‘I always imagined I’d be a cop. It’s the life around me I didn’t expect to fall apart so spectacularly…’ Kate Winslet has been one of the fastest adaptors when it comes to managing a small-screen career alongside standard movie-star duties. Long before others made the plunge, Winslet was starring in Mildred Pierce for HBO, and now that streaming services have blurred the line between cinema and home entertainment, Brad Ingelsby’s Mare of Easttown offers a cop-show with the kind of high-end content that was once the preserve of film-making. And in short, much like The Undoing, that’s no bad thing; some stories work better over seven hours than two.
Philly’s finest, Mare Sheehan (Winslet) has a murder or two to solve; the community of Easttown is close-knit, so close knit that several of her own family members are accused of having some involvement in the death of teenage mom Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny). Could Mare’s ex-husband be the father of Erin’s son? What does Mare’s cousin know about the activities of the local Catholic priests? Why has Mare’s daughter Siobhan switched to a new relationship? And why has writer Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) moved to town, and can Mare ever forget the past for long enough to kick-start a new relationship with him?
Sporting a convincing accent and vaping heroically until real cigarettes finally turn up, Winslet is at her best as Mare, a pragmatic detective sergeant who knows her community well. Paired with detective Colin Zabel (a nice turn from Evan Peters), Mare is also haunted by a cold case; the young man strives for Mare’s dogged sense of experience, but Easttown is the kind of community where seven generations of relatives in the graveyard is required to make you one of their own.
Although the final episode bears evidence of the kind of padding often seen in protracted narrative arcs, Mare’s investigation, like that in The Undoing, leads directly to the covert activities of a disenfranchised and diseased patriarchy. The speed of the revelations keeps coming, and the bursts of action are tough and realistic; bad guys don’t shoot twice. Something of a triumph for Inglesby and Winslet, Mare of Easttown is a top-notch cop show, and an easy recommend for anyone who enjoys an old-school whodunit.