The series finale of Mare of Easttown wrapped up the sad mystery of who killed Erin McMenamin with about 20 more minutes of show left to go. In the closing shot of the episode, after she tied up the loose ends of her various relationships, Kate Winslet's Mare climbed a ladder up the attic. This, series creator Brad Ingelsby says, wasn't the final moment he originally had planned for Mare of Easttown. A consulting grief specialist on the show gave him the inspiration. Ingelsby and Lori Ross actress Julianne Nicholson dive into what the emotionally cathartic ending of the Mare means.
Creator and executive producer Brad Ingelsby told Town & Country Magazine in April that the show is not about a true crime story he was interested in. Rather, he said it is meant to tell the story of "a crime that felt like it could generate the most conflict within a small community."
He said he drew inspiration for the town and its characters from his hometown of Easttown Township in Pennsylvania, where the show was also shot. Mare is based on a police officer friend who Ingelsby grew up with, the filmmaker said.
It's been a long sad journey already with Mare of Easttown, so no surprise that the finale delivered similar vibes. Like so many other sad murder shows, the finale began with a pretty clear suspect, followed by the reveal of the true killer, resulting in an even greater tragedy. But full credit to Mare for finding a way to make that feel fresh, thanks to the depth of this little community that's been developed over the previous six episodes.
The episode opens with a seamless transition from last week’s episode as Mare trudges toward the riverbank convinced she’s there to take Billy Ross into custody for the murder of Erin McMenamin. Chief Carter is still frantically trying to track Mare down to tell her about the mystery photo, which winds up being a classic “bae caught me sleeping” selfie with none other than John Ross, the actual father of Erin’s baby. It’s perhaps a shock to the audience, but of no moment to Mare, who arrives at the fishing excursion just in time to catch John trying to murder the only person, so far as we know, with the ability to implicate him in Erin’s murder.
The murder-mystery and human drama went hand-in-hand for Mare, and they ended up balancing out “Mare of Easttown,” too. For as preposterous as the truth may sound, sans context — “the kid is the killer?!” — Episode 7, “Sacrament,” managed to tie up far more of its loose ends than I ever expected, and in ways that proved more and more satisfying on subsequent viewings. Bolstered by wrenching human performances, the ending avoided going off the rails — a la the crash-and-burn hysteria of “The Undoing’s” atrocious conclusion — and even proved more moving than a show with this many fake-outs has any right to be.
The finale ended on a hopeful note as well, with Mare at long last dealing with her son Kevin’s death by pulling down the attic stairs and going up there for the first time since she found him hanging there. We only saw her go up the stairs from afar before it cut to black, but Zobel reveals “there was discussion at different times” about the camera following Mare all the way up. “I remember thinking about whether or not we needed to actually go up into the attic and be up there. But I always felt like [her] just making the choice was enough.”
With the mystery now solved, we can clearly see all the red herrings that Mare laid out along the way, from Erin’s ex Dylan to Deacon Mark. The theories got pretty wild online, with fans picking apart every frame for clues. “I have to admit, that happened more than I even thought,” Zobel says with a laugh. “There certainly have been times where I’ve seen people write about stuff, how it was shot… It becomes a little bit of a thing in the edit. It’s like, when are we hiding the ball too much? Because there’s a satisfaction in being able to play that game, I think.”
For all of its twists, turns, missing girls, and shady men, Mare of Easttown is really about grief: the ways we bottle it up and then lash out when it becomes too much. The same pattern has been true of Dawn Bailey over losing Katie, Lori with Ryan's confession, and the whole Sheehan family over the deaths of both Kevin and Helen's husband. The conclusion of the finale leans into this, with Mare instructed to "finally face what you've been avoiding" by her therapist now that the case is over
The show has been defined by its twisty episode endings which delivered a bombshell each week. By contrast, the final shot, which slowly pans out from the ladder to the attic where Mare has gone to face her demons, feels like a final full stop.
There's absolutely nothing on the show that distracts from the suspense of the plot — and that includes the purposely plain makeup, hair, and wardrobes of the characters. Easttown residents never wear any designer clothes or ornate jewelry. Mare and her neighbors are trying to continue with their lives while working through the grief of having lost two young women — and they look it. To that end, "Mare of Easttown" hairstylist Lawrence Davis previously told Insider reporter Zac Ntim that he was asked to give everyone "bed hair."
The show is certainly filled with twists, especially in Erin's murder case where there are at least a dozen suspects spread out all over Easttown. But after some reflection, Ingelsby warmed to the idea: “It was a revelation. When we got to the end, it felt like it became so obvious. Of course, it has to end with Mare going up. This whole show is about a woman who refuses to confront grief. So of course it has to end with her going up and doing this thing.”
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