‘Mare of Easttown’: The Investigation Closes in on the Killer (RECAP)
[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Mare of Easttown Episode 6, “Sore Must Be the Storm.”]
The penultimate episode of Mare of Easttown can best be summed up as an hour of breakthroughs and breakdowns. It’s an episode that sees Mare (Kate Winslet) finally reach her breaking point as the emotions of the case cause unresolved grief to rise to the surface. At the same time, there are monumental breakthroughs in the murder investigation that sets up what promises to be a tense and riveting finale.
Colin’s (Evan Peters) death weighs heavily on Mare, who is reinstated to the Easttown Police Department. After all, she was the one that led him to the kidnapper’s house, despite being on suspension. Mare tries to do right (and rid herself of guilt) by visiting Colin’s mother and telling her how great a detective her son was. All Mare gets for her trouble is a slap across the face and a heaping helping of blame for Colin’s death. With this, Mare returns home and finally snaps, her usually steely demeanor cracking as she cries in her mom’s (Jean Smart) arms (a scene echoed later in the episode by Mare and her own daughter).
While Colin’s mother might hate Mare’s guts, it’s a different story around Easttown. There is some triumph alongside the tragedy: The missing girls were returned home, and it was Mare’s dogged determination that led to them being found. Everybody is grateful, especially Dawn (Enid Graham), who hugs and thanks Mare for bringing Katie home. Even Brianna’s (Mackenzie Lansing) dad apologizes for being a bit of an idiot. Mare is a hometown hero again. But with that comes expectation, which Mare struggles with.
“I gotta get my s**t together,” she tells Richard (Guy Pearce) when he pops over to the house with a thoughtfully arranged gift basket of cold beer and hoagies. Mare can’t do the relationship thing right now, and Richard understands; he’s okay with waiting for whenever Mare is ready. But with Colin’s death and the Erin (Cailee Spaeny) murder case still hanging over her head, she isn’t in the right headspace for warm nights filled with flirting and cheesesteaks.
Instead, Mare returns to therapy, voluntarily this time, which in itself is progress. She admits to not being able to cope with the pressure. “I can feel it happening again,” she says. “Like panic, expectation from people to be something I don’t think I’m good enough to be.” Her therapist Gayle (Eisa Davis) sees this as a deeper-rooted problem, relating to Mare not properly grieving her son Kevin’s (Cody Kostro) death. “You’ve been hiding behind other people’s grief,” she says, “First Katie, now Erin, but even after these cases, the grief will still be there waiting until you confront it.”
Taking this insight on board, Mare finally opens up and walks her therapist through the day Kevin died, about how she told her daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) to go home and check on him after a neighbor caught him sneaking into the house. Siobhan was the one that found him hanging from the rafters in the attic. It’s a trauma the family has never truly dealt with because Mare refuses to talk about it. She shut herself off just like she shut off the attic, refusing to ever go back to that dark place.
Ignoring the issue only made matters worse, especially for Siobhan, who has been carrying the burden of finding her brother’s body. She has this persistent fear of losing a loved one; it’s why she’s so reluctant to move away for college and why she flips out when her new girlfriend stops answering her texts. It’s possessive behavior but also somewhat understandable given Siobhan’s past. When there is a chance that she could lose someone close to her, she spins out of control, gets drunk, and ends up screaming at her mom that she should have been the one to find Kevin, not her.
As heart-wrenching as the moment is, it’s probably cathartic for Mare and Siobhan to let those emotions out, as it helps jumpstart the grieving process. But before the family can rebuild, there is work to be done in solving the Erin case, and pieces are starting to come together. It begins when Mare finds Beth’s (Chinasa Ogbuagu) brother Freddie (Dominique Johnson) dead from an overdose (continuing the show’s theme of opioid addiction). But it’s something that Mare finds in Freddie’s house that is important, a trash bag full of Erin’s old clothes, with a shirt labeled “Lake Harmony Family Reunion.”
Kenny (Patrick Murney) reveals that he let Freddie take some of Erin’s stuff to give to his own daughter, as Freddie didn’t have money to buy her a birthday present. But Mare is more interested in the Lake Harmony reunion because the date it took place matches the inscribed date on Erin’s heart necklace. She wants to know if anything suspicious happened that weekend. Kenny can’t remember anything out of the ordinary, but he does confirm that he and Erin stayed in a cabin with cousin Billy (Robbie Tann).
As is now standard with this show, it doesn’t waste time following up, as it becomes rapidly clear that Billy was somehow involved in the murder. After being kicked out of the family home because of his affair, John (Joe Tippett) moves back in with his increasingly abrasive brother Billy and their dad, Pat (Gordon Clapp). Something has been troubling Pat ever since the night of the murder, and he eventually tells John that in the early hours of that morning, Billy came home covered in blood, shoving clothes into the laundry. Pat thinks Billy killed Erin, and John later gets his brother to confess.
In the midst of all this, there’s some confusion with Dylan (Jack Mulhern), who is called back in for questioning after Brianna reveals that he wasn’t at home on the night of the murder. Dylan demands a lawyer as he becomes the prime suspect in the investigation. This pisses him off so much that he chases down Jess (Ruby Cruz), who he believes told the police about him burning Erin’s journals. “Don’t open your f***ing mouth again, or you’re gonna end up with your face blown off, just like Erin,” he threatens as he points a gun at her head.
Meanwhile, Mare tracks down Erin’s heart necklace to a jeweler in town and confirms that it was purchased under the name “Ross” (Billy’s surname). With this info, she visits Lori (Julianne Nicholson), who thankfully ignores John’s request to keep the Billy revelation to themselves and tells Mare what her husband told her. She relays that Billy confessed to the murder and is the father of Erin’s baby, and that the pair started a “relationship” at the Lake Harmony reunion. When Erin threatened to go public, Billy panicked and killed her to cover up his incestuous relationship with his underage cousin.
As we end the episode with Mare heading out to track down Billy, who John has taken to the lake for one last fishing trip (armed with a gun in the tackle box), all fingers point in one direction. Or do they? Because a cliffhanger suggests another twist in the tale. Jess arrives at the police station and shares a photo with the chief that she took from inside Erin’s journal. We don’t see what is on the image, but I have a solid theory. I would put good money on that photo showing Erin and John “together” and that it was John who had the relationship with Erin and killed her (or had Billy help him kill her).
Let’s look at the evidence and clues. We know John has been keeping a secret from Lori, which she assumes is an affair. However, early in this episode, Lori tells Mare that she could feel it the last time John was cheating on her. This time she felt nothing. Is that because the secret isn’t an affair, but a murder? Secondly, John was also at the Lake Harmony reunion, and the necklace was purchased under “Ross,” which is also his surname. Plus, the scene where John gets Billy to confess is odd. “I need you to say out loud that you killed her,” he says, which almost sounds like he’s coaching Billy to take the fall.
Whatever happens, Mare of Easttown has been a thoroughly entertaining murder mystery, one that has kept us guessing while also building a town of well-realized and compelling characters. Let’s hope it can stick the landing.
Mare of Easttown, Sundays, 10/9c, HBO