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Mare of Easttown - Poor Sisyphus - Review

Is it too early to declare Mare of Easttown as one of, if not THE best show of 2021? Yes, I do realize we're only in May, but I'm having a hard time imagining what could top this aside from Succession's highly anticipated season 3. Then again, the beauty of the golden age of TV is that unexpected gems (remember Normal People last year) pop up more often than you'd think. Still, I haven't loved a show this much in quite a while, and the best part is that despite being a drama, it turns into a quasi-comedy at the most unexpected times. I'm not the kind of person who bursts out laughing even when I'm watching actual comedies, but somehow, Mare of Easttown succeeds in delicately dancing from one emotion to the next, even in the same scene.

If you remember correctly (and how dare you, if not), last week's episode closed on the Erin Mcnemanemeninamein McMenamin (still can't pronounce or write it to save my life) case swiftly being taken out of Mare's grabby little hands, following her stealth (not) attempt at planting drugs in would-be-mom Carrie's car. Not the best idea, Mare, and according to Helen it may even make the Mare Sheehan's Top 10 Worst Ideas Of Her Life (which I'd like to see in its entirety one day, by the way). At first, it seemed like Mare was slowly slipping down into jobless depression, not being able to get out of bed and wandering aimlessly around the house. Knowing Mare, it very well could've happened, and considering she's just about going through Every Single Thing she could with her personal and professional lives melding, no one would've blamed her. But in typical Mare fashion, after wallowing a little, and with Lori's help, she picked herself up and went in the opposite direction.

The little moment in the park with Lori was lovely, and undoubtedly necessary. Telling her best friend what had happened was the first step towards not letting the situation get her down, and probably easier than telling her family.
"I guess you could pretend you're going to work every day."
Still, it's not like she was going to pull a Girl on the Train, and Lori's quip about Mare pushing everyone away apparently more than hit home, because over the course of the episode, Mare proves that she's never been so social. She shares, she sees her friends and paramore(s), she's in touch with her emotions, it's kind of amazing to behold. Also, that little plaque dedicated to Mare's dad was a really nice touch (again), and thanks to it we also learn Mare's full name is actually Marianne! I'm not sure what I thought until this point, I'd just assumed 'Mare' was, along with the accent, part of the local decor, and a real name on its own. Still, you could tell this spot held a special place in Mare's heart and that of course she'd come here to regroup. Fresh off her talk with Lori, Mare convenes a "family meeting" and if you were baffled by the initiative, so were Helen and Siobhan, since never had a family meeting taken place in the Sheehan household. Still, it's progress, and even pushed Siobhan to announce she'd broken up with Becca. She conveniently left out (or, well, downright lied) the fact that she had met someone else, but hey, baby steps. No word from Helen on the ice-cream she's hiding in a frozen vegetable bag, but some secrets are not made for sharing.
Taking Mare's absence in stride, or at least pretending to especially after realizing who her replacement is, Zobel keeps working on the case solo. First of all, we learn that neither Dylan nor Frank are DJ's father, so who does that leave us with? Deacon Mark, at the very least, is high on the list of 1. potential fathers 2. murder suspects, especially since his transfer involved sexual misconduct with a 14 year old girl. Deacon Mark does not especially want to talk to Colin, nor Dan, Mare's cousin who's also a priest. There seems to be something... strange going on between those two, I'm guessing Dan knows something we don't based on that little conversation about him believing the Deacon. Or maybe it's nothing, and Dan's just a good egg who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.

DJ must have felt the "who's your daddy" vibes from afar, because the poor kid is screaming his little heart out and a dejected Dylan does not want to comfort him. Understandably, Dylan did not take too kindly to learning he wasn't DJ's biological dad and that Erin used him, but in the end DJ is still his child, DNA test or not, and he ends up picking up the baby anyway. According to Jess, Erin always liked and trusted Dylan's parents (who do seem to be taking really good care of the kid and are clearly attached to him), so her lying about the paternity makes me think whoever the real father is, isn't nearly as kind as Dylan and his folks.
There really is something in the Easttown water, because guesss who else is a teen mom? Katie Bailey, if the little girl Dawn is taking care of is any indication. Seriously, does anyone aside from Siobhan not have a baby as well as fifth period chem lab in this town?! If this quip is nonsensical, please be kind, I'm not American and still can't fathom how apparently you can dump some classes before the end of high school.

Aside from being part of the Very Young Grandmothers club, Dawn is also on the receiving end of a ransom demand, in exchange for Katie's whereabouts. This looks like a scam from miles away, but when your only child has been missing for over a year, any chance of additional information is key, and Dawn understandably responds. In the meantime, we also learn Freddy is living with Beth again, because despite everything she can't handle him overdosing in some random street. Unfortunately, it's soon brought to light that he's the one blackmailing Dawn for money to buy drugs, which is something she chooses to spare Beth from knowing. Dawn is just... such a sweet person, who doesn't deserve any of this. She's also, bless her soul, worried about causing Mare's meltdown (at least this is what the town has been told about her being off the case).
In reality, Mare isn't so meltdown-y as she dynamically springs into her new therapist's office, warning her not to expect any miracles because Mare had already been through this several times. As in, Mare didn't want the therapist to get her hopes up about curing her, she didn't want the therapist's tiny little feelings to get hurt! Which is so painfully Mare, and so inherently hilarious, that you just go with it.
"I've done this before. Therapy. Me and my husband, we saw this marriage counselor."
"Mm-hmm. What was that experience like?"
"We're divorced."
"Oh."
As Mare puts it, let the healing begin! This starts with meeting up with Richard, who asks her if anyone ever takes care of her, and subsequently offers to take her out for his birthday, the following Saturday. Yeah, his birthday. Richard's a nice guy, and it feels good to see Mare happy and engaging in a relationship. Remember the first episode, when she barely wanted a one night stand! She has also apparently agreed to let Carrie take Drew for the night, and Carrie does really seem to be trying to get her life together and provide for Drew. Everything is going great, in fact, until she appears on Mare's doorstep, because Drew couldn't sleep without Kevin. Turtle Kevin, that is. She blames Mare for the drug planting but can't prove it, and is understandably distraught about Drew's homesickness bout. So distraught, in fact, that I do have some concerns about what she'll do after dropping Drew off.
Mare isn't giving up on the case either, scrolling through Erin's instagram and watching videos of Erin berating herself for not being a good enough mom despite her best efforts. This makes Mare think back to Human Kevin, who in the worst of his drug addiction was, let's just say, not the kindest son. The screaming match between him and a prostrate Mare about him stealing her money for drugs, is worryingly violent, and it hurts to see how scared Mare was at the time. On a purely superficial note, I'd been wondering about her blonde hair and dark roots, and now we know the blonde hair dates from that period, and she's probably growing it out. Either because she doesn't want to make the effort, but probably more because she wants to put that time behind her.

What we do learn, is that there's now a second missing girl: Missy. We even see her in a van with what I'm assuming is a man, until he attacks her and her family is on TV, begging for information about her disappearance. This gives Mare the perfect excuse to drop by Colin's place, which is actually his mom's place (and now I'm wondering how Mare knew he was there), so they can work together on finding the links between the three girls. I can't believe I almost forgot one of the funniest moments in the episode (and the show), but Colin introducing Mare to his mom was worth its price in gold.
"Mom, this is my Mare... my partner, Mare."
At this point, between this and the "Good night Mare!" thing from a few episodes ago, I'm convinced the use of Mare instead of Marianne is purely for jokes. Anyway, aside from being visibly flustered by his crush showing up on his doorstep, Colin doesn't even question Mare still trying to solve the case, and in fact just quietly asks if he'll ever know the true story behind her "leave". She declines, but doesn't rebuff him, she just doesn't want to share this information in front of his nosy mother.
While Colin and Hauser admit there's probably a link between Katie and Missy: both of them were in the drugs and prostitution rink, they don't believe Erin should be included. Which is when Mare shows her home advantage, and gets more information from Jess. Sidenote but, how much information is Jess going to withhold? The Frank bomb, now the revelation that Erin was, in fact, using Sidedoor to make money from meeting up with men, and then that look at the window when she was watching Mare and Colin leave.
"I understand you wanna protect your friend. It's admirable. But Erin's gone, sweetie. So the only person you're helping by keeping silent is the person who killed her. Same person who might have killed two more girls."
As Mare points out, lives are at stake here and I do hope that if Jess has anything else to say that can help, she will turn to Mare and not wait to be asked. Mare then pretends to have forgotten her phone in the appartment, going back to see Jess without Zobel... Did she think Jess wasn't keen on sharing anything else because Zobel was there? Because he isn't from Easttown? But why would Mare lie about the phone, she could've just explained that in this town, people are more likely to talk to people they know. Or maybe because Mare was planning on going to the McNenamin place herself, alone, and didn't want to implicate in Zobel in visiting it without a warrant. I'm pretty sure Zobel could've gotten a warrant though so it's anyone's guess. In any case, Mare only finds cards from Erin's mom, and after a little more digging, a necklace with a date on it. May 29, 2017.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what year it actually is on Mare of Easttown (it's gloriously free from the pandemic), but if we assume it's also taking place in 2021, what seems like a birth date would be approximately fours year oldhave taken place four years ago. I don't know what to make of this since the only person who is four years old is Drew, and I can't try and link this to Erin. DJ's what... a year old? Kevin died two years ago so it seems unlikely he'd be the father, but in Easttown, you never know. Of course, it doesn't have to be a birthday, it could also be the anniversary of something too.
Back in the car, Colin, who's sober this time, finally acts on his crush on Mare and invites her to dinner at one of his friends' new restaurant, that he wants to try out.
"Are you asking me on a date, Zobel?"
"I'm only asking if the answer's yes."
Call me delicate, but this moment was so cute, and so sweet, yet the look on Mare's face, half snarky and half flattered, was so hilarious... More please! And again, just like at the bar when Zobel was drunkenly suggesting he'd like to spend more time with her, she doesn't say no, even though theoretically she's going out with Richard on that very same Saturday night. In fact, we have no idea who what she's going to choose, since when she asks Helen to babysit Drew because she has a date, she specifies that she "doesn't know yet" if it's with Richard, with a little wink and a saunter in her step! PLEASE PICK ZOBEL, PLEASEEEEEEE MARE.
After lying to her mom and grandmother, Siobhan is clearly dating Anne, and by the sounds of their conversation, has been on a few dates already aside from the concert. Siobhan's documentary isn't exactly developping as she'd like, and Anne seems to know all about it already.
"How did you all get through that?"
"We didn't. We fell apart."
Anne also wonders if this is why Siobhan wants to stay in the area for college (which I hadn't realized, but in the first episode she and Mare fought about where Siobhan was going to college, so I guess that's what this is about) for fear everything will fall apart again without her. It's a surprisingly sweet moment, and it must be refreshing for Siobhan to be with someone like Anne, rather than Becca. Still, she moved on awfully fast, and a tearful Becca who evidently is not in on this new relationship, drags herself to the Sheehan residence to talk to Siobhan in hopes of a reconciliation that's never going to happen. This leads to the worst moment of the episode: Becca hearing Siobhan and Anne hooking up in the basement where she's waiting for Siobhan, and screeching like a banshee, banging the door into an unsuspecting Helen who falls to the ground, concussed. I'll admit, the physical comedy of Jean Smart running smack into an opening door did make me laugh, but I felt terrible because she did look shaken afterwards. It's just that this show doles out the comedy so unexpectedly, yet so expertly, that it takes be my (a delighted) surprise every single time. You know who else wasn't impressed by Helen's injury? Mare, who came running as soon as Siobhan alerted her to the accident, expecting probably much worse and finding...
"Is that it?"
"Is that it?!"
"Well, just... Sorry, no. Just the way Siobhan sounded on the phone, I assumed it'd be a lot worse."
"Well, I'm sorry I'm not more maimed for you."
"She's got a papercut on her forehead."
"Mam, she was disoriented and didn't know what year it was."
"Well. Nothing new there."
If I haven't mentioned yet how excellent Jean Smart is on this show (and in general), then I apologize because her line deliveries and expressions are pure delight each and every time. The hate/love relationship she and Mare share feels so genuine, you're both in stitches when they argue, but in tears when they show that they need each other. Case in point, Helen wanting Mare in the ambulance with her. Anyway, what a fantastic way to meet the family for Anne, who just stood there with Drew's little hand in hers, as the Sheehan family set off for the hospital. Finally, the episode closes with the biggest cliffhanger since Frank almost turned out to be DJ's father, but times a hundred: KATIE IS ALIVE. And so is Missy, for that matter. Both of them are stuck in some kind of windowless room, and Katie has been there for the entire year of her disappearance. This, I was not expecting. It also makes me wonder what happened with Erin, who, well... did die. It doesn't seem like this kidnapper's MO, so is her case really linked to theirs? And if so, what went wrong? The season is already more than halfway done, and I'm already dreading not having my weekly dose of Mare, so here's to hoping the last three episodes are just as good as what we've seen so far! As usual, sound off in the comments.

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