Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode seven of Sky Atlantic’s Mare Of Easttown, so make sure you’re all caught up (or are actively seeking spoilers) before scrolling down.
With episode six leaving the show on a cliffhanger, episode seven picks back up with Mare (Kate Winslet) as she heads out to the Ross family’s fishing cabin to question Billy Ross (Robbie Tann) about his relationship with Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny), after she confronted her best friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson) about the evidence she’d found connecting the murdered teenager to him.
However, as we quickly learn thanks to the slip of paper Jess (Ruby Cruz) handed Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson) at the end of last week’s episode, Billy isn’t the person Mare needs to question – the slip of paper in question is a photograph of Erin in bed with John (Joe Tippett), Billy’s brother. As it turns out, he’s the one that was having a relationship with Erin, fathered her son, DJ, and played a role in her death – and he’s taken Billy to a remote spot in the woods to shoot him (but make it look like a suicide) and frame him for the murder.
The only problem for John? Mare’s right on the brothers’ tail – and before John finds the strength to pull the trigger and shoot his brother, she wrestles the gun off of John and drags him into custody, where he admits to killing Erin.
According to John, when he agreed to meet Erin at Brandywine Park on the night of her death, she turned up with a gun and said she was going to shoot herself if John didn’t pay for DJ’s ear surgery. The rest, as they say, is history – John tried to grab the gun off of Erin, she fought back and he accidentally shot her in the hand. When he saw the blood, he panicked – and shot her again, this time on purpose, in the head. Just over 10 minutes into the episode, and it seems like the case might finally be closed.
With that all tied up nicely, life in Easttown begins to get back to normal (as normal as it can be after a girl has been murdered, of course). One by one, we get a glimpse into the lives of Easttown’s residents and what the future holds for them – Mare tells Deacon Mark (James McArdle) the charges against him are being dropped; Lori takes over custody of Erin’s son and gets him his ear surgery; Katie Bailey (Caitlin Houlahan) and her daughter are allowed to move into Freddie Hanlon’s (Dominique Johnson) old house to start their new life; Siobhan (Angourie Rice) makes the decision to go to college in California; and Mare and her mum (Jean Smart) talk about their dysfunctional relationship for the first time.
Even in the less positive moments, such as when Drew’s mother Carrie (Sosie Bacon) admits to Mare she’s been using drugs again and needs to go back to treatment, or when Richard (Guy Pearce) moves away to a new town, marking a bittersweet ending to his and Mare’s relationship, there’s a sense of resolution – life may not be easy, but it’ll get better soon.
However, this is a crime drama – and in true Mare Of Easttown fashion, things aren’t exactly as they may seem. It all starts to unravel when Mare gets a call from Glen Carroll (Patrick McCade), who wants her to come over to his house. When she gets there, he reveals that he’s noticed some things going missing around the house – a mug, a pizza slicer and, he reveals casually, his gun.
It’s the apparent ‘smallness’ of this moment that makes it such a brilliant twist – to Glen, the mysterious disappearance of his gun seems no more meaningful than that of his favourite mug or “real good” pizza slicer (the aside he shares later, that it’s “strange” that there’s also two rounds missing from the gun in question, just adds to the brilliance of this moment), but to Mare, it’s a gigantic red flag.
Things get even more suspicious when he reveals that the gun was one he was given by the police force when he retired from service – a Colt Detective Special. If you were listening closely last episode, you’ll know this was the gun the ballistics expert said was used to kill Erin – and it’s for this reason that Mare starts to grow increasingly alarmed. From here, there’s only one more question to ask – who has access to that gun?
According to Glen, only two people can access the gun: himself, and “the kid who cuts the lawn”. And who is that, you ask? Well, none other than Lori’s son Ryan (Cameron Mann).
The rest of the episode goes as you might expect – but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant. When Mare goes to talk to Ryan at school, he flees, knowing that Mare has realised his connection to the murder. But he doesn’t run away completely – he runs home, where Mare finds him curled up in the arms of Lori, awaiting his fate.
It’s in this moment where the intricacies of Easttown’s characters and the relationships between them play out perfectly – Mare isn’t just a detective going to arrest a suspect in a murder investigation, she’s also Lori’s best friend, who cares deeply for Ryan and his family. As much as she wishes things were different – we hear the emotion in her voice when she calls for backup over her radio – Mare has to do her duty, and she takes Ryan into custody.
There, he reveals what really happened that night. Erin and his dad, John, were having a relationship (that much, at least, was true) and Ryan was deeply unhappy about it. In fact, he’d told his dad to call off the relationship altogether, and he thought he had – until the night of Frank’s (David Denman) engagement party, when he saw him talking angrily on the phone to whom he correctly presumed was Erin.
From there, he hatched a plan – to take Glen’s gun, lure Erin to the park and scare her enough to keep her away from the family altogether. But things didn’t go as planned, and he ended up shooting Erin by accident when she tried to wrestle the gun off of him – once in the hand, and once in the head. His Dad and his brother did play a part in the aftermath of the shooting – they “took care” of her body and covered up the crime – but the murder itself was all Ryan’s doing.
It’s a heartbreakingly sad situation – one which is summarised in Ryan’s final comments.
“Ryan, sweetie, do you have anything else you want to tell us?” Mare asks.
“Just that I’m sorry,” he replies. “I’m really sorry for everything I did.”
From here, the episode winds down to its conclusion, as Mare and Lori deal with the fallout of the case on their friendship. To say the pair have been through an impossibly tough situation would be an understatement – but the way in which they come together, with Mare comforting Lori for the “loss” of her son in the same way Lori presumably comforted her after the loss of her son, Kevin (Cody Kostro), is incredibly emotional to watch.
It’s a moment that leads to the episode’s closing scene, in which we see Mare going somewhere she’s avoided throughout the series – the loft where her son died by suicide. It’s yet another powerful moment in a show which has been packed full of them – and feels like a satisfying conclusion for Mare and her family.
However, it’s not just the plot that stands out for me in the show’s concluding episode. Throughout the series, Kate Winslet has shone as Mare – but seeing her emotional and raw performance alongside the equally spectacular Julianne Nicholson, who plays Lori, was something else entirely.
If there’s one thing Mare Of Easttown really excels at, it’s exploring the complexities of our most intimate relationships – from the ever-shifting relationship between Mare and her mother, Helen to her aforementioned friendship with Lori, every single conversation between the show’s central characters is so authentic and real.
And it’s this authenticity that makes the show’s conclusion so apt, too. Ryan may not have been one of the series’ prime suspects, or some kind of secret criminal mastermind, but his role in Erin’s death makes sense – and it’s this, combined with the complexity of Mare’s relationship with the community she serves, which makes the conclusion so damn satisfying.
Indeed, as Kate Winslet once explained in an interview about the series, the brilliance of Mare Of Easttown is that the murder at its heart is “only part of the narrative”. Among all the mysterious moments, fan theories and big revelations, the show takes on more than its fair share of topics, from grief and loss to hope and resilience, all of which are explored through a rich and complex group of characters who you genuinely care about by the end of the series.
If one thing’s for sure, Mare Of Easttown does so much more than it says on the tin – and its commitment to presenting life in all its messy forms is what makes it such a joy to watch.
As Stylist’s 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. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.