New HBO show means I (almost) automatically will check it out, and the Mare of Easttown premiere did not disappoint! The premisce isn’t particularly original, but it’s well acted (how could it not be, with Kate Winslet as the lead, and a cast that also happens to include Julianne Nicholson, Evan Peters, and Pam from The Office‘s own ex-boyfriend: David Denman), well written, and the plot is intriguing enough that you’ll want more by the time the episode closes. Prestige drama indeed, and while I wait for Succession to (finally) come back, I’ll happily watch this kind of series. In fact, after watching it I kept having to remind myself that I’d have to wait a week before seeing more, instead of watching an episode daily as I usually do with season releases, and it left me wanting.
Easttown, much like our lead character, does not seem like a particularly friendly place where you’d want to move your family to after being burned out by the big city. In fact, it’s a bit of a wonder why any of these people stay, except lack of choice. Murder, worrying disappearances, drugs, violence, teenage pregnancies, you name it, Easttown has it.
Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is part of Easttown’s detective force, and man does she have a lot on her plate, both professionnally and personnally. Mare is not the most amiable or gracious person, and in fact seems irritated with pretty much everyone and everything, but deep down, it does still seem like she has a good heart. More or less anyway, I’m not sure what kind of deal you can make to absolve yourself from yelling at a woman whose daughter disappeared a year ago, and who has cancer, and yet Mare does. In her… I can’t make myself say “defense”, but anyway, she was drunk and we all know it makes people say stuff they think, but ultimately regret. For context: Mare was on the case but they never found the missing girl, and Mare believes they never will. The mother (Dawn), desperate, is still posting flyers with a ransom all around town and going on TV to share her plea in order to find her daughter Katie.
Understandably, Mare feels like Dawn is not so subtly pointing a finger at how the case was handled and its lack of closure as to what happened to her daughter. Regardless, Mare’s boss wants to reopen it, whether she wants it or not. And it’s not like Mare’s days are usually filled with kittens and flowers either, but it’s mostly low-level cases that aren’t exactly what detectives’ careers are made of. She apprehends a junkie who’s been stealing from his sister’s place, and who ends up in a shelter because not only is his house freezing, but his sister won’t take him in any more (unsurprising), and in fact the episode starts with her being woken up by someone who’s allegedly seen a prowler. The thing is, in Easttown everyone seems to know Mare, and they don’t hesitate to call her up anytime they need her. And she answers every time, there’s no “off” duty for her. Her team isn’t particularly helpful either, the officer who comes with her on calls can’t handle the sight of blood, which doesn’t seem like a great career plan). Mare’s sunny demeanour is not the reason everyone knows and calls her (shocking!), but Mare used to be a (small town) basketball star. Yeah, I wouldn’t have thought either based on who she’s become, but I’ve been rewatching One Tree Hill so it was a nice little connexion.
In fact, the town is actually celebrating the 25th anniversary of a legendary basketball game that Mare, or “Lady Hawk” helped win. On the same team are, well, a bunch of people we don’t know but along with Mare: Lori, Mare’s best friend (I’m assuming), and, as luck would have it… Dawn herself. On the other hand, Mare’s personal life seems just messy enough that maybe it’s not quite so surprising that she never succeeded in closing Katie Bailey’s case. In this instance, not only did Mare specifically ask her entire family not to come to the basketball celebration, and yet still acts annoyed (in a very huffy, guilt-inducing way) when they obey her demands and have made other plans. While I understand (because as an introvert, for example, I like to be asked to go out and will feel hurt if I’m not included, but I don’t necessarily actually want to go out), Mare needs a lesson in not being able to have it both ways. To add insult to injury, most of her family’s plans are with her ex-husband, Frank, who’s announcing his engagement to someone new, who is not Mare. At the bar after the celebration, Mare meets Richard (Guy Pearce, told you this cast was fire!), a writer who is doing a talk at the local university, about writing (she seems surprised, she wouldn’t if she’d seen catalogues of way more obscure college courses) and who (successfully) starts to flirt with her, leading to them sleeping together. Mare doesn’t seem to be fond of the idea that her ex-husband is getting remarried, but she isn’t jumping into relationships either, and insists this is a one time thing. The way she looks at Richard as she limps away (another consequence of her job), however, tells me we’ll be seeing him again.
Mare’s family dynamic actually seems pretty heavy, despite her carefree way with Richard. Her mom, Helen, has moved in with her; her daughter, Siobhan (hellooo Succession influence!) is going to private school with all her parents’ hopes and dreams for a better future, piled on her ; Mare’s grandson Drew seems to also be a full time fixture, and they’ve just been joined by a turtle, somewhat replacing a doomed lizard that knew better days before he was adopted by the Sheehan family. It’s not completely clear why Drew is in Mare’s custody, but there is a ghostly apparition of what her son at one point, but no clues as to what happened, or where Drew’s mom is. At first (way before seeing Mare’s son) I’ll admit I was worried he was Siobhan’s kid (since teenage pregnancy seems to be running rampant in Easttown), but since he calls her, well, ‘Siobhan’ and not mom, it thankfully wasn’t the case.
Elsewhere in town, we’re introduce to Erin, an actual teen mom with a viciously tempered father, and a vindictive little bully in the shape of her ex-boyfriend (and father of her son)’s new girlfriend: Brianna. Erin’s kid has medical issues that need to be fixed, but neither her father, nor the kid’s father: Dylan, seem inclined or able to do so. Dylan, by the way, is played by The Society‘s Jack Mulhern and while he’s somewhat more of a villain in this show, or at least in this episode, he’s not quite convincing and lets Brianna do most of the dirty work. Erin’s homelife seems pretty miserable, to be honest, but she has her best friend and this new guy she’s been texting: Brendan. Unfortunately, we find out at some kind of woods party that Brendan is actually Brianna catfishing Erin (Brianna may turn out to be the actual worst?!), and the meeting ends in Erin getting the living daylights kicked out of her. Siobhan, who must have left her dad’s engagement party, tries to help by stepping in but Erin pushes her away before leaving. One can only wonder what happened between Erin limping away from the scene, and when we see her naked, dead, body in the river a few hours later. Did Brianna snap and take her jealousy-fuelled brawl too far? Is this murder somehow linked to Katie’s? Easttown may have already had a not so stellar reputation, but one disappearance and one murder, both involving young women, are certainly not going to help its Yelp reviews.
All in all, a great set up so what I hope will be a great show, and which leaves us with many questions. Who killed Erin? What happened to Katie? Where is Mare’s son, Kevin? Would he be thrilled to learn his son’s turtle is named after him? Welcome to Easttown, bitch, and let’s go on this wild journey together. As usual, sound off in the comments!