Thursday, December 2, 2021

Mare of Easttown

 A friend suggested I watch Mare of Easttown because the setting and atmosphere resemble my Penns River books, though from the other side of Pennsylvania. The show and my books have many similarities, though there are also crucial differences.


The parallels are easy to see. Easttown is hilly and mostly semi-rural, with a small downtown. The winter weather is cold and damp; the sun shines about as often as Tucker Carlson makes a lucid statement. Those who live there are predominantly working class, though a few are doing better.


The primary difference is that no one in Easttown – no one – is having any fun. Their lives are a daily trudge from one unfortunate occurrence to another. Even good news comes with tragedy attached. Penns River is much the same, but its residents take their misfortune with a healthy dose of ironic humor, and every so often something funny happens. Life is like that, and Mare could use more of it.


The show in general is good, not great. All HBO shows have excellent production values; Mare is no exception. It’s filmed on location in and near Drexel Hill PA, and the visuals take full advantage. The acting is uniformly excellent, led by Kate Winslet as Mare. Kudos to her for having the courage to age naturally. I know her mostly from Titanic (which I didn’t care for), and her performance here is a revelation.


The plotting falls prey to a couple of TV quirks. When confronted with choices, characters too often take the one more likely to cause the most, and greatest, complications. I know it’s good for conflict and drama, but most people are smarter than that. Let them show it.


The second annoyance is that each episode has a different favored suspect until they finally get it right. It’s one thing to work through possible candidates, but cops prefer not to arrest people, or make serious accusations, until they’re pretty damn sure they have the right person. It reminds me of watching a House marathon with the then Sole Heir (now Dr. Sole Heir) many years ago. She was already thinking of medical school and was trying to guess if House had the diagnosis right. It was his second or third try of the show, so I was confident in saying he’s still wrong. When she asked how I knew – aware I never watched House except with her – I pointed to the clock. “He’ll get it wrong at least once more before they miraculously save this guy as the first two wheels of the gurney cross the threshold of death’s door.”


My overall feelings about Mare are positive. I’ll watch a second season, if there is one. The main story line is intriguing, though some of the police procedure is questionable. I’m willing to forgive that because

A. They’re matters of omission. It’s not like they have a bunch of CSIs running around with guns or car explosions.

B. It’s not really a cop show. It’s a family drama where the lead character happens to be a cop. While not outstanding at either – no one will confuse Mare with The Wire or Little House on the Prairie* - it’s better than competent. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5.


(* - As you probably guessed, I don’t watch a lot of family dramas.)

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