Mare of Easttown’s premiere episode delivers on all fronts with a powerfully bleak story centred around a troubled detective and her complicated family. From Brad Inglesby, director of the Ben Affleck fronted basketball drama The Way Back, Mare of Easttown promises a sprawling, character driven murder mystery.
Mare (Winslet) is called to an elderly woman’s house who reports a prowler in her garden, after Mare does an initial investigation she goes to the station where her chief tells her she needs to revisit a missing person case from a year previous as the mother of the missing young woman is seen on local news demanding action. There has been no trace of the missing teenager, Kate Bailey, and Mare has resigned herself to the notion that this girl, who abused drugs, is probably lying at the bottom of the river and will never be found. It is easy to dismiss a missing person like this especially when the person had such a troubling life. Mare seems to have very little joy in her life, she is caring for her 4-year-old grandson and lives with her teenage daughter, Siobhan (Angourie Rice) and mother Helen (Jean Smart) in a pleasant house neighbouring her ex-husband Frank (David Denman) who has recently got engaged. Her mother and daughter have a vibrancy about them that is missing from Mare, however as the episode moves on and we begin to question why she has come to be the sole guardian for her 4-year-old grandson, we perhaps see that there is a deeper darkness in Mare, a reason behind her seemingly uncaring demeanor.
Parallel to Mare’s story, we have the story of Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a teenage mother who lives with her father who is in the midst of a messy split with the baby’s father. Erin’s father, while we don’t see him abuse her in any way, is clearly a man with aggressive tendencies and a very low tolerance for his daughter and grandson. Erin, like many new mothers, has found herself besotted with her newborn son, but is also still trying to live her life as a teenage girl. Her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend has a hatred for Erin and is unnecessarily aggressive and hostile towards her. The story of Erin is likely what will fuel the narrative of the entire season and undoubtedly bring the missing Katie Bailey case back into Mare’s life.
Kate Winslet gives an incredible performance as Mare and perfectly emulates someone who is burying their troubles so deeply that it has a greater effect on their outwards appearance. To those who don’t know Mare, she would come across as someone who has given up on life. Her mannerisms may be confused with those of someone who doesn’t really care, but we see pretty early on how much she is valued by the community. Even more so when she is celebrated at her former high school for her turn in shooting the winning shot at a basketball championship 25 years previous. In small towns like Easttown, everyone knows everything about everyone so even though she is perhaps a bit of a difficult person now, she probably didn’t always use to be like that. This absent parent from her grandson’s life is possibly another one of her own children and her divorce are perhaps contributing factors.
It’s hard not to draw parallels between this first episode and other small town murder mystery dramas helmed by HBO and powerful female actors. Sharp Objects immediately comes to mind as both have similar themes. However, Easttown may have a touch of the occult about it much like True Detective season one. The question will be, how is it going to separate itself from those? Its first episode culminates in a gruesome murder and the horrifying final moments really hook you in.
About The Author
As an HBO Watch writer since 2013, I have covered a wide variety of shows from Eastbound and Down to Game of Thrones. I am also a huge Stanley Kubrick enthusiast having written my undergraduate thesis on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Outside of the world of film and TV I am an avid baker and teach 16-18 year olds how to use cameras.