It’s fair to say that Mare of Easttown has been one of the bigger TV hits of the year so far, and whilst it’s tale of a small-town murder uncovering dark secrets isn’t particularly original, the story is enthralling all the same. That’s largely in part to the stellar performances throughout the cast, as well as the showrunners rather refreshing glee in upending a lot of the tropes this kind of drama relies on. But with only a few episodes left on the slate, it felt like there is a need to bring this story to a conclusion – and this week we got a little way toward that, with explosive results.
A neat opening conceit involving a town-wide blackout allows us to catch up with a lot of the characters away from the shocking revelations that closed out the last episode. In some ways, this episode followed a similar pattern, spending a considerable amount of time slowly navigating the minutiae of it’s second story characters before bringing us back full circle to the case with a wallop. Whereas Dawn was the focus previously, Lori took centre stage this week as she uncovered her husband’s affair – and whilst that was initially set up as a casual misdirect toward John’s intentions which was done and dusted by the episode’s end, it also helped formulate some suspicions around his brother Billy whose interactions with Erin seemed to be more involved than he’d previously stated.
And it wasn’t just Billy who was acting oddly. Freshly released from the hospital, Dylan was equally shifty when challenged by girlfriend Brianna about his whereabouts the night of Erin’s murder – and if that felt like a callback to the first few episodes where everybody was a suspect, it was with good reason – because, even though we thought we had our villain all set up last week, we were wrong – and the show was once again taking a sharp left turn and dragging us along for the ride.
A ride that got brutal, and fast.
Any eagle-eyed viewers who had seen the show’s pre-release trailer would have been worried for Zabel’s safety since his first appearance, and as the episode began to double down on some (rather clunky) prophetic statements from the young detective about achieving greatness and ‘not playing it safe’, it couldn’t have been more obvious he was a dead man walking unless he’d started claiming he was a day away from retirement and had bought a boat named Live4Ever. His fate was widely telegraphed way before it materialised, but perhaps the bigger shock than his demise was how willing the show was to wrap the narrative arc they’d only just developed an episode ago.
Following some fairly speedy exposition centered around a former prostitute Mare knew, we helpfully got a partial plate and even a cigarette brand to tie to the perp keeping Katie and Missy hostage. And after a brief procedural montage chasing down potential suspects, the scene was set when they entered the kidnapper’s home for what culminated in an admittedly tense stand-off. Your mileage may vary on how you felt about the way Zabel was dispatched in such a perfunctory manner, but it was definitely in keeping with Mare’s previous speech about aspiring to greatness versus the numbing reality of their profession. No heroes here.
So long Zabel, we hardly knew you.
With that story wrapped up, where does that leave the original case? It’s clearer than ever that Erin’s murder wasn’t linked to the other girls’ disappearance, which returns our focus to the town’s inhabitants themselves. Deacon Mark further removed himself from the line-up this week when he explained to Father Dan that he had seen Erin the night she died, but only to drop her off in another park. It felt like his tussle with the local pizzeria’s teen justice squad was the punctuation mark on his involvement in the case, and that Jess’s purloining of Erin’s diary scraps will exonerate him for the sake of plot convenience going forward.
But with two episodes to go, there’s still a lot of players on the board – which is a testament to how much of a labyrinth the show has made it’s narrative. It equally feels like we’ve had our action-packed ending already, and the actual conclusion to who the murderer is will be a lot more downbeat (well, more so then being shot in the face) – and crucially, closer to home. Which brings up another question. Mare of Easttown continues to impress, but can it stick the landing?
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE FOUR REVIEW
Mare of Easttown is currently showing on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic/Now TV in the UK