Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode one of Mare Of Easttown.
Last night, the first episode of Sky’s hotly-anticipated new crime drama Mare Of Easttown finally made its way to our screens. Starring Kate Winslet in her first TV role in a decade, the show follows the life of Mare Sheehan (Winslet), a small-town Pennsylvania detective tasked with the job of investigating a young girl’s murder – all while trying to stop her own life from falling apart.
The first episode introduces us to the world of – you guessed it – Easttown, a bleak, rust-infused town in which every resident is fighting their own battles, whether that be drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, poverty or personal tragedy.
Mare is not exempt from this sense of overwhelming sadness. Although the first episode does not make clear exactly what has happened, we’re aware that something is amiss at home – she’s raising her young grandson, whose parents are nowhere to be seen; her mother (Jean Smart) has moved in with her; and her ex-husband (David Denman), for whom Mare reserves a healthy bitterness, has moved into the house directly behind her.
Outside of the personal, nothing ‘big’ happens in Easttown – a detail which is made clear by the fact that Mare remains an (unwilling) local celebrity for a shot she made in a basketball game 25 years ago. In the first episode, we get a glimpse into the hysteria surrounding this achievement, when Mare attends an anniversary match to celebrate her achievement, much to her disdain.
Although the first episode is more of an introduction to the town than anything else, we do get a sense of what’s to come.
First, there are the rising tensions surrounding the investigation into missing teenager Katie Bailey, the daughter of Mare’s childhood friend Dawn (Enid Graham), who hasn’t been seen for a year. Then, there’s the death of Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny), a teen mum whose mysterious and tragic death is made even sadder by the fact that we get to know her so well over the course of the episode.
And alongside these main plot points, there are also a number of seemingly unrelated moments to pay attention to, from the mysterious male figure lurking around the town to the drama surrounding Freddie Hanlon (Dominique Johnson), a drug addict who has robbed his sister Beth’s home to fund his addiction, and whom Mare arrests early on in the episode.
In short, there’s a lot going on in this small town – and what’s left to be seen in later episodes is whether any of it is related.
Alongside the tragedy, however, the first episode does provide viewers with a brief moment of light in the form of Mare’s love interest Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce), a writer and guest lecturer who recently moved to the area.
One of my favourite moments in the episode comes just after the pair hook up when, in response to Richard’s invitation to stay the night, Mare slips back into her fluffy socks and informs him she can’t stay because she needs to take her grandson to school in the morning. Mare is, for want of a better phrase, distinctly unglamorous – and it’s in the understated moments like these when Winslet’s acting becomes even more mesmerising.
Kate Winslet previously said that the murder mystery at the heart of Mare Of Easttown is “only part of the narrative,” and the first episode makes this crystal clear.
The show may be slow to start (Erin’s death does not happen until the very end of episode one), but the richness of its characters and setting, and Winslet’s standout performance, means this almost doesn’t matter – and I certainly can’t wait to see what happens in next week’s episode.
Mare Of Easttown episode one is now available to watch on NOW TV and Sky TV Plus. The second episode will air on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday 26 April.
As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.