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Mare of Easttown - Sacrament - Review

4 Jun 2021

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Despite its premise and the weekly cliffhangers (and the reddit thread rabbit holes about who did what and why), this show was never really about who killed Erin or kidnapped those girls, it wasn't even about the myriad of terrible, awful fathers (illegitimate or otherwise). Ultimately, it was about mothers and how far they will go to protect their children, and when they aren't able to, how many second chances they will look for in order to bury the pain.

As expected, Billy wasn't the one who killed Erin, or fathered little DJ. More surprisingly, John didn't kill her either, despite his barely convincing confession which seemed to be missing several key points, but he is DJ's father. DJ, whose name by the way is not "Dylan Junior" like I, and probably everyone, initially assumed, but "Dylan John". Seriously, nobody thought to check the kid's birth certificate? The resolution could've taken minutes instead of weeks! Then again, we wouldn't have been discussing it every week if so, and what fun would there have been in that? It seemed like Erin already knew John was never going to provide for her or DJ, since she was cultivating Dylan's parents' closeness to the baby, but still. That poor kid has a dead mother, a blood relative for a father, and will be growing up in a family of which his mother's killer is a part of, accident or not.
Because yes, Mare of Easttown finally revealed that Erin died at the hands of Ryan, and not Brianna, Dylan, Kenny, Billy, John, Siobhan (yes I saw theories about her too), Lori, Richard, and pretty much every other Easttowner we've seen or heard of. Ryan, having witnessed and suffered from his father's first (that we know of) affair, and learned about his second, with Erin, had been harboring a rage that was bubbling at the surface for some time, before exploding when he realized Erin was threatening to reveal everything to everyone. Little Ryan stole a gun, threatened Erin at the bridge, and the gun went off by accident as they were both struggling to gain control of it. Now, I've really enjoyed this show so far, but this is the one resolution that I don't really buy. I'm just not sure I can see Ryan stealing the gun, going over to Erin's meeting point and accidentally shooting her, and bringing back the gun to its shed, nor can I truly believe John and especially Billy would be willing to cover for Ryan afterwards. Sure, John is Ryan's father but he's already proved that he didn't hold his family, or children, in much regard. And while Billy was probably nowhere near as vile as John, and even took Erin in when things with Kenny were worse than usual, would he really have faced a life sentence so his nephew wouldn't?
The only one truly willing to risk everything for her family, is Lori. She would rather have lied to everyone, including her best friend Mare, rather than see her child face the consequences of something that was entirely brought on by his father's behavior. Was what John did fair? No. Was it understandable that Ryan would snap? Ye-es, I guess even if it seemed a bit out of character to me. But should Mare have turned a blind eye once she figured out what had happened? Absolutely not. If only because burying it wouldn't have helped Ryan. You don't get over killing someone by pretending it never happened and having someone else go to jail instead (even if that someone is John, who did deserve it, and Billy because he helped with the body and tampered with evidence). Lori couldn't see that, because the alternative, having her first born end up in juvenile detention and a broken family, wasn't acceptable, which is understandable. After all they'd gone through though, I thought she would have relied on Mare, maybe explained the situation when it happened, instead of hiding it. But when it comes to it, and mothers protecting their children, blood is definitely thicker than whatever drug-laced water is running in Easttown.
This episode was quieter than its predecessors, mainly because things were winding down with the case despite that last-minute reveal, but also because Mare's life in general seemed to finally get back on track. The therapy is clearly working and the Mare we'd been seeing in the last few episodes, more easy-going, with less of a constant weight on her mind and prompt to get into arguments with everyone from Frank to Siobhan, seemed to be there to stay. The way she'd come to accept the custody case over Drew could go either way and that she'd find a way to stay in his life regardless, was particularly impressive. In the end though, it's Carrie's own love for her child that allowed her to do the best possible thing for him: leave him in Mare's care (ha, Colin would have liked that one, or maybe I'm just flattering myself) after she relapsed over the tiredness of working endless jobs to provide for her son. With Siobhan off to Berkeley, Helen admitting that sometimes her frustration over Mare's father had caused her to take it out on Mare, and Mare and Fay happily making fun of Frank's taste in suits, the Sheehan family has never been so stable and flourishing.
Mare even manages to make it back to the attic, finally dealing with her grief over Kevin's death instead of running around trying to fix the situations that she could fix. In fact, the only thing left was her broken friendship with Lori. But even that seems to be on the mend, and it's fitting that of all the relationships, this one is the last we see on screen.

Now, even though this limited series (well... we'll see, the finale was HBO Max's most viewed after all, and Kate Winslet has already said she'd be willing to do another season) was stellar pretty much throughout, I do have some small quibbles aside from the Ryan reveal.
Did Colin Zabel really deserve to die? Did this bring us anything, plot-wise, aside from shock value? I, for one, don't feel like it did, and it would've been nice to see them solve the case together even if Mare was doing most of the heavy lifting.
Next on the "I don't buy it" list, Dylan going from not-great ex-boyfriend, to murder suspect, to victim, back to despicable teen and murder suspect again, and finally to lovable, jilted non-biological father. What was all the stuff with Jess about, then? Was all that really so he could tearfully give Lori the money for DJ's surgery?
Speaking of Lori taking in DJ, I know the kid is her husband's biological son, but surely he would have been better off with Dylan's parents? What kind of court allows someone who looked as checked out as Lori did during that doctor's appointment, to get custody of a baby whose life has already seen more violence and suffering than most people will in a lifetime?
Richard just up and left, which, lmao, okay. I know people figured that Guy Pearce couln't be there just to serve as a middlingly interesting love-interest for Mare, but that's just what he was and not even a great one at that.

Aside from that, Mare of Easttown was a highly enjoyable series, and watching it weekly instead of binging was something I'd forgotten could be exciting. Special mention to the acting, because if Kate Winslet and Julianne Nicholson don't get nominated (and win) for the Emmys, I will riot. So, what did you think of the finale? Did the last few twists shock you? Are you hoping for a season 2? Which, for what it's worth, I think could work if they came up with another, equally riveting case for Mare to solve. As usual, sound off in the comments!