Mare of Easttown delivers on a resonant conclusion in “Sacrament”, aided along by the best performance of Kate Winslet’s career.
This recap of Mare of Easttown episode 7, “Sacrament”, contains spoilers.
The thing about a small-town mystery is that the mystery being solved feels like an ending. If Mare of Easttown has taught us anything across its rather excellent season, it’s that Easttown, a blighted nowhere place full of economic despair and fractured families, will need more than one good turn to get back on its feet. Even in the wake of Katie and Missy being returned home safe and sound, and Erin’s murder being solved, there is little for the citizens to smile about. The place is still wracked by poverty, drug addiction, trauma, and closely held secrets that take root and rot away at the soul. If this one case turned up so many horrific truths, imagine how many more remain buried, just waiting to be unearthed by the next tragedy?
Pardon me for being all morbid, obviously. But it’s worth mentioning. “Sacrament”, the Mare of Easttown finale, admittedly offered a glimmer of hope in some of its resolutions, but also a reminder of how much still remains to be fixed. That’s probably the more grown-up approach, and HBO’s morbid crime drama has been nothing if not grown-up.
Despite all the confessions last week, it was pretty obvious that there were more revelations to come in the matter of who killed Erin, and “Sacrament” makes two major swerves. The first is diverting attention away from Billy Ross to John, whom we see in the photo Jess took from Erin’s journal, sleeping next to Erin. DJ was the product of a secret affair that began after the family reunion. It’s easy to buy this as the twist we were expecting, so the next one, that it was really Ryan who pulled the trigger, lands as more unexpected. It also has deeper implications for Mare, since it comes with a layer of deception and obfuscation, even from those closest to her, that hammers home what she has steadily grown to believe more and more all season – that blood is thicker than water, and that most of her relationships are running dry.
But not all. In solving this case – and bravo to Kate Winslet, by the way, who has been phenomenal throughout but is wonderful here – Mare also solved, or at least made progress towards solving, many issues in her personal life. She risks a romantic relationship with smartly underused Richard (props to the show for not making a red herring of Guy Pearce’s big-name value.) She makes good-ish with Frank, gets a Good Will Hunting-style “it’s not your fault” moment with Helen, and grows closer to Siobhan in large part by accepting her going off to college – the point of parenting, after all, is to do a good enough job raising your children that they eventually don’t need you anymore. To that point, Mare of Easttown ends with Mare finally pulling down those attic stairs and taking them up, one at a time.