Fallout — Mare of Easttown Episode 6 Review

This review contains spoilers

We are at the point in Mare of Easttown when we can begin to take stock. The penultimate episode has aired, and we have the honor now of evaluating the choices made in the show for their benefits and their weaknesses with our powers of hindsight. Storylines continued to be culled in “Sore Must Be the Storm,” leading to what appears to be only a handful of outcomes for wrapping up the Erin McMenamin case. What we have to deal with now is the fallout from the bomb that her case dropped on Easttown.

The first part of the episode dealt with the ramifications of the confrontation with Wayne Potts. Mare visited Zabel’s mother and was dutifully slapped away. Richard visited Mare only to be kindly pushed out of her life, a deferral for an episode seven epilogue no doubt. The police chief has reinstated her, though it seems he was far more earnest about her recent raid than I thought he would be. I suppose if the perp is apprehended, it doesn’t matter how. Mare checks in with friends and relations in her life, as if these past few weeks have given her a better perspective on just how much her life had reached a dead end. “When did you start getting all philosophical about this?” Frank asks her, when it becomes clear that Mare is more comfortable giving Drew’s mother a chance. “Maybe,” she says, “I’m just getting old.”

While Mare’s change of heart allows her to pull people in, not everyone grows in the same way. In case you didn’t notice, there’s a lot of physical or emotional pushing in this episode. Deacon Mark Burton revealed that he shoved Erin’s bike off a bridge, and Brianna shoves Dylan clean out of her life by admitting to police that Dylan was not with her at the time of Erin’s murder. Mare’s therapist broaches the idea that Mare has continued to push away the prospect of properly grieving for her son Kevin. Siobhan literally tries to drunkenly shove her mother away, while slurring that she always hated her for, “making her go in first,” in effect being the first person to discover Kevin’s suicide. Siobhan got drunk that night, because earlier that day her partner gave her the cold shoulder, making clear that she felt less serious about the relationship than Siobhan did.

The pushing in this episode may be indicative of what the show decided to focus on, and what it felt like avoiding. The McMenamin case, though it seemed at first to be a centerpiece, is resolving now as a side hustle. The Potts connection was a bust, and so was Zabel seeing it through with Mare to the end. Whether John, or Bill, or both of the relations were involved in the killing, does it really make that big of a narrative difference? Compared to other mysteries, Erin’s presence is not felt in flashback or in deeper development at the beginning of the series, so it is not too surprising that I have a hard time recalling her face, let alone feel anything substantial about a family reunion that occurred off-camera. But what is painful to realize about the show, once we draw these sorts of conclusions, is we marvel at how much other stuff managed to get packed in as well. Compare this density to something like HBO’s The Investigation, the dramatization of a true crime in Denmark. The only side plot in that series is a soon-to-be grandfather who cannot pull away from a case. Otherwise, it is rigidly focused on the development of a strange murder. In Mare of Easttown, all kinds of sub plots surround the case, some more important than others. Katy Bailey’s rescue matters more for what it took away, namely Zabel and narrowing Erin’s case. And remember when Katy Bailey’s mother was scammed by Fred into handing over $5,000? Was that worth precious time? Fred’s overdose turns Mare back to key clues for Erin’s murder investigation, but perhaps we feel awful for our similar reaction to Beth, which is relief. Relief that another subplot is over. A creative writing class may excuse Fred’s arc, because it shows in the present what Mare dealt with when it came to Kevin in the past. But while Fred’s death parallels Kevin’s, I cannot for the life of me explain Siobhan’s relevance in this show: her prospects for college, her school project, and her relationship, feel like a post-pandemic dramedy more than anything attached to Mare, the case, and her poor parenting. Deacon Mark Burton was a wash, and Dylan, though he panic-threatens Jess with a handgun, seems more interested in his pride and power than he does worrying about doing time. If he did kill Erin, I’ll be surprised in all the wrong ways.

When Mare is told by her therapist that she relies on the grief of others to continue avoiding her own, we get a sense that it’s an indictment on the episodes of the show as well. Would rewatching the show make viewers more impressed by the density of content, or would they be exasperated by how much of an opportunity cost came from not making Kate Winslet more of a centerpiece than she already was? Because by the end of episode six, I have come to the conclusion that Mare is one of the best characters in recent television. On two recent occasions, with her loss for words before Zabel’s death in front of Wayne Potts, and her recounting of the day of Kevin’s suicide, I believed I was watching a hyperreal experience from Winslet, scenes so engrossing because these pretty much taught me in no uncertain terms, “This is how the human mind deals with outright terror and pain.” Kitchen sink writing of the kind in Mare of Easttown has the benefit of alleviating risk, but it drops the ball when something so golden is hidden behind too much content. Winslet’s Mare almost deserves a second season, which I personally fear. Like Big Little Lies before it, Mare only works in a cinematic sprint like the miniseries form.

As we come close to the finale, the miniseries has put us in a catch-22. More time has been given to Erin’s case, but we’re missing those crucial early moments that could have cemented the suspects in a context. Less time has been given to Mare, but Winslet’s performance begs to be indulged. I’m preparing for disappointment, but there is also too much to praise in the series to be disappointed for very long. But from the vantage point we have now, the phrase “too much” might be the whole problem.

Originally published at https://theroyleline.blog on May 25, 2021.

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Colton Royle

Colton tries to picture a world in which nobody trusted their System 1 thinking. He is currently working on trying to be a better listener.