Mare of Easttown episode 2 recap – “Fathers” more like "daughters"

April 26, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Fathers” turns almost the entirety of Easttown against Mare as the investigation into Erin’s death gets underway and plenty of suspects begin to emerge.

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3.5

Summary

“Fathers” turns almost the entirety of Easttown against Mare as the investigation into Erin’s death gets underway and plenty of suspects begin to emerge.

This recap of Mare of Easttown episode 2, “Fathers”, contains spoilers.


An essential element of a whodunit is that the killer could be anyone. Most criminal mysteries spend ages introducing various suspects, all of whom could be guilty, and then they make each of them look bad in turn. A savvy viewer will do their own detective work, connecting dots, riffling through collected evidence, trying to sort red herrings from viable leads. It’s an inherently manipulative genre. HBO’s Mare of Easttown, which returns this week with “Fathers”, slots neatly into the usual template, but differs from it in two respects. The first is that everyone in Easttown seems capable of committing murder at any moment and probably would even if a young girl hadn’t been brained in a creek just a year after another went missing without a trace. The second is that everyone knows this about everyone else, so someone like Mare, who wants to scrape away the town’s dead flesh and expose the rot underneath, can’t investigate Erin’s murder without also becoming public enemy number one. Everyone has something to hide, and nobody wants their secrets to get out.

Cops in TV dramas are never happy, really, and that’s what struck people about Mare in last week’s premiere. Kate Winslet’s expert grumpiness seemed par for the course, just another tortured investigator for whom personal casualties pile up with every successful investigation. I speculated in the previous recap that perhaps her blasé attitude to casework was responsible for Katie never having been found, as her mother, Dawn, is quick to remind everyone of again in Mare of Easttown episode 2. But I’m starting to budge on that idea after “Fathers”. Seeing the toll that such a local tragedy takes on her, seeing how many people are willing to berate her, obstruct the investigation, confront her outside her house, and angrily smack her car windows just for following the logical lines of inquiry, it’s easy to imagine that her bad mood stems from investigating Katie’s disappearance exactly diligently enough.

People are quick to alienate Mare in Easttown because nobody wants to admit their own faults or those of their close-knit family and friends. When Erin’s body is discovered and physical evidence is understandably scarce, testimony is all Mare really has to go on, but it’s hard to know up from down when everybody has an agenda. Erin’s abusive father, Kenny, is devastated to hear of her demise, turning almost immediately feral, but is adamant that Erin’s ex, Dylan, is the one who killed her. He certainly doesn’t seem like a nice guy, and we’ve seen already that he isn’t, but does being a bad father automatically make one a likely murderer? Kenny wasn’t a good father either!

Dylan doesn’t help his case by being uncooperative, but neither is anyone else, least of all his new girlfriend Brianna, who emerges as the likeliest suspect because she was caught on video battering Erin on the night she died. This is a fairly obvious connection for a detective to make, but everyone turns on Mare for it anyway. At this point, it’s hard to tell if everyone in town is being depicted as stupid or just defiant in the way that inhabitants of a dwindling small town gripped by an opioid crisis can’t help being. On some level Mare seems as though she exists apart from everyone else, the only one who can look at trees and see a forest, but as “Fathers” unravels more of her backstory, including the guilt she’s obviously nurturing for not recognizing and being able to deal with her late son Kevin’s health problems before his suicide, she becomes one of the crowd more and more. She has a testy relationship with her mother, Helen, and with her daughter, Siobhan; she’s irritable, mistrustful of everyone, and totally unafraid of upsetting the wrong people just to find the right one. She isn’t that different after all.

Mare of Easttown episode 2 isn’t short of big moments that implicate any number of people, and it seems likely that we’ll be dealing with more than one murderer before long. Brianna’s father, Tony, becomes irrational after his daughter’s arrest, despite how much sense it makes, and begins targeting Mare directly. Kenny, livid about Erin’s death and unwilling to listen to reason, kidnaps and shoots Dylan. And then there’s Frank, Mare’s ex-husband, who Erin’s best friend Jess intimates might have been a little too close to the dead girl. Is her son, DJ, his? Is covering that up a good enough motive for murder? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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