Watching Mare of Easttown is a lot like watching Broadchurch, both series are murder mysteries set in a small town, both have a detective that’s acquainted with everyone else in the town, and both have someone from out of town coming in to assist with the case, the similarities don’t just end there, but further elaboration would spoil some important elements of the story. This comparison is by no means to say that MOE is lazily plagiarized from the British television series, it is just that the similarities are quite striking that its hard to ignore, maybe these are common tropes in a lot of murder mysteries?
Mare of Easttown is a lot more darker in its tone, there is a sense of bleakness that dwells throughout the episodes, something which I think Mare of Easttown did a lot better than Broadchurch, this is partly due to Craig Zobel’s directing, and Kate Winslet’s exceptional acting prowess (I think her performance will definitely land among the Top 5 performances of this year).
One thing that this series did right was none of the characters in this series were written in such a way that they were prone to speaking ambiguously, or avoiding confrontation in order for the suspense to drag further, each episode ends with a strong cliffhanger and is acknowledged in the next episode without dragging it out for the sake of it, the episode in the penultimate episode, for example is as big a cliffhanger as a Game of Thrones cliffhanger.
However…there are some things at the end that stick out like a sore thumb, the writing in this series is prone to red herrings without any decent payoffs, this is something that I guess most viewers didn’t criticize because of its weekly format, a gap of one week between each episode must have left them less critical of such things (I had binged six of the seven episodes, and only had to wait a day before I could watch the seventh). There are parts where some of the characters overreact to certain things, or are deliberately furtive with motives that make little sense, the series even shows a scene with an exchange between two people crafted purely for tricking the audience into assuming something else.
Maybe upon a rewatch one could find more such things, I don’t know how things work in a murder mystery, but I personally don’t like it when red herrings do not serve any strong purpose to the story other than acting like red herrings. In the end, when the mystery is resolved you are left slightly impressed by the subversion of certain things, but are left disappointed with how you’ve been fooled in the previous episodes about certain things.
I suspect it’s hard for a murder mystery to maintain a strong ending when it peaks at its 5th episode.
(The fifth episode titled ‘Illusions’ has an excellent arc to it with ends a shocking twist)
Now, that being said, Mare of Easttown is by no means a bad show, it has well written characters, and interesting family dynamics, it explores the grief of losing someone in a fresh way that keeps us rooting for some of the characters even in their worst behavior; this is something Brad Ingelsby is notably good at, few days back I chanced upon Our Friend, a cancer-drama written by him, which I felt was an exceptionally written drama film, and is merely a little short of being a classic as far as the genre is concerned.
Maybe in the future, this writer will come up with something better written in the murder mystery genre, but until then MOE will be more of a good drama to me than a murder mystery.