Many internet sleuths pegged Erin’s murder, and it’s a worst-case scenario for Easttown.
Hot on the heels of the daunting discovery of a serial predator bunked down in their neighborhood, Mare of Easttown Season 1 Episode 7 delivered a harrowing message of the dangers of extramarital affairs.
Will solving Erin’s murder finally allow the community to change direction and heal?
Mare of Easttown Season 1 has been an interesting study of small-town life. While it seems a bit much for all of the residents to be suffering so much, there are surely towns where enough residents fall into similar patterns that this tale isn’t too far from the truth.
Small towns often tout family values and the allure of close-knit communities, but those same towns also have secrets that threaten the very things they cherish the most.
Easttown is filled with people who peaked early. Decades after her high-school graduation, Mare is still remembered for her awe-inspiring performance on the basketball court.
Sure, Mare went on to be a successful detective, still beloved by the town she serves, but she’s had trouble living up to the loft expectations placed on her for her early rise to stardom.
The message to those still experiencing high school is that what you accomplish (or what you don’t) in those glorious school years will stick with you forever. Mare’s “failure” at finding Katie only added to that heavy burden.
Mare is a star. Failure isn’t an option, and Dawn’s openly shared disappointment, while merited, reminded Mare and everyone else of the difference between her youth and middle age.
It places a heavy burden on finding success early in life when you have little to no life experience. It’s no wonder that the kids of Easttown are floundering. They’re torn between wanting to escape their existence and making mistakes that trap them there forever.
It’s been easy to paint Dylan in a negative light, but the finale revealed that he’s got a big heart.
All of that anger he directed at Jess during Mare Season 1 Episode 6 had a surprising origin. It was Jess, not Dylan, who masterminded burning Erin’s diaries.
She was a misguided friend who thought she was keeping Erin’s personal life personal, just like she wanted it. She knew that Erin wanted Dylan’s parents to raise DJ, and discovering Erin’s dark secret about DJ’s paternity would scuttle those plans.
Dylan, though, got caught in the crossfire. Ultimately, that’s his role in Easttown. First, Erin named him as DJ’s father, and then, by going along with Jess, he was again at the center of the investigation.
What kept popping into my head as I thought about him was how he followed the women in his life without much pushback. When he finally pushed at Brianna, it seemed to be a one-off or the last straw in a long line of missteps.
He didn’t question Erin as to whether he was DJ’s father. He let Brianna run roughshod over Erin, taking the lead in a situation she had no business in, and when Jess wanted to destroy the journals, he did so.
No wonder he finally cracked.
It’s unlikely to get much better for him as life continues, but he showed a lot of honor by giving Lori the money he and Erin had saved for Drew’s ear surgery. There’s hope for that boy and his big heart.
Unfortunately, life sure didn’t get any better for Carrie.
When she turned down the drugs in my Mare of Easttown Season 1 Episode 6 review, my praise for Carrie was too optimistic. After nearly allowing Drew to drown for her lack of sleep, Carrie reached for the familiar, using again and putting the very thing she fought so hard to achieve on the back burner.
At least Mare saw how hard she had tried. Mare knows fighting demons isn’t easy. Carrie gave up her rights to Drew, hoping only that Mare would tell her son she was sick and that she didn’t let him go for any other reason. She wants him to know he was loved.
Katie, rescued after a year of insanity at the hands of a serial predator, discovered that the town rallied to her aid, providing her with a home of her own for her and her child.
She faces an uphill battle. Just like Carrie, she was hard into drugs well before her kidnapping. She’s got so much trauma that, without help, returning to those old ways could prove far too tempting. But she’s got community support, and that could be enough to change the course of her life.
Erin’s homelife left her restless and aching for connection. Unfortunately, she found that with John during a family reunion. John, another serial actor. In his case, cheating is his go-to for comfort, and lying comes naturally.
Cheating with an underage family relative isn’t a simple case of cheating. Most of what he told Mare during his interrogation was likely true. He probably did connect with Erin on an intellectual and emotional level.
It speaks to her maturity, shown in the way she cared so passionately for DJ and in John’s immaturity, always seeking solace outside the family home.
Why John felt so alone with a wife like Lori was never explained. It doesn’t need an explanation. He’s not a well man. While he doesn’t belong in prison for Erin’s murder, he did attempt to take Billy’s life and cover up another murder.
Billy: That’s why you wanted to bring me out here, huh? Make it look like I blew my brains out?
John: It’s the only way I could be sure.
Billy is a prime example of small-town life gone wrong. He was labeled the family screw-up, and nobody wanted to let him live down that reputation, least of all his brother.
It’s sickening how John let their father think the worst of Billy, knowing all along that he was the reason for the family’s anguish. Everyone expected the worse from Billy, and even when he wasn’t at fault, he delivered for those he loved.
John, a coward through and through, didn’t even want to take the fall for Erin’s death on himself. He wanted his brother to cop to the murder so that he could carry on with his family.
The irony is that John’s actions prompted everything. Cheating doesn’t just affect your spouse when children are involved. Ryan saw him five years earlier stepping out on Lori, and when he saw the same patterns erupting again, he wanted to save his family.
It’s a gutwrenching scenario for a kid to be thrust into family protector when the man tasked with the job fails. Ryan wanted what every kid wants — a happy family.
But John wasn’t going to allow that to happen. Rather than address issues with Lori and leave the family if they couldn’t be solved, he thought secrecy and self-pleasure were the answers.
I tried putting myself into Ryan’s shoes when he saw Mare at the playground. That moment when his heart dropped into his toes, and he took flight, straight into his mom’s arms. If anything showed he was a kid who made a terrible mistake trying to solve an adult problem, it was that.
Ryan: Mom! Mom!
Ryan: Mom! It’s Mare! She knows! She’s on her way here! She knows! She knows!
The panic in his voice as he told Lori Mare knows was heartbreaking. Anyone but Mare would have been better received. But it would only have been Mare who could put it all together.
Mare of Easttown did a fantastic job planting all of the seeds for the story throughout the season. From why Betty’s shed was a focal point to Ryan’s outburst at school when defending Moira against bullies, everything came together.
I agreed to lie to protect my son, and I would have taken that to the grave if you didn’t show up today.
Mare’s friendship with Lori was imperative because when she found out that John had started his affair again, she couldn’t help herself going to the source when she saw her.
If she hadn’t done that, she might never have pieced the rest of it together. But if John hadn’t reignited an old affair, then there was a piece of the puzzle out of place.
John ruined so many lives. He tore his family apart and ensured that Lori would lose her best friend, too.
Lori is an amazing woman. She did what anyone would have done to protect their child, especially since she had the full scope of why Ryan did what he did. She’s the matriarch of a family that was already aching. Wives are in short supply in their family.
Kenny’s inability to cope with Erin drove her into John’s arms. John’s inability to cope with anything drove him to adultery and fatal lies. Lori was left holding the family together, trying to make lemonade out of lemons. It was an impossible task.
As if she didn’t have enough to deal with, her best friend was the town detective uncovering all of their dirty laundry. She had to place the blame outside of her family to survive.
She couldn’t blame it all on John while she was expected to bond with Drew. She needed a bad guy, and she picked the one person she knew would never give up on her.
Mare: Ryan, sweetie, is there anything else you want to tell us?
Ryan: Just that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for everything I did.
Even Ryan seemed OK at the juvenile facility. He was suffering after John’s affair, and his terrible mistake may have saved his life, even though it ended Erin’s. I’d like to think that Erin would approve of how he’s doing. After all, being a mother was everything to her. She’d never want Ryan to suffer.
Mare got her happy ending. She had a very unpleasant job that cost her a lot, but her journey last year allowed her to finally deal with everything she had bottled up.
While her son was dead, her daughter was excelling. Siobhan made lemonade out of her lemons, and she’s got a bright future ahead of her in Berkeley, making the most out of her education and talent.
Mare and her entire family found peace with each other. Mare and Faye are friends, which makes their living in the backyard so much easier.
Mare found a way to move on in love, too. Even though Richard took a job at another college, meeting him allowed Mare to open her heart and imagine a future again.
Her unwise decision to frame Carrie led to much-needed counseling, which she saw through to the end of her journey, accepting Kevin’s death. It was an entirely fitting closing seeing her enter that attic. It meant everything would be OK.
She didn’t give up on Lori, either, and when the time was right, she visited her friend again. They didn’t need words, only each other. Lori broke down in Mare’s arms, and all was forgiven between them. They were each other’s constant.
An outlier in this story is Deacon Mark, who, like Dylan, found himself in the crossfire one too many times. Easy to approach and eager to help, the priesthood’s ravaged reputation made him a target.
Mare: Wherever you go after this, I hope they treat you better than we did.
Deacon Mark: I don’t have anywhere to go, Detective. Easttown is my home.
I appreciated that Mare could own her mistakes, and sharing the news of his innocence with Deacon Mark in person was the noble thing to do.
Deacon Mark didn’t give up on his community. He allowed time for them to heal and seemingly worked to get back into their good graces. It worked, and after some time, he was leading the church service again, delivering a sermon about healing and second chances.
It’s the perfect ending to another stellar limited series from HBO.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.