HBO’s Mare of Easttown: Series Premiere Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
The newest series from HBO and director Craig Zobel, Mare of Easttown, sets up its small-town Pennsylvania setting and the relationships surrounding two women on the opposite ends of a soon to be big time case.
The premiere brings us into the chilling atmosphere of Easttown, Pennsylvania as the one-year anniversary of a young girl’s disappearance continues to rock the town and its lead detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet). Zobel does a great job establishing the feel of a small town with how everyone knows everyone, and secrets rarely stay that way for long. There’re no formal titles as Mare just refers to everyone by their first name and everyone just calls her Mare instead of detective or something like that. Some people even just call her or ask for her personally rather than just call the police and it speaks to the notoriety that Mare has. As a whole Mare’s small-town persona in Easttown is interesting as she’s seen as sort of a town hero for being a part of major sports win when she was in high school. She’s even been donned the name “Lady Hawk” by some and it’s really interesting how her story unfolds in this premiere and how she views her legacy.
Winslet is obviously endlessly captivating with her performance, but series writer Brad Ingelsby’s strong character writing for Mare really comes through and we really get to know her flaws and struggles well. Mare deals with a lot of unspoken grief about her becoming more and more detached from her family as her husband Frank (David Denman) is officially engaged to another woman, her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) has slowly distanced herself from Mare, and she still struggles with the death of her son as she tries to act as a mother to his orphaned son Drew (Izzy King). Even the weight of just being trapped in this small town are an apparent factor in her cynical and tired attitude. Worst of all is that she’s still on the hook for a missing person’s case she hasn’t been able to solve, and it’s created some tension within the town.
To be honest, there’re a lot of relationships built within this premiere and a little too many characters introduced. Even for its small-town setting, there’re a lot of names and relationships that come in and out the premiere that can be tough to keep track of or figure out if they’re really important or not. Aside from Mare’s rough familial relationships, she also has to deal with a blood-fearing new officer named Trammel (Justin Hurtt-Dunkley) and meets a town newcomer named Richard (Guy Pearce) who’s sudden appearance can’t just be coincidence. The tensest relationship Mare has though is with Dawn (Enid Graham), the mother of the missing girl she can’t find, as she tries to explain her efforts to her at a ceremony celebrating their big win back in high school. Although she says she’s done a lot for the case and I’m sure she has, Mare comes off like it’s a lost cause so it’s understandable that Dawn is so cold to her and that someone new is coming on the case to get a “fresh pair of eyes.”
The premiere also delves into the life of a young teen mom in Easttown named Erin (Cailee Spaeny) who is equally struggling to keep her life together. Whether it’s facing the wrath of her father, her unhelpful baby daddy Dylan (Jack Mulhern), or his toxic girlfriend Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing), Erin’s only solitude is in her son DJ. Spaeny makes Erin instantly easy to care for as she is just trying to make the best of the rough hand she’s been dealt and a few mistakes she’s made. She still struggles to return to a normal teenage life now that she’s a mom but is hoping that a new relationship with a boy she’s been texting could put her back on track for normalcy. However, her hopes are completely dashed as it’s been Briana posing as this boy and she proceeds to beat the hell out her until Siobhan surprisingly shows up to stop them. It’s an interesting moment since it’s the one time where we see these two stories collide and it leads to a true tragedy as we see that Erin has been killed and ditched in a river giving Mare a new case to solve and a new tragedy to rock the town once more.
Mare of Easttown kicks off a very captivating note with Winslet’s great performance keeping you hooked on Mare’s great personal story while the premiere builds up the tragic murder that will be driving the rest of the season. It definitely has its kinks to work out with its overload of characters and relationships but could easily pull them together as its weaves together its central murder-mystery.