extraordinary, that’s what best in it. The series has all the components we need: a compelling, mysterious murder, interesting characters, and a feeling of thrill. We don’t always need something fresh and reinvented. Sometimes, we simply want to visit a small town, live amongst its suspicious residents and attempt to solve the murder faster than the detectives.
Mare of Easttown premieres on April 18 on HBO Max.