Mare of Easttown is definitely starting to pick up considerable critical acclaim as it progresses, with a lot of fans online comparing it favorably to Happy Valley. Certainly in the titular role, Kate Winslet has struck gold with a central character as memorable as Sarah Lancashire’s towering performance in the much-loved UK series – and if this HBO series can match even a scintilla of that show’s dramatic power then we’re onto a good thing here.
I made mention in last week’s review how keen Mare of Easttown was on subverting the traditional twists and turns that would tie up any other show’s entire runtime.
And wow, did it deliver on that again this week.
That process started off in spectacular fashion with Mare barging into Frank’s house for a combustive confrontation over the previous episode’s cliffhanger about his potential paternity around Erin’s son. Your mileage may vary on how much you trust Frank to tell the truth – certainly it’s odd he never mentioned his relationship with Erin previously – but his subsequent explanation around being a grieving father helping out a struggling teenager seemed initially robust enough to deter Mare, if not simultaneously crush her with his damning words about her own troubled times with her son Kevin.
So no hanging about here – and with little pause we also discovered that despite Kenny’s hasty murder confessional, his victim was well and truly alive – if a little sore – with Dylan recuperating in hospital. If last week was centered around fathers, then this episode seemed all about sons (and daughters) – Dylan’s relationship with his own father as they struggle over DNA tests, Siobahn’s memories of Kevin’s fragile mental state around Mare and her enduring battle for custody over grandson Drew with his troubled mother Carrie. It was a lot to absorb – but consistently absorbing it was, drawing you in ever further to being thoroughly invested in these characters and their struggles.
Siobahn (well played by Angourie Rice) continues to be the smartest person in any room and it was good to see her achieve a little happiness with radio DJ Anne this episode amongst all the fire-fighting she continually seems to be doing within the two dysfunctional families her parents occupy. I’m curious though. I feel like the amount of airtime the show is giving her character seems a little redundant so far, to the extent I worry it might be to lead her into some form of peril later in the season – or make her a suspect, even – she was, of course, the last person to see Erin alive (although judging by how many times the show has flipped my expectations so far, who knows?).
And so to the case. Erin’s murder continues to be the catalyst for unpacking murky secrets across town, most notably when her cellphone records show the last call she made the night of her death was to Deacon Mark. This led to the first audible “OH SHIT!” from me when he popped his trunk to reveal Erin’s missing bike at the episode’s close – and certainly this revelation was one of several misdirections (along with his mysterious moving around parishes) that the show will have to be careful about deploying going forward, for fear of viewers catching on to the bait and switch they are running with each weekly cliffhanger. Certainly it seems he’s our “suspect of the week”, to be presumably cleared the following episode (although how he explains away everything will be interesting).
Elsewhere, Mare jumps light-years forward to the usual season end’s trope of relinquishing her badge and gun when she inexplicably (inevitably?) succumbs to desperation in planting drugs on Carrie, causing the chief to put her on administrative leave. Luckily she has a willing disciple in Zabel, who’s not just enamoured with her spectacular detective skills but the woman herself (albeit with a gutful of whiskey for courage). And as much as Zabel is learning his craft from her, Mare will need to re-educate herself that charging into every situation head-first isn’t always for the best. Certainly there is a zesty chemistry to their dynamic, and the interplay between Winslet and Peters is engaging and charming.
And those performances are a core part of what makes the show really shine – the characters feel well constructed and three-dimensional, and whilst Zabel had his moments this episode to show how vulnerable he really is, it’s Mare especially that is the stand-out here – somebody unable to comprehend their own grief and hurtling recklessly toward some form of resolution, which we can foresee won’t end well. One thing is for certain – she’s definitely well on her way to joining the pantheon of incredible women that hold up the best crime dramas we know and love.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
Mare of Easttown is currently showing on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic/Now TV in the UK