Mare Of Easttown is inarguably one of the best shows of the last 20 years
The final episode arrived and promptly blew our minds.
We've had a lot of great mysteries in the last few years, from those that lean more into the pulpy, trashy side of things (The Undoing, The Flight Attendant), to unravelling the sticky red tape around police procedurals (Line Of Duty, True Detective), to tying the mystery into a greater, emotional narrative thread (Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects).
The thing about Mare Of Easttown is that it borrows elements from all of these, but still very much emerges as its own unique end product. You could almost take the murder mystery plot from the show entirely and it would still stand solidly as an exploration on loss, grief, broken families, toxic relationships, and a whole lot more.
Now that the big question at the centre of Easttown has been answered - Who Killed Erin? - the focus can be settled on where the show wanted it to be all along: Mare (Kate Winslet) breaking through the barrier of her own grief for her dead son, allowing her to heal herself and repair the fragmented relationships with everyone in her life.
Over the course of the show's staggeringly brilliant seven episodes, we see that happy conclusions are rare for anyone in Easttown, with a neighbour's tragedy capable of infecting the entire town. With the cloud of more than one missing-and-presumed-dead teenage girl hanging over Mare and her colleagues at the start of the show, we're shocked that the ending we were given was as optimistic as it was, considering the amount of lives that are completely ruined by the time those credits started to roll.
We've known for, well, ever that Winslet is a brilliant actress, but it isn't unfair to say that she may have given the performance of her career here. As the series progressed, we see Mare open up more and more, going from stoic and somewhat ruthless at the start of the story (planting those drugs is not a good look on anyone, regardless of the reason behind it) to successfully tapping into her emotions. She's ready to face her own trauma, which also opens her up to helping her neighbours deal with theirs in a much better way.
Of course Winslet wasn't alone out there, with Jean Smart getting the kind of Twitter love that has previously been reserved for Katherine Hahn on WandaVision. Juliane Nicholson puts in the kind of subtle turn that only really revealed its full depths by that finale, dealing with more personal tragedy than even Mare has had to attempt to endure. And then there's Evan Peters, who will forever be mentioned by Best Out Of Nowhere Twists on future TV listicles.
All seven episodes were written by Brad Inglesby (best known for muscular dramas like Run All Night or Out Of The Furnace), and all episodes were directed by Craig Zobel (the guy who gave us the massively under-appreciated The Hunt), and we imagine both will now be massively hot properties in Hollywood. Combined, they were able to have episodes switch from hilarious (the wake revelation) to insanely tense (the blue van search) to heartbreaking (Mare returning home to her mother after that blue van search), and it never once felt contrived or forced.
It feels like a perfect storm of talent in front of and behind the camera, and is exactly the kind of thing we definitely do not want to see a second season of. Mare is on the road to recovery, and so is the town of Easttown, and that is the way it should be left, with that glint of hope.
Some of the biggest and best shows couldn't quite stick the landing, be it with final episodes (Game of Thrones, True Detective and Line Of Duty all fell at the final hurdle), or with dips in quality through their run, but Mare Of Easttown maintained its brilliantly high standard all the way through.
Given time and perspective on what they've accomplished here, we fully expect to be fully considered as one of the greatest TV shows of the 21st century.
The finale and all previous episodes of Mare Of Easttown are available to watch on NOW.
All clips via HBO