Mare of Easttown
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
A detective from Pennsylvania tries her best to prevent her life from falling apart while investigating a mysterious murder.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Addiction is a terrible plague that has ravished more than one community, targeting almost anyone of any age. Its effects are felt by those caught in its grip and their loved ones and communities who feel helpless in its wake of destruction.
That's the setting of Mare of Easttown - an original limited series from writer Brad Ingelsby (Our Friend, The Way Back), who wrote the show based on the lived realities of his hometown in Pennsylvania. A masterful crime drama that keeps you hooked from beginning to end, it is far more than just your average murder whodunnit. It's a portrait of a family and community barely holding it together, dealing the best they can with never-ending trauma and the hardships associated with drug abuse. Throw in the murder of a young teenage mom with many secrets to keep and a missing troubled girl with a tenacious mother, and the cracks of the community start to burst wide open.
All this heartache and suspense is centred around one detective - Mare, played by the incomparable Kate Winslet. Once the community's hero, she struggles not only with the expectations (or lack thereof) of everyone around her but also refuses to deal with the death of her drug-addled son, leaving a grandson that she adores behind. While a broken woman, she refuses to let it define her, but in that process leaves little room for healing - not only for herself but for her shattered family. Winslet has a specific type of role that she's always drawn to - bold women who use their pain as a weapon - and Mare is exactly that. You can tell it was not an easy role either, having to learn a difficult Philly accent without it becoming gimmicky and tapping into a well of deeply buried emotions as the story takes you on a rollercoaster journey.
Outside of Winslet's intensely personal performance, Mare of Easttown is a testament to brilliant TV writing, taking a well-worn murder mystery formula and moulding it into something fresh and unexpected. It has many characters, each living out their own stories, which could have easily encumbered the main plot, but Ingelsby has a deft hand at integrating these many strands into a coherent force of storytelling. Even before the central murder takes place, the audience is allowed to connect with the victim and become as invested as Mare in solving the case. No character is a side character, and Ingelsby took great care and time in crafting out their roles in the community.
But beyond the crime, the story tackles difficult topics around addiction - from families torn apart to attempts to rehabilitate to even suicide. They also aren't faceless addicts that are nothing more than their addiction - the series is empathetic to their struggles and the difficulty of breaking out of that cycle. The story's main focus remains the murder and missing girl, but the audience cannot ignore this backdrop that's all too real for many communities worldwide.
Mare of Easttown is a brilliant story where you really can't predict who the killer is and keeps you guessing right up until the end. I am incredibly glad it's a limited HBO series - available on Showmax - because Mare's character development could not have been stretched out into another season. Winslet and Ingelsby - and the rest of the superb cast - delivered an exceptional production, and one with many gut punches that will leave their impact with you for a while.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: