Easttown, Pennsylvania, is an ugly town. Its ugliness comes from the wet streets, from the sad trees, from the aerial wiring that interrupts all the skies, from the viaducts that cross it. It comes out of the bad things that happen there: murders, a few suicides, bogged down lives, families with ghastly secrets. The ugliness of Easttown, Pennsylvania, then, could be the ugliness of any other town that serves as the setting for one of the 150,000 crime series that are released every year. But it is the scene of Mare of Easttown, the new HBO production, and that means that, although at first it seems that again we are facing an ugly town that has already been seen before and in which it is known that everything is wrong, things are different. Because yes, there is a murder. Yes, there are bad things happening indoors. But how do you take a series where the detective in charge of the murder case driving the plot has more problems with her family than with the suspects? How to approach a story where murder matters less and less and where all we want is to know more about that woman who falls, twists her ankle chasing a drug addict, who takes calls from unstable neighbors, who deals with colleagues who They are afraid of blood, that they are lazy to get ready, that the light in the house goes out and they run out of candles, that they cannot stand their mother, that they have a strange relationship with their ex-husband who, to top it all, lives with your new partner in the backyard? We take it as we should take it: with enthusiasm. Much enthusiasm.
Mare of Easttown, that this Sunday premieres its chapter six of the seven that make up its first and only season, stars Kate Winslet. It is the brainchild of Brad Ingelsby and all of its episodes are directed by Craig Zobel., a name that last year sounded moderately strong for the film The hunting (The hunt, 2020). The plot is simple: they kill a girl under twenty, with problems at home and with a two-year-old son. They throw his naked body into one of the streams near the town. The clues say one thing first, then another, then nothing. The crossroads is great. Mare Sheehan, the detective played by Winslet – who also serves as the series producer – is in charge of the case and is almost never very clear about where to turn. And you are wrong. And he gets angry. His partner, on top, has more intentions than lights: his name is Collin Zabel — Evan Peters, a recurring actor in the Ryan Murphy series — he’s a kind of promise from the police, but he also has many weaknesses. And that’s it.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the previous paragraph, because a correction needs to be made. Mare of Easttown it doesn’t star Kate Winslet; is Kate Winslet. The 45-year-old Briton is the heart, lungs and backbone of a series that is much more than its first episode and plot appear. With Mare, Winslet reaches yet another peak — yes, yet another — in his career. Here she shows a fantastic talent for balancing comedy, pathos and pain between which her character seems to alternate, and thus presents a woman full of nuances, harshness, resentments and frustrations, but also light. Mare drags the burden of having been the protagonist of the only sporting joy of the town in his youth, drags a frustrated marriage, drags a strangely functional family in dysfunction, and drags, above all, the suicide of his son. Mare drags, drags, and drags. Sometimes it can, and sometimes it can’t.
It is in these dilemmas, in the daily and recurring troubles of a woman who is frequently overwhelmed, is where the series finds its foothold. What makes it something different from other police productions that, precisely, do not have the name of its protagonist in the title. And there is another key: Easttown, the ugly town, is also a character. Each face of that lost piece of Pennsylvania plays a role in the fabric of a closed, endogamous and even incestuous ecosystem. Against that, too, Mare fights: against the narrow-minded, moral and even sanguine of a locality where everyone knows each other and everyone is related. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes claustrophobic.
For that feeling to be real, the supporting characters must be finely delineated. Structured. And that happens in this series: Winslet is an interpretive steamroller, of course, but Evan Peters is not far behind. He has at least two of the best scenes from the five chapters aired. And it stars in the most shocking moment of the series so far, those incredibly tense final minutes of episode five.
Evan Peters accompanies Winslet as Agent Colin Zabel
Jean Smart, an actress who plays Mare’s mother, also plays a great role. Used as an escape valve to release tension, its acidic outlets are, at times, anthological. And thus, each of the characters that appear manage, at least, to stay in the mind of the viewer for a long time: Mare’s troubled best friend, the sinister father of the murdered girl, the adolescents condemned to spend their days in that horrendous town, the new priest of the church who, under his cassock, hides the odd secret.
Kate is Mare and Mare is me
Up to now, Mare of Easttown It has been a good class on how to set up a certain universe with its own rules and identifiable players. With the thriller in mind, the series plays its suspense cards with success, knows when to emphasize the story of one or another character and, in addition, moves from darkness to tenderness with skill. But there is no turning back: if there is something about this production that has penetrated deep and has been commented with enthusiasm on the networks, it is because of the identification that viewers are having with the character of Kate Winslet.
This, for example, wrote on her Instagram the Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet, who already confesses a follower of the series: “I have always liked Kate Winslet, but the character of Inspector Mare is leaving me KO It has been a long time since I felt such a great identification with a character from a series. With his tiredness. With his anger at the world. With his mistakes, his misunderstandings, his pain, his loneliness. His craving for beer and fries and everything that is supposed to be wrong. Also, what Kate Winslet does in this series should teach all Kidmans in the world something: the more naked and real an actress’s face is, the closer you feel to it, the more you get into the story, even if the plot is as conventional as this series (by the way, do we need more series of missing and murdered girls? for me the answer is NO). Anyway, I don’t care who the murderer is: I see Mare of Esttown to watch Kate Winslet drink coffee and eagerly suck on the e-cigarette and curse her shadow. ” The director accompanied the text with a photo of the series taken from her own television and a hashtag: # caradeestarhastaelcoñoymasallá.
For Coixet and many others, Mare’s bummer is an oasis. It is pure catharsis in the middle of a year or so to forgetfulness and full of stress. Her boredom, which is mixed with the pain of losses that do not leave her alone, is sublime. And Winslet’s face is a map, a terrain full of footprints, a real face. A face to reflect on.
Mare of Easttown airs on HBO at 10pm; its last episode is scheduled for Sunday, May 30
“Mare is nothing like me and yet he looks a lot more like me than the corseted dramas I’ve worked on all my life,” Winslet said recently in an interview with the Collider site.. “For the record: I am not an English rose, at all, and I am not classically trained either. I am one of those people who learned at work and I feel that Mare is also a bit like that. I feel like the school of life has hit her harder than any that she has ever attended. (…) I wanted to interpret her because she is adorable, vulnerable, weak, stoic, because she is falling apart, she is disgusting, charming, morally healthy, morally corrupt, rude, she apologizes, she is funny and she is not funny. She had absolutely every emotion I could think of. “
Mare of Easttown ends next Sunday, May 30. It’s a shame, but it’s okay. In some sense it is comforting to know that Mare’s path, for better or for worse, is nearing completion. Anyway, she will continue to be the protagonist of one of the best series of 2021, and surely we will also hear from her and the fabulous Kate Winslet in the next awards season.
But on second thought, thinking about it as Mare herself would think about it, that doesn’t matter so much. Just as it does not matter too much to know, in the end, who the murderer is. The road matters more. It matters the sentiment crossed with each episode, it matters to understand that Mare Sheehan is as incredible as she is mundane, that she is within reach and that she can drop relentless phrases, phrases like the one she said to her languid assistant Collin Zabel after a cold day of revelations, a day when the certainties were few, the coffee did not heat and the inner darkness was increasingly dense: “Doing something great is overrated. Because then people expect that from you, all the time. What they don’t know is that, in reality, you are as broken as they are. “