You know you’re onto something when your show is mercilessly parodied by other people, which is what happened to Mare of Easttown this past week on Saturday Night Live. And whilst that satire was firmly centered more on the rather unique Pennsylvanian accent than the actual content of the show, it was another indication that this intriguing drama has definitely begun to capture the popular attention of mainstream audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
That popularity is well earned. The best crime dramas keep you guessing, and this show has been all about subverting your assumptions by continually taking a left turn on any theory you might have been carefully constructing.
And wow, did this episode give us yet ANOTHER – and much, much darker – left turn than before.
But before we got to that, the show did something interesting beforehand – it took it’s foot completely off the gas pedal. In the previous episode’s cliffhanger, we saw Deacon Mark offload Erin’s bike into the local river and Mare get her marching orders for trying to fit up Carrie. It was a lot to leave us with, but the show – once again – didn’t do what we expected. Instead, we got an even slower burn than previous episodes, with a complete detour into exploring the side stories of other characters as well as a heart-wrenching flashback that examined Mare’s relationship with her son Kevin.
It was a bold move, and it worked.
Mare of Easttown has had a lot of comparisons to other great crime shows thrown at it, most of which have been warranted – but it never felt more like The Killing than this episode, as it navigated some very intriguing second story-lines that felt like we were widening the scope of the narrative well beyond just Mare’s pursuit of Erin’s killer. Sure, we got plenty of that too (more on that later), but it was fascinating to see Dawn’s story evolve beyond just a side-sketch of a grieving mother.
Embattled from chemotherapy treatment and working a dead-end job, her story seemed desperate enough already even before she became a victim of blackmail over her daughter’s whereabouts. The fact the wild goose chase she went on was book-ended by the (largely predictable) reveal of her tormentor being local addict Freddie just made the whole escapade even more crushingly sad, for both parties. But it was part of a wider attempt by the show to explore the impact Erin’s death is creating on the town, and by doing so, expand the agency of the characters within it independent of the core investigation – something that The Killing excelled at.
Back to the case. The two big mic drops on the last episode were kind of a swing and a miss here, at least in terms of a resolution. With Mare suspended, Zabel pursues Deacon Mark on his past – and whilst a hushed-up case of sexual misconduct with a minor is certainly enough to have him firmly in the police crosshairs, it increasingly feels like he’s a misdirect we’re intentionally being led to follow whilst the show took another, disturbing twist.
Because out of nowhere, we’re introduced to a new character – Missy – who is assaulted and kidnapped by persons unknown that kind of looks like the Deacon, but I have to believe isn’t – at least based on this show’s track record for twists. This was a bit of a jaw-drop for me, because it shifted the momentum of the storyline well beyond a standard police procedural into something much more akin to a high stakes thriller.
And the show wasn’t done with us yet.
Missy’s disappearance is the key to getting Mare back into the saddle with some private sleuthing, but when she teams up again with Zabel it was my first gripe yet with the show – mainly because it negated the impact of her suspension the previous week. If it’s this easy to carry on unimpeded as if she’s still on the case, why have that story element in there? That aside, the duo’s investigation on Missy’s background leads to a crucial connection that both her and Katie were involved in prostitution to support their drug habits. The only missing link is Erin, but best friend Jess reveals she was also setting up to do something similar. So we have our connection, and we have our show’s villain now in plain sight (sort of). Things were definitely picking up pace.
But the biggest shock was yet to come.
Somewhere in an remote area (in an abandoned bar whose name is surely going to become key to the case), we see Missy forcibly dragged to a makeshift cell – where she is greeted by Katie Bailey, alive if not well. With this reveal, you felt the whole dynamic of the show shift substantially from a small-scale whodunnit to something much larger in scope – and with the two girls still in evident peril (and again, I’m desperately concerned for Siobhan even more now), it almost feels like we’re moving more into True Detective territory with what may be a final, crazy pursuit to justice of whoever is behind all this. Mare of Easttown continues to surprise at every turn, and it’s all the better for it.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW
Mare of Easttown is currently showing on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic/Now TV in the UK