Easttown's NightMare

Brad Ingelsby’s Mare of Easttown is marked as a highly bingeable crime drama with a sense of poetic grimness to it. Set in a suburban town near Pennsylvania, Mare, a star detective, is assigned to investigate the murder of a teenaged mother. In the light of a previously unsolved investigation involving a young girl who goes missing, there are questions on Mare’s capabilities.

In addition to her professional life crumbling, Mare is supposed to deal with a clusterfuck of a personal life. She finds herself coming to terms with an irate mother (Jean Smart) who lives in her house, an ex-husband (David Denman) who has inherited a small corner of her backyard with his new fiancé, and a grandkid who prefers the company of Mare and her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) to his own mother (spoiler: she nearly drowns him and idk why would people have kids if they can’t do motherly things?).

Mare, in short, is just as fucked in life, as people were when they found themselves asking for resources on Twitter in the absence of their elected representatives providing for help.

Mare is no saint, for she is partly responsible for her grief— she has little to no outlet of release other than an occasional drink and a sandwich to-go. Essentially, Mare reminds the viewer of 28-year-old hot dudes with strong jawlines who will drink beer to cope with their internalized trauma (I’m beginning to think this is a trait most hot people share).

This coping mechanism (of drinking) is contrasted with her reputation in the ‘town, as the residents watch the descent to hell— a former basketball hero turn to a cop with a lackadaisical attitude and finally to a mother who couldn’t fully cope with her drug-addled son’s suicide; all to crumble.

Of course, unlike in writing, all of this is revealed over the course of 7 episodes, a miniseries if you must.

In that sense, Mare of Easttown plays out itself like a well-arranged Summer Charcuterie Platter— complete with meat, cheese, fruit, and nuts, all too appetizing for a Summer evening with wine. Much like the Charcuterie Platter, the show includes tiny elements, which make it worth a watch— a well-meaning old couple who want to report the anomalies around town, lurking pedophiles, local parish politics, an overly friendly good cop (no spoiler- played by Evan Peters), incestuous family members, secrets with a large serving of grief— and our queen Mare, all in the center of it.

With almost everyone giving a special mention to Kate Winslet’s acting chops as Mare and the screenplay writers for the finely layered writing and character development, both Easttown as well as Mare, emerge to grow into the audience’s expectation— revealing a rare form of tenderness that is beneath all the hardened realities of their intertwined lives.

Yet, I feel, we missed a crucial point of discussion somewhere.

Erin, one of the (many) teenaged mothers, looks at her toddler with puppy dog eyes and does a monologue on the relationship between a mother and a child. You know, in your heart, something terrible is going to happen to her, for there is no other reason a showrunner will waste their time in dealing with sentimentality.

By the end of the episode, terrible shit does take place, and everyone moves to the next episode except some of us pause and reflect on—the relationship between the parent and the child and the connections we forge and the people we foster those connections with which have the same effect.
Most characters in the show are negotiating their relationship with the respective child/parent. Whether it’s Mare with her daughter or Mare with her mother, Dawn (Enid Graham) with Katie (Caitlin Houlahan), or even Lori (Julianne Nicholson) and Ryan (Cameron Mann), each one out there is fiercely guarding their child and protecting their relationship through thick and thin. No matter how terrible the circumstances for each one, the relationship is nurtured in the background. However, in the foreground, the nuance on the mother and child is amped up through arcs and character development. This adds to the tenderness of experiencing Mare of Easttown, not as a show about whodunit, but more about human relationships and how fucked up they truly can be. Mare of Easttown gives a view on the nature of the mother and child relationship and the unique versions of the limitless love it offers to those in this relationship.  

No write-up on the show can be summed without talking about Guy Pearce and his character (Richard Ryan) as well as his performance as Mare’s suitor aka hot hookup from the bar who is also an authority on Creative Writing at a college (fuck me). I mean, why don’t I find men like that at a bar (or heck, even on Tinder) is beyond me. There’s this whole scene involving Winslet and Pearce having sex and if that doesn’t fill your heart with joy, you should really call your therapist and ask them to diagnose what is wrong with you.

There’s basically no reason why you shouldn’t spend a day or two in entirety with Mare on HBO. Not unless you have some deep-rooted trauma that takes you back to question if your parents ever truly loved you. Even then, this is a good Summer watch. If for nothing else, watch out for the powerful scene when Mare meets a creative writing sort at the bar and gives him a chance. It’ll make you curse your celibate life.

The series is available for streaming on Disney+Hotstar in India.

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Anisha Saigal

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Pop-culture omnivore. Survived publishing, academia, film school. Struggling with the pandemic.