‘Mare of Easttown’: The Past Repeats Itself (RECAP)
Season 1 • Episode 4
[Warning: The below contains spoilers for Mare of Easttown Episode 4, “Poor Sisyphus.”]
“Let the healing begin!” Mare (Kate Winslet) tells her police-appointed therapist in this week’s Mare of Easttown. Of course, she’s being sarcastic; Mare is only attending these sessions as a formality and lets her therapist know from the start not to be disappointed if there isn’t a major breakthrough. After all, Mare has been through this before in marriage counseling with Frank (David Denman). “How did that work out?” her therapist asks. “We’re divorced,” Mare retorts.
This bleak outlook pretty much sums up what’s going on in Mare’s Easttown. Nobody ever heals or grows or learns. Despite how hard they might try, they’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over, like Sisyphus (in the episode’s title) pushing a boulder up a hill for all eternity. This is very much the case for Mare, who, even in her attempts to do good, ends up screwing things up for herself. We saw this last week in her failed effort to make amends with Carrie (Sosie Bacon), which ended with Mare suspended from the force for trying to set Carrie up on drug charges.
Mare calls a family meeting to come clean about what happened. Helen (Jean Smart) is incredulous at her daughter’s stupidity, especially as it could have risked them ever seeing Drew (Izzy King) again. Thankfully, Carrie doesn’t have enough evidence to press charges. Siobhan (Angourie Rice) isn’t quite as spiky towards her mom, but that’s because she takes the opportunity to reveal she broke up with Becca (Madeline Weinstein) — though she doesn’t tell them about her new DJ girlfriend, Anne (Kiah McKirnan).
Family drama is at the heart of this show, and it’s rarely the happy and hugging variety. Mare’s family is obviously still coping with Kevin’s (Cody Kostro) suicide, but even before that, things weren’t exactly a pretty picture. A flashback shows Kevin and Carrie breaking into the family home to steal money, presumably to pay for drugs. Mare fights with her son and is thrown to the bathroom floor, cowering and crying in the corner as Kevin screams that he “hates” her. It’s a disturbing scene and one that reveals a more vulnerable side of the usually unshakeable Mare.
It’s not all gloom, though; the family drama, particularly in the Sheehan household, has a certain sitcom appeal. Take the scene where Helen is disturbed by a knock at the door, just as she’s about to dip into a tub of ice cream (hidden within a bag of veggies). It’s Becca, who Helen lets into the basement to wait for Siobhan. This is a mistake, as an unaware Siobhan and Anne return home and start making out. Becca makes a hasty exit, accidentally slamming a door in Helen’s face. Mare rushes home to see ambulances outside and her mother on a stretcher. “Is that it?” Mare deadpans upon seeing the small cut on her mother’s forehead.
This dark humor is welcome in a show dealing with mighty heavy topics. One doesn’t have to dive too deeply into this tense drama to see that this is a show about families torn apart by drugs and addiction. The opioid crisis that affects many blue-collar communities lurks in the background. There are so many characters we see in physical pain or talking about pain. Mare has had a limp ever since busting her ankle in the premiere. Helen talks about the pain in her legs, Kenny (Patrick Murney) mentions the physical toll of his job, Dawn (Enid Graham) is going through cancer treatment, Dylan (Jack Mulhern) is in the hospital from being shot, etc.
Often, the quickest way to numb the pain is with pills and booze, both of which can become addictive. We see this in Mare, and it ties into the missing person’s cases. Dawn’s missing daughter Katie was a drug addict that turned to prostitution to pay for her habit. That’s the same situation for Missy (Sasha Frolova), another young woman who is abducted in this episode. Like Katie, Missy became a prostitute to pay for drugs, but her addiction only started after she was hit by a car and prescribed OxyContin and morphine to deal with the pain.
The destructive nature of drug addiction leads to the episode’s most heartbreaking moment. Throughout the hour, Dawn receives calls from a man promising to return her daughter if she brings him $5,000. Dawn’s friend Beth (Chinasa Ogbuagu) tells her this is likely a scam; Dawn agrees. And yet, she follows the man’s directions to an abandoned house in the woods, hoping to find her daughter. Katie is not there, just a man attempting to rob her, who turns out to be Beth’s troubled brother, Freddie (Dominique Johnson).
Freddie is a drug addict who had run-ins with Mare earlier in the series. He’s the guy she twisted her ankle chasing in the premiere after he stole from his own sister. Ignoring any helping hands, Freddie’s old habits remain. “I’m sorry,” he tells Dawn before taking off into the woods. And there may be at least some part of Dawn that believes him, as she refuses to tell Beth what really happened after she returns home banged and bruised from the scuffle.
All of this drug talk doesn’t explain what happened to Erin (Cailee Spaeny). As far as we know, she wasn’t involved in drugs or prostitution — or so it appears. After Mare essentially puts herself back on the case, she and Colin (Evan Peters) put two and two together and make a breakthrough: Erin might not have needed money for drugs, but she was desperate to pay for her baby’s ear surgery. Mare and Colin get Jess (Ruby Cruz) to admit to helping Erin set up a profile on an escort website, though she’s adamant Erin never went through with meeting any clients. Mare also uncovers a necklace under Erin’s drawer with the date 5-29-17 engraved on it.
So, where are fingers currently pointing? The DNA test results show neither Frank nor Dylan fathered Erin’s baby, meaning there’s a third man in the picture. Could that be Deacon Mark (James McArdle)? There’s some likelihood of that, especially since it has come out that he was transferred from his old parish following accusations of sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is the real father, and came to pick Erin up on the night of her murder, hence having her bike. But I don’t believe he’s the killer; that just seems too obvious.
It could be possible that Erin’s murder and the abductions are two separate cases. After all, Erin was killed, and, as we find out at the end of this episode, that isn’t the case with Katie and Missy. We see the abductor, with face covered, take Missy to a rundown tavern and lock her in a back room, where a dirty and sunken-eyed Katie is also being held, traumatized but very much alive. The twists and turns just keep on coming and I don’t expect them to end here.
Mare of Easttown, Sundays, 10/9c, HBO