HomeTelevision'Mare of Easttown' Review: HBO Delivers Another Must-Watch Limited Series

‘Mare of Easttown’ Review: HBO Delivers Another Must-Watch Limited Series

Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz/HBO

As undoubtedly one of the best film actresses of her generation, Kate Winslet took her talents to television a decade ago with the massively acclaimed 2011 miniseries Mildred Pierce. The HBO period drama was another huge success for Winslet, as the Oscar winner added a Primetime Emmy award to her mantle. It should be no surprise then that her return to the cable juggernaut, the excellent and addictive Mare of Easttown, is another winner for her resume. The crime drama limited series is a more contemporary-set project for Winslet than her last one with the network, but the results so far are the same. The debut installment, “Miss Lady Hawk Herself,” does a great job setting up the mystery/police procedural aspect of the story. Perhaps more importantly, we get glimpses of another incredible acting showcase for our leading lady.

Detective Mare Sheehan (Winslet) works for the police department of Easttown, Pennsylvania, the close-knit small town she’s lived in her whole life. Her stressful forays of the job are bogged down even further with a yearlong missing persons case constantly clouding over her, that of her former classmate’s daughter. The feisty Mare’s life at home isn’t much smoother as she butts heads with her spunky mother Helen (Jean Smart, 24) and her equally rebellious teenage daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice, The Nice Guys). Not to mention her newly engaged ex-husband Frank (David Denman, Brightburn) and his fiancée have just moved into the house adjoined to hers. Mare’s main sources of pleasure revolve around hanging out with her lifelong best friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson, I, Tonya), as well as taking care of the former’s young grandson.

The “Lady Hawk” of the premiere’s title is the nickname given to Mare by the people of Easttown. Her winning shot in a high school basketball game twenty-five years earlier brought the town its only state championship, a highlight that the indifferent Mare is often praised for. With the heavy load she carries on her shoulders every day, her status as a local hero means little to her. Nevertheless, upon meeting writer/college professor Richard (Guy Pearce, Memento) who’s immediately attracted to her, Mare may have found a love interest and some extra joy in her life. Besides spending the bulk of the episode inviting us into Mare’s world and showing us who she is, a good chunk of the episode’s length introduces the setup for Easttown’s central mystery. No spoilers here, but the ending of this first installment is quite the gut punch, and yours truly is hooked.

What isn’t shocking, however, is Winslet herself. Mare of Easttown’s star, who’s also an executive producer, makes her character much more than a reluctant antiheroine. Mare Sheehan is as fully fleshed-out as it can get for a main character on television, with Winslet using all her talents to make this everyday woman as real as possible. Besides her often standoffish personality, Mare’s deglamorized, makeup-free appearance includes unwashed hair tied back and baggy flannel shirts and hoodies. The overly fatigued family woman and cop also doesn’t care about talking on her car phone with a mouthful of hoagie, munching her sandwich on the go. Mare’s few moments of peace involve a cold bottle of beer and a spray can of cheese whiz. Vices aside, her blend of toughness and compassion are clear while in the line of duty. Winslet understands who Mare is and brings out these perfect imperfections of her character so naturally.

Besides its lead, the show’s setting is a character in and of itself, a fictionalized version of the actual real place. Mare of Easttown showrunner Brad Inglesby (Out of the Furnace, The Way Back) himself grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and the series was shot just outside of Philadelphia. While Inglesby serves as Easttown’s writer and creator, HBO veteran Craig Zobel (The Leftovers, Westworld) directs the entire series’ stretch. Both men do a fabulous job in creating this lived-in, working-class community filled with blue-collar brethren. Zobel, behind the camera, beautifully shows Easttown in all its red brick, gloomy sky glory. The intimate small-town atmosphere Inglesby describes is clear in how Winslet’s Mare seems to know every character on a first-name basis. Plus, the actress (as well as the other cast members) nails the unique vocal dialect of the southeast Pennsylvania region to a tee.

Ten years may feel like too long, but the reunion between HBO and Kate Winslet has resulted in more television gold with Mare of Easttown. The heralded actress gets yet another fantastic role for her to sink her teeth into, and the network has made Sunday nights must-see TV yet again. The limited series debut “Miss Lady Hawk Herself” may not have dived too deep into the mystery at Easttown’s center, but the surface was breached spectacularly in the closing moments. Yours truly can’t wait to see where Winslet and company go from here.

Mare of Easttown airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. The premiere is now streaming on HBO MAX.



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