Mare of Easttown has already taken us on a long, painful road, so it’s no surprise that the conclusion (what we’re calling the series finale, but who knows what may happen after first Big Little Lies and then Perry Mason got second seasons) will be even more so. same vibes were provided The conclusion began with a fairly obvious suspect, followed by the discovery of the genuine perpetrator, leading to an even bigger tragedy, much like so many previous tragic murder episodes. But, because of the richness of this little community that’s been created over the previous six episodes, Mare was able to find a way to make it seem new.
We begin off just where we left off in the previous episode, with Mare searching the woods for Billy and John Ross, while the Chief at the station deals with a horrific image that alters everything. However, the show doesn’t waste any time in revealing what’s in that image now: Erin takes a photo in bed behind her with a shirtless John Ross. Billy’s “confession” from last week was actually him covering for his brother, who was the one committing statutory rape with his cousin’s daughter and therefore the true father of D.J.
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Also shitty: John Ross takes out the pistol while Billy is fishing; when Billy realizes John Ross is about to shoot him, he doesn’t appear surprised, even urging John to just do it since “no one will miss a fuckup like me.” John aims but can’t bring himself to fire, at least at first, but when he finally does, Mare shows up. For a brief period, John turns the rifle on himself, but Billy pushes him into the water, and Mare is able to bring both of them in.
John admits everything to the station: having sex with Erin, meeting up in the park that night, attempting to wrestle the gun she’d brought away from her, her being shot, and him moving the corpse. “Woah, that was simple!” exclaimed anybody who a) has never watched a tragic murder show before and b) isn’t paying attention to the fact that the program is still 45 minutes long.
During a brief interlude with Lori in the courts, John Ross urges her to take in baby DJ and provide him with a nice life. Lori is naturally upset, but she accepts; they exchange glances but do not talk. To be clear, there is resentment on both sides of their connection, as Mare feels betrayed by her best friend’s lies.
Frank and Faye look to have a wonderful wedding, and Mare appears to be having a fantastic time, owing to “the three Bloody Marys I smashed before midday” or her date Guy Pearce Richard. Richard also departs Easttown for a new teaching position, but he and Mare appear to be determined to maintain their friendship.
Mare continues to receive calls from the community in the early morning hours. She shows up at Mr. Carroll’s house, which is a bit of a disaster considering his new position as a widower, one morning after receiving such a summons. Mare is kind to him as they discuss loss and how difficult it is to get through the day when you are grieving. In one of the show’s greatest moments of understated elegance, Mare says, “But after a while, you learn to live with the unacceptable.”
Mr. Carroll then confesses why he phoned her: he’s been noticing stuff going missing, including his Eagles championship cup (really a priceless treasure), a fantastic pizza cutter, and, yes, a gun that matches the same kind of pistol that killed Erin McMenamin. Mr. Carroll stored the rifle in a shed with just two persons who had access to it, which was a double “oh.” Ryan Ross, Lori’s son, is 13 years old.
Mare had previously expressed reservations about the significance of the pistol in John Ross’s confession; something about his tale didn’t sit right with her, and this turns out to be the key to unlocking the truth. When she arrives at Ryan’s school, he recognizes her and runs home to his mother; it’s a stressful situation as Mare takes her other cops to the Ross house to conduct the arrest, but Ryan follows along peacefully.
Ryan also reveals softly that he took Mr. Carroll’s gun to meet Erin the night of her murder, claiming he merely intended to terrify her. Not wanting his family to divide again due to one of John Ross’s transgressions, Ryan admits that he took Mr. Carroll’s gun to meet Erin the night of her death. Unfortunately, when she tried to grab the pistol from him, it went off twice, killing her. Ryan then contacted his father, who, together with Billy, took the body to Sharpe’s Woods in the hopes that the crime would be placed on the partying teens nearby.
Lori has known the truth since Billy and John Ross went on the worst fishing trip ever, and she’s upset with Mare for not being able to leave things alone – after all, John is already in prison, so “my entire family is gone because of you,” in Lori’s opinion. Mare admits to her therapist that she has been exploiting examples like Erin’s to avoid mourning for her own son’s death.
Life marches on once again. Following his release from jail, Pastor Mark lectures to his congregation about finding a means to recover from the community’s traumas. Lori and her other children pay a visit to Ryan in detention, where he claims to be enjoying a creative writing workshop. Siobhan makes the decision to attend Berkeley, and her family cries as she leaves. After a long period of her calls and texts being unanswered, Mare musters the courage to pay Lori a visit. Lori welcomes her in, even offering to make them tea… and then collapses into Mare’s arms, her sadness spilling out of her in a wonderfully performed, practically wordless scene.
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Maybe it’s because of her reconnection with her buddy that Mare is able to take the next step on her path to recovery: She wakes up one morning and, for the first time in what seems like an eternity, unfolds the stairs to her house’s attic, ascending up into the area where her son was killed. Finally, I’m in a position to deal with it.
And there’s where Mare of Easttown leaves us, following an emotional trip that was more about family, grief and learning to live with it than about whodunnit.
HBO Max is currently showing Mare of Easttown.