“Doing something great is overrated. Because then people expect that from you all the time. What they don’t realize is you’re just as screwed up as they are.”Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown
Aired: HBO | Air Dates: 2021 | Number of Seasons: 1
While this show had been on my list for a long period of time, it was mostly because I saw it in passing on HBO Max and thought it might be interesting. It was also one of those shows that I kept telling myself I was going to watch but was never really planning on it. Then, during an episode of SmartLess (a podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes where they interview prominent people in Hollywood) I heard the three hosts commenting on how good this show was so I figured it would be time to give it a try. Mare of Easttown follows Detective Sergeant Mare Sheehan in the aftermath of a series of tragedies in her life and a year into solving a case involving a missing girl. The dead body of a girl shows up in the middle of the woods and it’s up to Mare and the new county detective – Colin Zabel – to help solve the case. Concurrently, Mare has to deal with PTSD revolving around the death of her son, a custody battle for her grandson, and growing community pressure to close her cases.
This show is a slow burn; the beginning is drawn out and made even more tense by the fact that the murder victim is pretty obvious from the start. That being said, the murderer was quite difficult for me to guess and that was a large reason why I enjoyed the show. The show drops the viewer into the middle of Mare Sheehan’s (played by Kate Winslet) messy life. From the first glimpse of Mare, it’s clear that she’s dealing with some kind of trauma and walks through life in a haze. She’s defensive and frustrated and that makes her desperate. Mare’s character is written to be very well rounded and her actions are consistent with her motives. Despite having an extensive network in Easttown, Mare is clearly very lonely. She depends on an addiction to distract her from familial issues and this makes her come across as cold. But as a whole, Mare is a compassionate person. She feels deeply for her community and works tirelessly (albeit a little obsessively) to solve her cases.
Given that the first couple of episodes move rather slowly, it’s a shock when the show picks up the pace. Like a real murder case (I assume) there are several initial suspects as even the smallest motive warrants deep investigation. The case takes a logical progression and there are some great twists within the show. Concurrently, Mare finds more information regarding the missing girl and begins to investigate that as well. Colin Zabel’s character provides some grounding to Mare’s harsh tactics, especially surrounding her family, and works to figure out clues that Mare sometimes overlooks.
The murder mystery in this show is fun but it’s the family dynamics that really sold it for me. Prior to the events of the show, Mare’s oldest son dies and that event seems to be what drives the family apart. The show is careful to show the dichotomy between Mare before her son’s death and after. Mare appears to shut down because of this and throws herself into her job. She almost seems to abandon the rest of her family, only finding joy in her grandson. The rest of her family seems frustrated with her. My interpretation of this is that Mare throws herself into work because she feels that if she can do some good through her job, it’ll ease the guilt she feels at not being able to help her son get on a better path and prevent his death.
My one issue with the show was the wrap up of the missing girls case. The show didn’t focus much on it and there was no correlation between the central mystery and this side one. While it was great that Mare got a win in solving it, I could have found a lot more satisfaction in the conclusion of both of the mysteries had there been only one to focus on. I spent more time trying to find a connection between the two mysteries than feeling like I was satisfied with the amount of time spent on Mare’s character development.
I liked this show for what it was but it was not for me. I see where all the praise came from as the show was acted wonderfully and that essentially made up for – in my opinion – a muddled narrative. While not horrible, there are certainly stronger and far more enjoyable murder mystery shows to watch.