Kate Winslet was reticent, morose and utterly mesmerising as Marianne “Mare” Sheehan, the detective carrying the weight, not just of her own family trauma, but of her entire town in Mare of Easttown. She had lost so much: her husband Frank and her son Kevin, who had recently killed himself. Y lo que es más, her grandson Drew could be taken away by his recovering addict mother. At one point Mare’s mum tells her: “That’s what I wish for you, Marianne – that you could forgive yourself for Kevin. It wasn’t your fault. Eso wasn’t your fault.” “Yeah,” replies Mare. “I’m going to use the bathroom.”
Mare was also investigating the murder of young mother Erin McMenamin and the kidnappings of two other possibly connected women. Everyone was in the frame: Erin’s violent dad, her ex-boyfriend, the dodgy deacon, the uncle, even Mare’s ex-husband. And so for two months of 2021, Mare-mania took hold. There was wild speculation over who killed Erin – and whether anyone would ever stump up the cash for her poor baby’s ear surgery. There were endless stories about this being arguably Winslet’s finest ever performance, plus her refusal to cover up her “bulgy belly” during sex scenes. There was the Saturday Night Live send-up, called Murdur Durdur, which nailed the Philadelphia accent just like Winslet did.
Mare of Easttown could easily have fallen into familiar tortured cop investigates dead teen territory. En lugar de, this was a whodunnit that blindsided the viewer from start to finish – and had so much more besides. It was thrilling: tense and edge-of-the-seat stuff, excellently paced with plenty of twists and cliffhangers. It was also very amusing: the usually sourpuss Mare in stitches at her mum Helen after a man blurted out at his wife’s funeral that he’d had an affair with her; Mare googling how the hell to look after a pet turtle for Drew when she should have been at work; Helen falling off her chair after one too many Manhattans with her cousin the priest.
sin embargo, it was the love pumped into the script – the depth and detail of every character arc and subplot – that set it apart. Writer Brad Ingelsby grew up in deepest Pennsylvania, and it shows in every second, from the cheese steaks to the small-town gossip channels. Even seemingly minor moments delivered some of the most horrifying TV scenes ever: when we feared Drew’s mum was going to let him die in the bath; when Mare undressed her wasted daughter Siobhan who wept “It should have been you”, referring to the day she got home first to discover her dead brother. By the end, as each character’s full tragedy was laid bare, it was a miracle anyone was still standing.
Not least Mare. The scenes with her therapist were devastating, as she finally revealed what happened the day she found Kevin’s body in their attic. En otro, Winslet saying almost nothing still made me weep: the therapist asks if she worries her grandson will turn out depressed, or mired in mental health diagnoses like her father and her son. “Oh god yeah,” she says quietly, communicating in just three words a fear of inherited trauma other shows would have needed pages of dialogue to convey.
Winslet has said that she wanted middle age to be laid bare in Mare, and she pulled it off. Millions of overburdened women everywhere felt seen. The fact that Mare was a high school basketball hero 25 years ago – Miss Lady Hawk herself! – is a perfect summation of how life grinds people down. One night over drinks with the puppyish detective Colin Zabel, ella dice: “I didn’t expect life around me to fall apart so spectacularly.”
This was a staggering, harrowing portrait of grief. En el final, Mare of Easttown showed the desperate lengths mothers will go to to protect their children from the hellish things the world can inflict – and the need for women to forgive themselves should the worst happen. In its extraordinary final moments, when Mare manages to climb up the ladder into the attic again, we see her finally allowing herself an inch of forgiveness – and possibly starting to heal.