If “Mare of Easttown” were an ensemble show, this episode would be Enid Graham’s spotlight. She gets a suspicious phone call ransoming off her daughter—Graham’s daughter is the Three Billboards daughter, versus the show’s Laura Palmer—and spends the episode fretting over stealing from her job to pay the ransom. Unfortunately, the show’s only got so many characters of a specific demographic and both director Craig Zobel and writer Brad Ingelsby are profoundly obvious, so the perpetrator is obvious. And then if it’s not obvious, they go and make it more and more obvious, then even incredibly awkward and problematic in the end.
The episode’s got time for Graham and everyone else (though Julianne Nicholson just gets to play sidekick to her family after being sidekick to Kate Winslet) because Winslet’s on the bench. No more police investigating. None. Except, wait, since the show’s going in hard on work sidekick Evan Peters being hot for Winslet, he’s obviously going to let her question witnesses with him. He’s even going to leave her alone with the witnesses so she can ask unofficial questions. Because he’s going to ask her on a date. It’s actually really cute. “Mare” does its prestige well. Like, it’s manufactured but it’s really well-done. Heirloom furniture, which is actually a far more accurate way to describe shows meant for infinite binge streaming than I intended.
There are journals in the current case. Are they important? We don’t know yet because in addition to Graham’s thriller arc, there’s also Angourie Rice’s “dumping my bandmate girlfriend for a college girl D.J.” arc, which ends with an actual ambulance. Why does it need an ambulance? Character development for Winslet. Again, if Zobel were at all original or if Ingelsby could admit he plots better than he writes and asked for help, “Mare” could easily be a great modern noir. The show wastes its actors even when they’re excellent—Nicholson, Peters, Jean Smart—because it’s all about Winslet doing a transformed woman thing. Winslet doesn’t walk all over the actors, she’s acting well with them–it’s just how Zobel’s shooting it. I mean, maybe it is a vanity project, but it’s not an undeserved one, further complicating it. But all this tragedy circling Winslet like sharks, it’s just to give her reaction material and reaction material is Ingelsby’s version of character development.
The episode’s got its moments. There’s a lot of good acting. It’s just… manipulative as all hell. Especially with the Room reveal at the end.