Mare of Easttown is an American crime drama limited series that premiered on HBO and Sky Atlantic back in April. Starring Kate Winslet and a stellar supporting cast including the likes of Guy Pearce, Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson, I was initially sceptical. However, while on the surface appearing to be a run of the mill detective thriller, Mare of Easttown turned out to be so much more and then some.
The series follows Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), a detective sergeant in the Township of Easttown Police, a sleepy suburb of Philadelphia. She lives with her mother (Jean Smart), her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) and her infant grandson Drew, while her ex-husband Frank (David Denman) lives in the house directly behind with his new partner. Mare’s working life is difficult, after having failed to solve the case of a missing girl for over a year, and her personal life is falling apart after dealing with the suicide of her son, the prospect of her ex-husband remarrying and the recovering addict mother of her grandson seeking custody. Fortunately, Mare has best friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson) to rely on and also a potential love interest in the form of writer and lecturer Richard (Guy Pearce), a new resident in town.
Soon Mare is faced with a new case when Erin McMenemin (Cailee Spaeny), a teenage mother, is found murdered. Immersing herself in the case, Mare is faced with numerous suspects including Erin’s ex-boyfriend and father of her son Dylan (Jack Mulhern), Dylan’s new girlfriend Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing) and the local priest Deacon Mark (James McArdle). Struggling for leads and with mounting pressure to find both Erin’s murderer and to solve the case of the missing girl, county detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) is assigned to partner with Mare to investigate both cases, leading to revelations and events that shock the entire town.
I had been expecting Mare of Easttown to be a generic crime thriller, however, what I got was an incredibly well written, well-acted crime drama, that focuses as heavily on family drama as it does on crime-solving. I was hooked from the first episode and had I been able to, I’d have binge-watched the entire 7 episode series in one day, it’s that good. And there isn’t just one reason for this, everything about this series is brilliant. From the smart, intelligent script and dialogue to the beautiful yet sombre and well-fitting setting and cinematography, there isn’t a thing I can fault.
The star of course is Kate Winslet as Mare, who is a character we shouldn’t love yet we can’t not. She feels incredibly real and genuine and the kind of person you’d like to know, despite her obvious flaws. And the fact that Winslet has played her with barely any makeup, unwashed hair etc only makes you love her more. The development of Mare and all of the characters in this show is expertly and, in some cases, subtly done and is a credit to all of the cast. My only criticism on the cast side would be that there wasn’t enough Guy Pearce.
The plot is engaging and intriguing and full of heart as well as a few darkly funny moments, most courtesy of Jean Smart as Mare’s mum Helen. There are a lot of twists and turns and enough shady goings-on with the murder case to keep you hooked throughout, and the family drama provides an interesting insight into Mare’s life that gels seamlessly with her criminal investigations. There is a lot to be said about grief here that is expertly handled. While there may be a few gaps in the storyline (like the notable absence of Richard), none of these is to the detriment of the series as a whole and it is still the most well rounded and detailed show I’ve seen in quite some time.
As a generic detective thriller Mare of Easttown would be pretty decent. However, the incorporation of the family drama, the humour and the study on grief have propelled this into an extremely immersive and excellent show that cannot be faulted.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!