Mare of Easttown
Okay, so, remember in a previous recap when I assessed Mare as tough, but fair? I take it back! I’m not sure you can entirely call someone “fair” when they use their power as an agent of the criminal-justice system to frame a recovering addict.
Mare has a lot of qualities that TV shows have trained us to want in police: She’s obsessive when she gets a new case; she doesn’t mind causing a public spectacle to try and shame suspects; she’ll push against the limits to try and secure justice. Recall her behavior in the interview room with Brianna. Admittedly, Brianna sucks. But how many times did Brianna ask for a lawyer while Mare kept barreling forward, and Colin had to try and keep the interview on the up-and-up? Couple all that with Mare’s obsessive desire to keep custody of Drew, and how much she and Carrie loathe each other, and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Mare nicked those two packets of heroin from the evidence room and planted them in Carrie’s car. I am surprised, though, that Mare is already off Erin’s case. There are four episodes to go! Four! There’s no doubt in my mind that Mare will ignore Chief Carter’s command and will keep working Erin’s case while suspended, but still!
The thing about Mare and Carrie: It’s only one subplot in an episode packed with twists, turns, character development, backstory reveals, and plot progression. For a lesser show, “Enter Number Two” is at least a half-season’s worth of plot. I took 13 pages of typed notes on this one hour of television! So much stuff happens! But I suppose when the entirety of your miniseries is only seven episodes, episode three is right around when you should be turning the screws, and man, does “Enter Number Two” do that. Before Mare gets taken off Erin’s case, there is forward movement in practically every element of this story. Deacon Mark emerges as a new suspect in Erin’s murder. Dylan is alive and Kenny confesses to trying to kill him; Dylan and Frank both provide DNA samples to determine whether one of them is DJ’s father. Richard and Mare go on another date, but then Colin tries to make a move on Mare (!!!). Mare and Colin determine that Erin was killed 13 miles away from where her body was eventually dumped in that creek. And we also learn a bit more about Siobhan, including her work on a documentary about older brother Kevin and what he was like before his death, and that her love life might be moving away from high-school girlfriend Becca and toward college student and radio DJ Anne (Kiah McKirnan).
The only narrative that doesn’t have any update this week is the disappearance of Katie Bailey, but I’m assuming that will only be on the back burner for a little while. Mare of Easttown isn’t going to spend so much early time on Katie’s absence, or on mother Dawn’s continued agony, unless the story circles back into primary focus again. But before then, “Enter Number Two” is all about Erin and the sprawling effect her death has on this small community: on her relatives, on her friends, and on Mare, a woman who knows the pain of losing a child, and who has made investigating the loss of other people’s children her life, and who does something truly awful to avoid losing another.
“Enter Number Two” begins with Johnny and Billy searching for Kenny, who believes that he’s killed Dylan as revenge for killing Erin, and Colin and Mare meeting with the medical examiner, who fills them in on the details of the state of Erin’s body. She wasn’t sexually assaulted, the bruises on her body were all inflicted at the same time (Brianna’s recorded beating), and her missing finger was severed by a bullet. Later on, when Colin and Mare search the area where Erin’s finger is found, they realize that she was killed more than 13 miles away from where her body was dumped. Whoever killed her probably has her bike, and whichever gun that discharged the bullet Mare finds embedded in that tree trunk was probably the killer’s.
Nothing is easy, though. The only person in the web of their investigation with a registered firearm is Kenny, and Kenny swears he didn’t do it. Erin’s cell-phone records show that the last call she ever made was at 10:55 p.m. to Deacon Mark — and Colin receives a tip about Deacon Mark’s past that makes him even more suspicious — but the deacon refuses to answer the door for another conversation. And although we see Deacon Mark dump Erin’s bike, Mare and Colin don’t know that. Instead, they’re busy trying to figure out whether Frank had anything to do with Erin’s baby or her disappearance (why not tell Mare everything about your philanthropy toward Erin in the first place, Frank?). And why would whoever killed Erin strip her before dumping the body? So many questions, and very few answers.
But at least Mare and Colin are getting along — maybe too well. Lots of great Kate Winslet/Evan Peters chemistry this week, from his genuine-seeming grin after Mare asked Deacon Mark, “Just so we’re all clear, was it you on the phone with Erin, or Christ himself?” to his “Jinx! You owe me a Coke” when the pair is trying to work through the feasibility of either Brianna or Dylan killing Erin by themselves. Then there is Peters’s absolutely wonderful playing-drunk performance: He’s a little loose, a little devious, a little flirty. We’ve seen him get a touch moony-eyed at Mare before: Remember at the Del Rassos’ restaurant when Brianna’s mom, not knowing that the pair was there to arrest her daughter, asked if they needed a table for two, and Colin looked pleased? I don’t think it’s out of the question that slightly sloppy Colin, feeling sad about his life and a little lonely, would try to make a move with “I don’t know if I want to go back with them. I think I’d rather stay here with you.” And notice too that Mare doesn’t outright reject him — she scoffs in response to his smug grin, but she doesn’t say no to the overall idea of something between them. Hmm.
It’s a hard fall, though, from a cute guy hitting on you at the bar to your boss catching you in a major lie and suspending you. “I’m starting to look at my life, and I’m going, ‘Here’s what I thought it would be, and here’s what it actually is,’” Colin had said to Mare, and maybe those lines are running through her head the next morning, when Chief Carter confronts Mare. What Mare thought her life would be: happily married, mother to adoring kids, steadily solving cases, keeping the community safe, far from the mother she can’t stand. What Mare’s life actually is: unhappily divorced, mother to a dead son and a daughter who is consistently hostile, responsible for an unsolved case and saddled with another difficult one, loathed by a solid portion of the people she’s known her whole life, stuck in the same house as her mother, and now without the gun and badge that gave her some respect — and some power — in Easttown. “I know you’re worth saving,” Chief Carter said to her. But does Mare think that about herself?
A Different Line of Work
• The Sheehan women sure do know how to spit and snarl at each other, huh? Love the mirroring of Mare and Helen telling each other to fuck off, and then Mare getting offended by Siobhan saying the same thing to her that Mare said to her own mother.
• I do believe that what Mare did to Carrie was wrong. But I also think that Carrie really relishes digging into Mare about Kevin in a way that would break my heart if I were his mother, too. Both of them are wrong in this situation, but of course Mare’s privilege and what she chooses to do with it firmly puts her in the “more wrong” category.
• Nice touch from director Craig Zobel in framing that “WATCH CHILDREN” sign in the episode’s first few minutes, and in including a picture of Mare and her beloved father, in his police uniform, in the same drawer where she keeps her badge and gun.
• Favorite exchange of the episode: Colin’s “I bet you were a good mother,” a little presumptive but fundamentally well-meaning, and Mare’s quietly rejecting “No. No, I wasn’t.”
• Erin’s uncle Billy: I’m suspicious.
• Dylan’s parents seem like nice people. Whomever DJ’s father ends up being, maybe it would be best if DJ lived with him? Or does that open the door for a situation similar to what is happening now between Mare and Carrie — a fight over whether a child’s biological parent is the person best suited to raise it?
• We’re assuming that Jess was telling the truth about Frank. You know what assuming gets us.
• Colin says that the Upper Darby cold case that labeled him a wunderkind was broken by “endless hard work” and “an hour that couldn’t be accounted for” on the part of the perpetrator. Kenny and Dylan are both missing time the night Erin died — is anyone else?
• Winslet’s best Philly-accented words this week: “nobody” and “dogs.”
• Mrs. Carroll is a real busybody. But could her encyclopedic memory and low-key spying on everyone in town help the case?