Rest in peace, Colin Zabel, hero detective. I really did not see that coming! I screamed! Good-bye, Evan Peters, you were good in this role and I hope you escape from the Ryan Murphy universe more often!
(Also: I don’t know any more than you do regarding Colin’s fate, definitively; I haven’t seen screeners past episode five. But it looked to me like Colin got shot through the left cheek, which I’m assuming was fatal.)
In hindsight, maybe the indicators were there for Colin’s exit. He made his peace with Mare’s tunnel vision during their date, he came clean to her about what really happened with that case that got him the wunderkind label, and he kissed her. His “How do you know what I want?” was cheeky and flirty, and while I’m not entirely sure how much Mare seriously considered him romantically before or after their awful date, I don’t think she disliked the kiss. And I think his murder will weigh on her for a long time. How could it not? She steered the investigation, although officially suspended. She went into Wayne Potts’s (Jeb Kreager) house, knowing that she didn’t have a gun. I’m not saying Mare caused Wayne to shoot and kill Zabel; of course, she’s not responsible for his actions. But why not disengage from the house, keep eyes on it, and immediately call for backup? Why not ease up, instead of further instigate?
On the flip side, though, Katie and Missy were there, and they needed help. The banging of that pipe was impossible to ignore, or pretend to ignore. If Colin and Mare left, what’s to say that Wayne wouldn’t have immediately gone into that basement and killed Katie and Missy, like how he killed Hillary, the young woman he abducted and impregnated — and whose missing-persons case Mare knows about, but has made no progress on? There’s no good choice here.
Before “Illusions” takes us to Bennie’s Tavern, the episode wanders through small-town life in Easttown. Erin’s death and Katie’s and Missy’s disappearances aren’t forgotten, but the reality is that life goes on. Not for everyone, of course; goodbye to Mrs. Carroll, who never found out who graffitied breasts on that shed and who died of a heart attack while driving to buy cereal. Sorry that your husband Glen (Patrick McDade) had an affair with Helen and decided to come clean about it at your funeral!
Other than that, though, time moves forward, for better and for worse. Siobhan’s relationship with Anne is now established enough that the latter is hanging out at the Sheehans’ house, and that Siobhan tells Frank about her. Frank, meanwhile, is on rocky ground with Faye, who fails to check out their wedding venue. The Rosses are dealing with marital strife: John is cheating on Lori, and Julianne Nicholson really puts some bone-deep exhaustion into how she asks their son Ryan (Cameron Mann), “Is your dad doing it again?” Will Lori really want to take in DJ, per Kenny’s request, on her own? Won’t the Hinchey parents be devastated by that? And Ryan is working through some crap, too, attacking a bully at school who picks on his younger sister Moira (Kassie Mundhenk). I’m sincerely hoping that other kid got suspended too because jeez, did he suck. To bring it all back to our central mystery, does this burst of violence mean that Ryan is a suspect in his cousin Erin’s murder? I don’t think so. I’m leaning more and more toward the obvious suspect from the beginning: Dylan.
Now, I don’t want to dismiss the fact that Billy Ross, John’s brother and Kenny’s cousin, seems shadier and shadier. After Erin’s mother died three years ago, Erin lived with him for a little while, and although he “can’t remember” for how long, Lori offers that it was at least for a few months. Kate Winslet did a very good “Mare is thinking so hard!” face during this scene, and I mirrored it on my own couch! I’m not sure the timing adds up regarding DJ’s parentage, but could this experience have something to do with that engraved necklace Mare found hidden among Erin’s things? If Mare really threw Billy’s beer bottle away instead of grabbing it to test for DNA, I would be shocked.
But in reality: Mare doesn’t have anything on Billy, and we don’t, either. What we do have, though, is a certain timeline of the night provided by Deacon Mark to Father Dan. Mark says that Erin called him after the altercation with Brianna, Dylan, and Sean (Sadat Waddy), asking for a ride home. While Mark was driving Erin home, she received a text message “from someone asking her to go to Brandywine Park,” and the text message made her “hysterical, just hysterical.” “She stormed off,” Mark says, leaving her bike in his trunk, which he later threw into the river — but no, Mark swears, he didn’t kill her.
If we are to take Mark at his word, someone lured Erin to the place where she was shot. Who was it? My current theory is that it was Dylan, telling Erin that he was not going to pay for DJ’s ear surgery — or maybe even that he wanted to break up with Brianna, and wanted to get back together? What could have made Erin “hysterical” enough that she would derail going home? Whatever happened, it’s clear that Dylan, Jess, and Sean are in on something together, and that Jess has been taking instructions from Dylan regarding what to tell Mare about Erin’s journals and that necklace (“Nothing, just like you said”). Could she also have told Mare about, say, her suspicions about Frank, or Erin’s SideDoor account, because Dylan told her to? Was Jess deceiving Erin while she was alive, too, by pretending to be her friend? Was Dylan dating Brianna just for a cover story? How much dishonesty is going down here? And what was the picture that Jess pocketed from one of Erin’s journals?
Maybe all this obfuscation legitimately derails any progress Mare might have made on the case, and I’m going to assume losing Colin hurts the case, too. Before Colin’s death, though, he and Mare click together as a cohesive investigative partnership. Mare’s old CI Tammy (Rosa Arrendondo) connects them with another sex worker, Allie (Bronwen O’Connor), who was attacked by a white man driving a blue work truck, near the area where Missy would later be abducted. The incredibly resourceful Allie wrote down part of his license plate; Colin gets seven hits back from the Pennsylvania DMV; and so Mare and Colin start knocking on doors. Their conversation with Potts had a real Silence of the Lambs vibe, with Colin and Mare pushing further into the house and noticing little clues that told them this was their man, and then with the chase scene that put Mare in contact with the abducted women. Director Craig Zobel staged this well, and although I doubted that Mare was going to die because the lead character in a show named after her is not going to pass away in the fifth episode out of seven, there was some genuine tension and fear to her evasion of Potts.
But then Mare gets her hands on Colin’s gun, and then she shoots Potts enough times to kill him, and then she waits for the police to come, and then she thinks of her son, and of the invitation he extended to her in the video of his seventh birthday — footage that Siobhan was using in her documentary about her brother. “Let’s jump in together,” Kevin had (literally) said to her so many years ago, and now Kevin is dead. “Let’s investigate together,” Colin had (figuratively) said to her only weeks ago, and now Colin is dead. Mare stands alone, and it seems like a lonely place to be.
A Different Line of Work
• I know I’m a pessimist, but this seems like a useful reminder about life, just in general: “Doing something great is overrated. ’Cause then people expect that from you, all the time. What they don’t realize is you’re just as screwed up as they are.”
• Another reason I think Deacon Mark might be innocent: the way Erin wrote about him in her journal. “Deacon Mark says I am too thinky. He is really nice but I don’t know about God too much.” Nothing too impassioned there, nothing enraged or enamored. Just a girl writing somewhat blandly but honestly about someone she’s trying to trust. I’m not suggesting Mark is innocent of whatever potentially happened at his last parish, but I just don’t think he was harming Erin.
• Not loving how John basically refuses to acknowledge that Kenny was abusive toward Erin: “Erin was tough, like her mother.” Sure seems like the extended McMenamins and Rosses turned a blind eye to what was going on in that house.
• Meanwhile, a seeming breakthrough from Mare in therapy this week, as she shares with her therapist that her father killed himself, that she herself has had depressive episodes, and that she worries the family’s mental health struggles were what led to Kevin’s addiction and suicide. Given all that, the tight grip she’s holding on Drew is a little more understandable.
• Shoutout to Tammy, living her best life and proving that sex work is work: “I have a few older gentlemen I visit once a week and tickle their balls. Hey, it pays the rent!”
• I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again: How did Dylan’s very nice parents produce such a terrible-seeming son? He threatens Brianna, he pockets the money for DJ’s ear surgery, and he probably won’t actually use the cash for the surgery since DJ isn’t his biological son. You seem terrible, buddy!
• “After they die, everyone’s a saint,” Helen says of Mrs. Carroll. Is that some sort of foreshadowing about Erin?
• Also about Erin: If she never met with any clients as part of the SideDoor website, where did the money for DJ’s ear surgery come from? Is that what Uncle Billy is being so weird about?
• Do we really think that Dennis (Jim Scopeletis) was the “ferret” man Mrs. Carroll’s granddaughter saw outside her window? Wasn’t that in the morning, while we’ve only ever seen Dennis trying to find his way back home at night?
• Kudos to Neal Huff for all the meaning he imbues into “with” when his Father Dan asked what exactly Deacon Mark meant by saying he was “with” Erin the night she died.
• Also kudos to Evan Peters, for his two very different line deliveries of “Holy shit!”: his impressed reaction to Mare dressed up for their date, and his shock at her admission about framing Carrie for drug possession.