My favorite part of the “Mare of Easttown” finale is the unrelenting, abject mediocrity of it all. It’s a bad resolution. It goes on way too long, not doing multiple endings but instead doing a series of epilogues—including turning the series’s big “twist” (it’s not a twist if both the creators and the show are lying to the viewers multiple times throughout, a problem “Mare” flirted with briefly towards the beginning and then brought back in force more recently) into just another epilogue of an epilogue of an epilogue.
So the seventy-five minute finale is all summary. There’s the cliffhanger resolution, five minutes (the title comes up immediately on Kate Winslet this time, because she’s either about to die or kill someone, it’s high drama time), figure three minutes of end credits, maybe two and a half. The other sixty-eight minutes are summarized epilogues, catching up with the characters in the subsequent eight months. There are notable exceptions, the characters whose stories are no longer worth screen time. Lots of main cast gets a severe downgrade, mostly Angourie Rice and Jean Smart. Even characters who get promoted for the big twist, they eventually become background or less too. The best one is when Rice is so pointless to a scene she’s present but not visible for the first third of it; of course, that scene ends up being the “Martha” moment, just without Rice getting to participate (her subplots all get flushed).
It’s so nice not to have to acknowledge director Craig Zobel or writer Brad Inglesby for their middling, derivative pedestrian prestige work. Zobel doesn’t have a single good scene in the episode. He has the same idea for each one of the epilogues (everything’s got a surprise reveal, either visually or narratively). He’s not ripping off a better director anywhere here; here he’s just himself. And not good.
Ditto Inglesby. Some of the problem, unfortunately, is the acting. But Inglesby’s scenes are all bad. It’s not like Zobel could’ve directed them better. But Julianne Nicholson certainly could’ve acted them better. She gets her time in the spotlight but still not enough for an actual character arc. Winslet goes from being this transformative performance to a supporting player in her own show, agog at the events around her. Sadly, they’re also poorly acted ones when it’s Nicholson’s turn to play.
Maybe most surprising is Lele Marchitelli’s score. Marchitelli was reliable throughout the show to give it more of prestige pretense than it deserved but the music’s not effective here. Just like Zobel not being able to direct them, Inglesby being able to write them, Marchitelli can’t score the episode’s litany of summarized epilogues either.
“Mare”’s been torching its potential throughout the series, but having them bonfire it so completely in the finish… it’s not for something not to be problematic sometimes. Sometimes it’s nicer for it just to a fail.