Clare on Mare: Unravelling Season 1 of Mare of Easttown - Episode 5

This is Part 5 of a blog series about Mare of Easttown, the 2021 Sky Atlantic/HBO crime drama. I will be posting my response to each episode after watching, and doing a bit of analysis after each initial viewing. Be warned: since the plot will be discussed, there are spoilers ahead!

Mare of Easttown - Episode 5 - ''Illusions'

Director: Craig Zobel

Writer: Brad Ingelsby

If you were ever in doubt about the bleakness of this show, in the first 10 minutes of this episode, we overhear some sort of secret being promised to be kept in the Ross household between father and son, the town experiences a power cut, there's a car crash (with a fatality) and Mare speaks in her therapy session about depression and her dead son's mood disorder. It's heavy going!

Soon after, Billy Ross is under faux interrogation by Mare in a social capacity when it emerges that Erin stayed with him for a while during a conversation over pizza. An untouched bottle of beer as he bolts suggests that he wasn't ready to be questioned, and something about his nervous disposition and dark bags under his eyes indicates he isn't keeping well at the moment. Younger member of the Ross family, Ryan, also loses it at a bully in the school canteen proving that the secret his dad is asking him to keep is getting to him and rearing itself in ugly ways. In any case, the bully won't be throwing anything at his sister any time soon... so there's that.

The most exhilarating scenes - perhaps so far in the series - occur in this episode. The two girls - Katie Bailey and the other, newly abducted sex worker - who are being kept hostage discuss life (if it can be called that) as prisoners of a psychopath: his patterns, behaviour and treatment of other women. We know early on it's a man because of the way the shots of him are framed and his face remains hidden until the climax of the episode. Concurrently, Mare and Zabel are uncovering information based on anecdotes from other sex workers, which leads to a considerably more narrow search for suspects based on the vehicle. The narrative that they are building and the perspective that the audience have merge in this episode and makes for one of the most nail-biting discoveries yet - and is likely the reason behind the 9.4 score on IMDb.

'You've Got Another Thing Coming' by Judas Priest plays as the detectives enter one very run down and dirty house/bar. Tension rises as more questions are asked and as the locked up women realise that there are unexpected visitors they being banging the pipes as a distress signal. THIS is the moment we've been waiting for! Once it's clear that they're dealing with a very dangerous man, the last ten minutes of the episode play out with gritty action and barely any dialogue. God-tier television.

Though Mare and Zabel worked together to find the abuser and the victims, sadly it doesn't look like they will be leaving together. It's a true tragedy. The lingering close up on Mare's shellshocked face with the sound of Kevin's voice from the home video playing over it (and among all the police sirens, running, cacophony of voices entering the building) is an interesting choice of sound and conveys just how busy and complex the mind of Mare is, as well as the depth of Kate Winlet's acting repertoire.

What questions do I have at the end of episode five? The obvious question is now that two of the missing girls have been found, is Erin's death even connected to them? Dylan still seems guilty. Brianna pokes a hole in his story so where was he at the time of Erin's death? And why's he so concerned about the journals? He must have something to hide, even if it's not murder. Colin Zabel... Craig Zobel (director) - is the detective inspired by the director? Is there a semi-autobiographical element to the story?

What predictions do I have at the end of episode five? Mare is going to have the trust and support of her Chief and the local community going forward. Surely she has to after finding Katie Bailey!? I think it's become clear that Erin's case is separate now too so although there were some similarities between the victims, we now know the circumstances were different. The Ross brothers/Kenny still aren't off the hook and now the Deacon has come clean, the pressure is off him (though the rumour mill in Easttown is unlikely to let him off so lightly).

Other thoughts (i.e. Helen Watch): Helen's affair being aired at Betty's funeral reception by the widowed husband was completely on brand - an unlikely and uncomfortable moment of humour in a typically sad setting. Mare's reaction to this news (uncontrollable laughter) is priceless.


You can stream Mare of Easttown on Now TV or HBO Max now.

In case you missed it, read Part 4 of the blog series here. You can read Part 6 here:!