Lots happens this episode. An impressive amount of rising action, both in the case (teen mom Cailee Spaeny’s murder), Kate Winslet’s custody of her grandson (because mom Sosie Bacon is a junkie and Winslet’s son is dead), and then Winslet’s romantic subplot with Guy Pearce. We also get like three suspicious dudes, one out of the blue, one too thinly suspicious for it to really matter (maybe), and then one a Catholic priest.
Not to mention Evan Peters joining the show as Winslet’s work sidekick. See, even the police chief (a better than he needs to be because the material’s tepid John Douglas Thompson) can’t call in the forensic team until Winslet’s on the job so she can’t really talk off him. But Peters, a young turk detective from the county (Scott Turow should be proud his county versus city copper bureaucracy has so changed the genre), he’s a good sounding board. Peters is doing the earnest skinny socially awkward smart guy thing, which just makes “Mare” even more cop porn. But he’s very likable and is able to keep up with Winslet, whose dedication to the part is simultaneously performative (no pun) and sublime. It’s one of those Oscar bait performances where you can’t deny the singular achievement of the performance.
Winslet and Peters interview all the teenagers—including Winslet’s daughter, Angourie Rice, who didn’t tell her mom about seeing Spaeny right before she died—and it’s a good sequence. It’s a classy but not too classy montage sequence, showcasing the tragedy of the teens in this failed town. I’m not sure the utter lack of empathy every single teen feels for the dead girl is supposed to be part of it or if it’s another unintentional dig on the tragedy of the American dream, but it’s something. It just feels so literary. Director Craig Zobel and show creator Brad Ingelsby really do know how to make it feel prestige. Even if the plotting is so much better than the scripting.
No big montage finale, but a series of little scenes setting up more of the series, like victim’s dad, Patrick Murney, confronting his number one suspect, the baby daddy (Jack Mulhern); even though Murney’s a dangerous mess, Mulhern’s such garbage it’s hard to be sympathetic at his plight. But also Eric T. Miller threatening Winslet for arresting daughter Mackenzie Lansing for a caught-on-tape assault, which is Jim-dandy behavior in "Easttown." Winslet’s got a real humanist, progressive reaction to it, which just fits into the prestige.
And then there’s a great cliffhanger, after one and a half other solid cliffhangers.
It’s rote but a not not compelling rote. The show—the mystery, the soap—is just a showcase for Winslet’s exceptional acting.