HBO’s latest crime thriller hooks you from the minute you first lay your eyes on Kate Winslet and never lets go. She is a tour de force in the lead role and demonstrates why she is one of the best actresses working. Though it’s a mystery we have seen many times before, Mare of Easttown separates itself from the pack with sensational writing by giving us unique, memorable characters and overarching themes that hit almost too close to home.

The dark side of living in a small town is put on full display in this series. Mare of Easttown follows detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) investigating a local murder, while trying to keep her life from falling apart. 

Not your Hallmark small town

For those of you not familiar with the Hallmark movie formula, their films typically showcase small-town living seeming like something out of a fairytale. Well, Mare of Easttown is the polar opposite thanks to the cast of characters we spend time with throughout the limited series. These images alone make small towns as appealing as a hernia. However, despite all of that, I appreciated the look of the series because it felt more grounded in reality. The mood is best represented by any song that brings out tears of sorrow and pain, since happiness is nowhere to be found. Murder immediately reveals the ugly side of even the prettiest places and the constant grim tone gave me chills and aided in the realism the series was aiming for.

Building a Mystery 

Mare of Easttown maintains a purposefully vague as the mystery surrounding the murder of a local unfrolds. It begs for you to pay attention and makes you take a personal inventory of every character you meet, no matter how small. After every episode, I always had a different opinion and I was truly shocked by certain events and revelations that occurred. So, thankfully, the element of surprise remains present and the decisions that characters make during the show felt both natural and unnatural. Characters’ motivations are roughly defined and because of that, you aren’t shocked by their behaviour. 

Without giving anything away, the conclusion to this series isn’t something that you couldn’t have guessed from the very beginning. There have been times where a TV show has an ending that appears to come out of nowhere, which makes it feel less believable as a result. Mare of Easttown earned the ending it has and it doesn’t apologize for it. Sure, there will be elements that make your skin crawl and question your values. But, overall, I appreciated the way it gives clues throughout its 7 episode run and trusts its viewers intelligence and rewards their attention by allowing them to piece the puzzle together, attempting to solve the mystery. 

The saddest bunch of people you will ever meet

Mare of Easttown isn’t for the faint of heart, considering that everyone possesses some grotesquely unlikeable qualities about them. However, every now and again, they redeem themselves and I personally liked this approach to the structure of every character we meet. The reason being that everyone felt real and lived in, as opposed to cookie cutter perfect, which isn’t necessarily bad. But, when your tone is realistic, favouring our flaws always feels more authentic. The backstories of our characters presented us with uncomfortable truths that we have certainly experienced sometime in our lives and rather than gloss over them, Mare of Easttown takes the time to properly play out each theme. Sure, this will make you feel uncomfortable, but whenever we feel this way, it gives us the chance to have some personal growth and understanding of certain aspects of life that many people prefer to avoid. 

This results in Kate Winslet truly losing herself in the role and reminding you why she is one of the best actresses out there. Another standout is Jean Smart, who plays Mare’s mother. Her performance is flawless and certainly deserves award recognition. Every time she’s on screen, you can’t look away because this legendary actress will have you laughing, crying and mesmerized thanks to her character’s honest, bittersweet natured self. Thankfully, the rest of the cast lives up to the strength of the writing and pulls off some excellent acting as well. 

While this show scared me straight about moving to a small town, I was thoroughly entertained by the 7 episodes of this limited series. Mare of Easttown achieves the impossible of standing out amongst many other murder mysteries available to us. It does this by taking its time to explore the devastating effects of trauma, while revealing our darkest sides that are rooted in all of us. The engaging stories of our phenomenally acted cast of characters will stay with you long after the credits roll.


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