[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Mare of Easttown Episode 1, “Miss Lady Hawk Herself.”]
The very first thing you hear on episode 1 of HBO’s Mare from Easttown is a screaming girl which confirms the fact that what we have here is a murder show. But it’s a particularly nuanced and character-driven murder show based on at least that premiere. “Miss Lady Hawk Herself” captures a day in Mare’s life (Kate Winslet), a cop / grandmother / former high school basketball star, and her small Pennsylvania town full of mystery and sadness.
We never meet the girl who screamed at the beginning, but the cause of her alarm turns out to be relatively mundane. Our heroine Mare wakes up early thanks to a phone call to investigate a stray that scared a local’s granddaughter and Mare goes to investigate the situation even though Toms is not quite her tact – as she explains to the older woman She’s been calling for help, her focus is on “Break-ins and overdoses and all this really bad crap that’s going on here.”
Meanwhile we meet another young girl, but while Erin (Cailee Spaeny) may just be a teenager, she’s also the mother of a one-year-old boy. Unfortunately not only Erin and the father are no longer together, but also Dylan (Jack Mulhern) is with another girl named Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing) who literally warns Erin that “you will get it when you least expect it, you stupid bitch.” It’s not an ideal parenting situation, but despite her troubles – a kid in need of ear surgery, a growling, angry father – she looks forward to meeting an online crush for the first time that night. (Fortunately, Erin is unaware that she is a character on a murder show. They always are.)
After her first stop of the day, Mare arrives at the police station, where she meets Officer Trammel (Justin Hurtt-Dunkley), a new member of the force, and watches a television press conference from Dawn (Enid Graham), a woman her age who has to do with both cancer and a missing daughter, and who has not been found by Mare or the police after a year. Mare and the chief (John Douglas Thompson) talk about the lost Katie, and while Carter acknowledges that the girl’s history of prostitution and drug use likely makes her a lost cause, higher-ups will send in an outsider to get a fresh perspective on the case.
Image via HBO
Mare is frustrated by this, but it’s just one of many things that frustrates Mare today. Take, for example, her trip to a local pet store looking for a tank that is suitable for her grandson’s turtle. Reluctant to invest in an expensive tank, she evades the employee’s upsell and finds a $ 40 model that she thinks is “perfect”. (This is perhaps the first prominent mention of the fact that Mare is the grandmother of a four-year-old. This show is rich in intimate family relationships, but shares information about her on a must-know basis.)
At the pet shop, Mare receives a call about a break-in at Bethie’s home (Chinasa Ogbuagu), another woman, Mare’s age, whose brother Freddies (Dominique Johnson) Drug problem caused him to rob her trophy case. Mare chases Freddie, twisting his ankle and defusing the situation by setting Freddie up in a shelter and instructing rookie cop Trammell how to help him. Freddie’s story is pretty heartbreaking as it is largely told through the details around him, like his run-down house that has no heat but still has photos of him with his kids by the fridge.
For Mare, dealing with a situation like Freddie’s is pretty mundane, but it gets thrown off a bit later. All day long Mare avoided the calls of her ex-husband Frank (David Denham), but when she gets home she learns why he tried to speak to her from her mother Helen (Jean Smart) – Frank and his girlfriend Faye (Kate Arrington) are now engaged and have a party that night to celebrate. Everyone goes to the party, including Mare’s teenage daughter Siobhan (Angourie rice), but Mare isn’t because Mare is due for “the ceremony” at her old high school. 25 years ago, she scored a key shot in a major basketball game, won the day and became a local legend, and the people of Easttown gather to pay tribute to the event as well as to her and her teammates including Bethie and Dawn.
Mare is clearly uncomfortable as she hobbles into the square to cheer, and then appears uncomfortable in the local bar where the party continues. Although she turns that discomfort into an uncomfortable but promising conversation with Richard (Guy Pearce), a freshman to town Mare is learning, is a published writer who gives guest lectures at the local college – but aside from the fact that he has Guy Pearce’s cheekbones, the fact that he’s not a local does the Seems to be the main attraction for Mare; The two have sex on his couch, after which she reveals the whole thing with the grandmother. “Did I fuck like a grandma?” she asks him, to which he replies, “A very hot grandma,” which is probably the best possible answer to that question.
Image via HBO
Mare’s night is going a lot better than that of Erin, who, after visiting a friend (and trusting that she texted her ex a little bit in a lonely moment), goes to the woods to meet her online date . Unfortunately, the online date turns out to be a prank by Brianna who caught her in revenge for flirting with Dylan. While friends watch (and film on their phones), Brianna carries out a rather brutal caning that only stops after a conveniently present Siobhan intervenes. Then Erin stumbles into the woods alone.
Mare comes home late and, after getting some crap from her mother, crawls into bed next to her grandson, who tells her that he has decided to name his turtle Kevin after his father (Mare’s late son). In the early hours of the next day, the people of Easttown wake up and begin their morning routines – all but Erin, whose naked lifeless body lies in a local creek. Mare wakes up, followed briefly by a vision of someone who can only be her son Kevin, then answers the phone again to get bad news.
In case you’re wondering, I come to these recaps as someone whose knowledge and experience in Pennsylvania was limited to a brief trip to Pittsburgh in 2007 and who has seen almost every episode of it’s always sunny in Philadelphia. I’ve had friends, co-workers, and strangers on Twitter explaining the wonders of Wawa to me, and I hope to experience them for myself one day, but in the meantime, I’m excited for this limited series’ perspective on a very specific part of the world World while telling a very relatable and human story.
Mare of Easttown airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.
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About the author
Liz Shannon Miller
(277 articles published)
Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has been speaking about television on the internet since the dawn of the internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider. Her work has also been published by Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She’s also a Produced Playwright, a variety of podcasts, and a collection of “X-Files” trivia. Follow her on Twitter at @lizlet.
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