May 7, 2021 | LIFE | By Lucy DeLuca | Photo from Hulu.com
“Mare of Easttown” begins like any other crime drama, in a small rural town on a bleak, melancholy morning. Other aspects of the HBO miniseries feel familiar as well: the determined detective with a troubled past, the small-town secrets that emerge as the dreary, cloudy days go by, and of course the brutal murder that serves as the focal point of the plot.
However, despite the show’s rather traditional take on the crime drama, it doesn’t take long for the audience to become wrapped up in the characters and their stories.
“Mare of Easttown” follows a small-town detective named, you guessed it, Mare Sheehan, as she investigates the murder of a young girl and its possible connection to a disappearance that occurred the year prior.
At first glance, the character of Mare, played by Kate Winslet, is not very original; she is a hard-working detective who suffers from a traumatic past and isn’t afraid to break the rules.
However, while her character does not immediately appear to be a refreshing take on the small-town detective, it is hard not to become invested in Mare’s story, thanks in part to Winslet’s brilliant performance.
As someone who was relatively unfamiliar with Winslet’s work outside of “Titanic,” I was pleasantly surprised by her ability to portray a character who is both relatable and unlikable at the same time.
What makes Mare’s character so intriguing is that, unlike many crime drama detectives, she does not reveal herself to be a brilliant mind who got lost in addiction or a washed-up cop who has been traumatized by the horrors of the job.
She is a normal person who is doing the best she can with the hand she’s been dealt. In short, she’s relatable, not because of what she has experienced, but because of the way she chooses to go on despite her trauma. The show’s supporting characters also prove to be refreshingly relatable and incredibly well-written.
All the characters are somehow connected, as is the norm for any small town-based narrative, but unlike most rural-set stories, how each character relates to the others is not immediately clear.
Writer and creator Brad Ingelsby has expertly perfected the art of pacing out a story. Everything from big reveals related to the story’s main mystery to aspects of each character’s past is revealed at precisely the right time.
Just when the drama’s traditional detective tropes threaten to take over the story, a new detail is revealed – one that keeps the audience watching.
The familiar crime tropes in the mini-series allow the viewer to become comfortable, believing that they can and will guess what is going to happen next. However, in a refreshing twist, it is this line of thinking that Ingelsby uses against his audience. As viewers begin to confidently assume the story’s next step, they easily miss what is on the screen right in front of them.
Even the show’s setting in rural Pennsylvania comes to serve a higher purpose in the show’s plot. The long and complicated histories between the characters create not only a plethora of opportunities for secrets and deception, they also allow Ingelsby to examine how controversial topics like drug addiction and mental health affect not just those they afflict but, also the loved ones of the afflicted.
After years of seeing the damsel in distress or ditzy blond tropes played out in series after series, it is incredibly refreshing to see a female lead who is not only strong and capable but also unapologetically herself, even when that person doesn’t always make the right decision. I for one can’t wait to see what Mare will do next.
“Mare of Easttown” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on HBO Max.