Clare on Mare: Unravelling Season 1 of Mare of Easttown - Episode 7



This is the final instalment of a blog series about Mare of Easttown, the 2021 Sky Atlantic/HBO crime drama. I have been 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 7 - ''Sacrament'

Director: Craig Zobel

Writer: Brad Ingelsby


One of the things that I often struggle to deal with in American crime dramas is how a moment of tension often centres around guns, or a struggle for a gun, or someone almost shooting a gun, etc. etc.... I understand that gun culture is very different in the USA to in the UK because of the Constitution, and that this might be a realistic depiction of people in a fight in the US, but the opening scene of this episode with the scrabble for a gun just felt a little pitiable. Perhaps that was part of the subtext: that the men are pathetic and too reliant on weapons, but either way, the clear obsession with guns had me eye rolling.


Thankfully, the episode picks up from this point with a sequence of satisfying clarifications and consequences for the characters. The Ross family are far more dysfunctional than we already thought... and John is right in the middle of it. The disgust on Mare's face and in her voice as she interrogates him about Erin is palpable. He tries to justify his affair - with a teenager, who is also his niece - so we share this revulsion. Poor little DJ.


Mare of Easttown represents a range of different family units, and in most cases there is an element of forgiveness involved - often at the expense of one of the women . It's unusual that Mare can join her ex-husband and his new fiancée for dinner, while talking about his wedding tux, for example. With the Ross family, Lori accepts DJ as her own son, at the request of John. Carrie gives up Drew because she can't balance being his mum and battling addiction, and Helen pleas with Mare (or Marianne, as she calls her) to forgive herself for Kevin. Whether the actions of these characters are always morally right is questionable, but the strength on display in all cases is admirable.


The second half of this finale episode is jaw-droppingly well written and developed from a set of clues, incidental moments and the intelligence of Mare. It amounts to quite the show-down, with Lori gripping her son tightly as a squad of police approach the front of their house, led by Mare, who now more than ever is positioned as the protector of Easttown. "Nobody gets in front of me, alright?" she tells the men and women following her into the household of the suspect in the murder investigation. They walk towards the Ross house in slow motion, with a stripped back, pensive piano track playing, perfectly capturing the melancholic yet unexpectedly dramatic crescendo to this case. As Ryan cries into his mother's arms saying he's sorry, you also know that Mare is sorry that this is the house that her investigation has led her to - for a second time! The lengths that parents will go to to protect their children has been a constant thread for the entire series, but this really takes it to the most drastic of places.


Writer Brad Ingelsby and director Craig Zobel strike a balance between us feeling sympathy for Ryan and disgust at his dad. He is 13 years old and in his interrogation he admits to shooting Erin. It was 'an accident', even though he specifically went into Mr Carroll's shed to take the gun - supposedly to scare her. He says he was doing it because he wanted her to stay away from his family - this motivation is understandable, but the extremity and violence of the actions are not. Even the thought that he would steal a gun to threaten his dad's mistress is violent enough to warrant intervention. The sensitive approach to him as a child is an interesting one - it easily could have been far more sinister but this is dialled down - perhaps even subdued slightly so that the focus was more on the response of his conflicted mother instead of him as a troubled child.


Additionally, Erin is depicted in several flashback scenes as she attempts to fight off Ryan, but since she is dead she doesn't have much of a voice at all. It's important not to forget that Erin was not only a victim of murder, but of abuse. As a vulnerable teen mother, she had very little power at her disposal to enable her to have the best possible life for her and her son - it's another real tragedy of this show which is overshadowed by seedy affairs and children exposed to adultery.


The first post in this blog series identified the huge amount of broken relationships evident in the show. By the end of the season this hasn't necessarily changed. In fact, some have now completely shattered. But it does provide a more hopeful point to start again from. The final zoom out as Mare climbs the stairs to her attic confirms this. As endings to mini-series go, this was one of the most poignant I've seen, especially considering the enormous amount of grief and trauma experienced over the seven episodes. The religious symbolism, tying in nicely with the priest's sermon to the people of the town, could have been overbearing, but was actually all the more comforting as Mare finally finds peace in Easttown, and with herself.


What questions do I have at the end of episode seven? Is Jess in trouble with the police? She hid things from them that would have helped solved this case a lot quicker. How was Lore expecting Mare to act? Was she hoping she would turn a blind eye to her murderous son? I also wonder if that ever occurred to Mare.


What predictions do I have at the end of episode seven? No predictions but I would love to see Kate Winslet reprise this role. And for Richard to come back.


Final thoughts: An excellent crime drama which is superbly written and cast. With Mare of Easttown, you get emotional depth, thrilling action, and a satisfying feeling of resolution several times over. Kate Winslet is the star of the show (obviously!) but Jean Smart, Julianne Nicholson and Evan Peters put in incredible performances too.


 

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


In case you missed it, read Part 6 of the blog series here. Thank you for reading! If you've also finished watching season one of Mare of Easttown, let me know your thoughts on the show on Twitter or Instagram!