Mare of Easttown is a complex drama which follows a small town police detective, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), faced with solving the murder of a young woman. Veering only slightly from the standard murder mystery formula, Mare of Easttown ensures the audience is held captivated by the plot’s constant twists, dark revelations and intriguing characters. With this case as the back drop, the show is an in depth character study of a woman reeling from loss after her son’s suicide. Mare struggles to care for her fractured family while shouldering the responsibility of a traumatic case that is all too close to home.
Written by Tresca Mallon
Mare of Easttown is also a realistic deep dive into the underbelly of suburban America. The rampant opioid and healthcare crisis is subtly woven into the fabric of the story presenting a part of the US rarely depicted authentically on screen. Aesthetically it is quite dull, which can be off putting in the first instance, but is appropriate for the no frills setting and the show’s gritty realism. Hardship is in no way glamorised or romanticised as the hidden darkness of the small close-knit town is slowly revealed. However, there is also a palpable respect for the slice of every-day life which lacks pretension and is unafraid to exist in the ordinary.
Winslet gives one of her best performances as the deeply flawed yet unflappable detective Sheehan. From her unwaveringly stoic mannerisms to her flawless accent, she fully embodies a character who is fiercely resilient despite being battered by life. Mare has a constant internal struggle as lone protector of both her family and her town. She is faced with moral ambiguity and tough, life-altering decisions.
Mare’s relationships with the supporting characters allow the audience to access a facet of her personality behind the icy facade. The heartfelt connection with her friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson), made all the more authentic by the real life close friendship between Winslet and Nicholson, reveals the characters vulnerability. Mare’s interactions with her mother, Helen (Jean Smart), offer some comic relief, while humanising Mare as their fraught connection is highly relatable. The entire town obviously cares for and respects Mare despite her gruffness. She is a core character within all their lives, and this feeling of community is essential in understanding both Mare and the tragedies which drive her actions.
Evan Peters is wholly endearing as the blundering wonder boy Detective Colin Zabel. While the romantic connection with Mare felt unnecessary, there is a palpable chemistry between the two which creates an easy repartee. Peters acts as both a sharp contrast and a softener to Winslet’s character which are essential to Mare’s arc. Despite being an enjoyable character, the end to his story is perfectly timed in episode four. It allows the focus to return to Mare, her family and the overriding murder plot.
Although the mystery of Mare of Easttown offers little deviation from the crime dramas that have come before it, it’s focus on character development and world building makes it special. From the grim and ordinary world of this small Pennsylvanian town Craig Zobel and Brad Ingelsby have crafted an understated yet gripping TV series that deserves all the plaudits thrown its way.