HBO: Mare of Easttown (2021)

This is the third good show we have seen this year. It is early in the year, but I am willing to bet this gets nominated for all the big ones come next year’s Emmy Awards. Yes, it is that good.

Kate Winslet is Mare, the namesake of the title and she is a detective in a small town in Pennsylvania. The town is so small that everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows Mare. When there’s trouble, the folks don’t call the police; they call Mare. Mare’s number is probably on the speed dial of everyone’s phone. This is also a town that is eating itself from the inside. The Great American Dream has forsaken them with everybody living unhappy, unfulfilled and dissatisfied lives. Vitriol is the high card and the town is one murder away from apocalypse.

Winslet is phenomenal, anchoring the show in a superbly lived-in performance. Her disdain is clear, but her vulnerability is also crystal. Her portrayal of a world weary detective will draw you in even if it’s a character you have seen before. In Mare, you will see scores of titular protagonists who are scarred by one momentous moment. They will feel the weight of guilt; they will retreat behind a seemingly impenetrable wall; they will put themselves behind their job, whether it’s a superhero or a crusader of justice, injustice and evil won’t stand a chance against them. But kudos to Winslet and the storyteller for making a character so authentic and indubitable that you will fall in behind her.

The beauty of the series isn’t that it’s something you have never seen before. There’s something utterly familiar about everything. No, what’s beautiful is how the creators draw a phalanx of characters that are all tied together in subtle ways. So when a body is discovered at the end of the first episode, it sends a rippling effect to everybody. Everybody shines in their given moment. They are not drawn like the typical cheap red herrings in procedurals; they are drawn like real human beings. The writers have so much love for all the characters, something I seldom experience in many series. A case in point would be Mare’s love interest, Richard Ryan, played marvellously by Guy Pearce. This is practically screenwriting 101 – give the hard-as-nails Mare a love interest to soften her. But Pearce played the role with just the right amount of smart-ass and charm, making the character so memorable.

It sounds like high melodrama, but it never once tips into that. The detective work is intelligent and my mind is constantly working the angles. And I never thought I can say this, but this is actually quite hilarious at times.

There are a couple of action scenes, but they are not shot like big spectacles with choreographed action sequences timed to heightened music cues. Mare looks clumsy as she evades the killer or tries to stop a death fight, which is another feather in the cap for this excellent series – its authenticity.

This is all about the F words – family, friendship and forgiveness. The climax was surprisingly low-keyed but the storyteller dropped one more bomb later. All the pieces fit. This one has pathos up the Ying-Yang. The falling action was heart-wrenchingly gorgeous like it was the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Halfway through the last episode, I turned to my wife and told her what would be the final scene if I were the storyteller. I was absolutely spot-on. I may be right but it is no less moving and transcending. My heart went out to Mare in that final scene and I said a silent prayer for her.

This one shows us laundry baskets of dirty linens that are long past their wash-by dates and it also shows us the goodness of human beings when it comes to the crunch. Mare of Easttown is a perfect display of human frailty and strength. It’s funny, sad, wistful and even hopeful.

Do I want to see a S2? Absolutely, without a doubt, but not if it’s a lesser story because this one set the bar almost at the pinnacle of great storytelling. I would hate for this to go down the road of True Detective and Big Little Lies which went downhill to a sorry state of affair after a stellar first season.

Come for Kate Winslet, but stay for all the brilliant character studies.

4.5 / 5

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Yes this is good! Kate is in top form!