Mare Of Easttown(HBO, 7 Episodes)
Starring Kate Winslet, Jean Smart, Guy Pearce, Julianne Nicholson, Angourie Rice, David Denman, Evan Peters, Sosie Bacon, and John Douglas Thompson
Directed by Craig Zobel
At around mid-point, or maybe less,a very important character of this gloriously articulate murder-mystery series was suddenly shot dead. My WTF anger and dismay at this turn of events was so palpable I could have broken my television screen and walked off with a scream.
Mare Of Easttown is that rare series which sucks you so deep into the life of the characters you feel their conduct is your responsibility. At one point in the storytelling a young father walks towards his infant baby’s cradle. He has lately gotten to know that he is not the baby’s biological father. As the young man trundled to the cradle I held my breath. What was he going to do?When he picks up the baby and cradles it , I heaved a sigh so loud my neighbours must have woken up.
The young man with genetic issues is played by a little-known actor named Jack Mulhern, who is the conflicted father of Erin’s baby. Erin, played by Cailee Spaeny, is murdered in the first episode . Another girl is already missing for year when the series opens. It’s all a bit of a mess that is simmering right under the tranquil surface of Easttown.
Director Craig Zobel and his writer Brad Inglesby keep a tight leash on the proceedings,loosening their group somewhat to let in the vibration of rumours and scandals that smalltown folks often indulge in when boredom strikes(which is quite often). Some of these ….shall we call them titillating transgressions… are monstrously funny, though we are hardly given a chance to stop and giggle.
Strangely the two most amusing moments in the 7-hour spree of excellence both have to do with a minor character, a senior citizen Glenn Carroll(played by Patrick McDade). In the second episode, his wife Betty calls our detective heroine Mare to investigate a pervert’s misdemeanor. The perv has painted a breast on the wall outside the Carrolls’ home and captioned it ‘Betty’s Breast’. Husband pacifies her, ‘Why are you upset ? It(the breast sketch) doesn’t even look like yours.’
Later, much later, when Betty dies(the actress Phyllis Somerville who played Betty actually passed away) the husband makes a big announcement after the funeral confessing he had an affair with Mare’s zany mom Helen(Jean Smart, brilliant brilliant!).
Mare dies laughing on hearing this confession of her mother’s little adventure. So do we. This is a series where the minor characters are major assets. Every person I met in the series is a living entity in my mind. None more so than Mare…the film’s towering protagonist with a permanent limp and an indelible scowl. Mare never smiles, and it’s not because there are young girls missing or murdered. Her backstory is a litany of concurrent tragedies piled on one after another including a son who killed himself. And now Mare is fighting a bitter battle with her grandson’s biological mother for custody.
Mare also has a daughter(Angourie Rice) who is lesbian. But I don’t think the daughter’s sexual preference figures in Mare’s list of problems. I don’t think I saw Mare smile even once except when her detective partner Colin(Evan Peters)asks her out for a date. Another prospective date(GuyPearce)asks Mare if anyone has ever done anything for her.Mare looks a little surprised by the question, as if she never thought about it.
Kate Winslet’s Mare is no mere creation by chance. A lot of thought has gone into playing the character. This is a performance that will be discussed at acting schools for generations to come.
Evan Peters, by the way, is so wonderful as Mare’s sleeping partner(no pun intended) that I really wanted Mare to be kinder to him. But then she is not even kind to herself. Of course Kate Winslet makes this series the milestone that it is. But others have also contributed in equal measures in giving it the tone and texture of a relentlessly absorbing murder mystery where the blood never spills over and tears never get a chance to dry.