By: Bill Cushing – June, 2021
A shocking crime in a small town leads to an investigation that ultimately reveals every major local scandal in a surprisingly troublesome community. It’s a story that’s been done countless times before. But rarely has it been done as well as HBO’s latest limited series, ‘Mare of Easttown.’
Oscar and Emmy winner Kate Winslet plays Mare Sheehan, a cynical and traumatized police detective who never left where she grew up, in this case, a small community called Easttown, Pennsylvania. A community where everyone knows each other. Something that permeates throughout this series.
The series follows an attempt to solve the murder of a young woman and the possibly related disappearances of two others. Erin, a single teenage mother is found dead after the town’s young people congregated for a party in the woods. Erin had left early, having been beaten up by Brianna, the vicious girlfriend of her baby’s father, Dylan.
Immediately the town begins to wonder if it is connected to the disappearance of Katy Bailey, the drug-addicted daughter of Mare’s high-school friend Dawn, who vanished a year ago.
A new investigation into Katy’s case is ordered alongside the new murder case and a county detective, Colin Zabel, is brought in to assist Mare. Zabel soon comes to realize the many connections that Mare has with Easttown. From there we are given one twist and turn after the other, and the viewers are convinced at the guilt of several different people throughout the story.
What separates this show from other shows that have done similar stories many times before, is the strong characters. They grow on viewers with each hour-long episode they watch. Mare is a very complex and broken character. Throughout the show we learn the reasons for Mare’s rough exterior. Mare’s past is revealed to us on a need-to-know basis through her interactions with her family, friends, and neighbors.
Through those scenes we learn she’s lost a grown son to suicide; gotten divorced from her husband, who’s now engaged to another woman; and she’s trying to raise the grandson that her own son left behind. We also learn that her past, has formed the person she has become, both personally and professionally. I won’t give too many more details and spoil the story, it’s much better to watch it and experience it on your own.
‘Mare of Eastown’ boasts an impressive ensemble cast. The always excellent Jean Smart plays Mare’s mother, Helen. Evan Peters (American Horror Story) is outstanding as Detective Colin Zabel. Julianne Nicholson as Lori, Mare’s best friend since childhood. And Guy Pearce (Memento) plays Richard, a visiting writing professor who becomes a love interest for Mare. The wide range of characters that we are introduced to in the first episode of the show alone is a who’s who of the town. We meet ex-husbands, best friends, cousins, children with special needs, abusive fathers, Catholic priests, and jealous girlfriends. But make no mistake about it, Winslet is the MVP of this series. She is tremendous, and gives a masterful performance in the title role.
Written and created by Brad Inglesby (Our Friend, The Way Back) and directed by Craig Zobel (The Leftovers, Westworld), the show expertly weaves the lives and secrets of the residents of this small town into the story, and the tension builds in each episode. The fifth episode of this seven-episode series features in an extremely intense and brilliantly filmed sequence that escalates to a stunning, edge of your seat conclusion.
‘Mare of Easttown’ is available on HBO On Demand, or on HBO Max.
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