Detectives sitting together and talking in Mare of Easttown.

‘True Detective: Night Country’ Left Me Eager To Rewatch Another Hit Crime Drama

I’m a sucker for a great crime drama, so I’ve been 100 percent on board with most of HBO’s offerings in this category over the years, but after True Detective: Night Country, I (like many others) wound up turning to 2021’s Mare of Easttown.

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As the credits rolled at the end of the sixth and final episode of Night Country, HBO’s streaming home, Max, recommended that viewers try another one of their crime dramas, a limited series called Mare of Easttown. Sure, I already watched this show when it first came out in 2021, but who am I to say no to the almighty HBO? I clicked “watch episode 1,” said goodbye to a full day of my long weekend, and never looked back.

Mare of Easttown might just be the perfect crime drama

Mare of Easttown premiered on April 18, 2021, and was an instant hit. Academy Award winner Kate Winslet stars as the title character, Mare Sheehan of Easttown, a gritty suburb on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Mare is a detective and overall complicated character who went through the wringer before we met her.

Behind her gruff exterior, Mare is grieving her troubled adult son who took his own life and left behind his own child for Mare to raise. The child’s mother, a recovering addict, is trying to reclaim custody from Mare and her family, adding to her stress. To top it all off, she still hasn’t solved the case of a girl who went missing a year ago, and people in town aren’t shy about letting her know she’s failing.

Everybody knows everybody in Easttown, so when another young girl is found dead in the local park, the whole town becomes a suspect. Show writer-creator Brad Ingelsby deftly weaves multiple storylines together, entangling the viewer without confusing us, tossing red herrings our way like a trainer tending to a group of barking and clapping seals. We gobble them up and ask for more … they’re that good.

In the end, we see that Ingelsby was actually telling three distinct stories at once. One storyline ends with a shocking scene at the end of episode 5, “Illusions,” but it’s the last two episodes when the biggest secrets and truths are revealed. The acting in these final moments is as raw and tangible as any we’ve seen on television, earning three of the cast members (Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, and Evan Peters) Primetime Emmy Awards for their performances.

two women sit on a bench, one woman with her head on the other's shoulder
(HBO)

It’s not really about crime. It’s about relationships.

I won’t spoil the ending except to say that yes, the mystery of the dead girl in the park is eventually solved, and the culprit came as a complete surprise to most of us. But the real ending, the one that leaves a Mare of Easttown-shaped scar on our hearts forever, is about Mare’s friendship with Lori (Nicholson). In episode 4, “Poor Sisyphus,” Lori and Mare share a moment on a park bench and Lori tells her friend she’s “pushing everyone away.”

“Including you?” Mare asks. “No,” Lori assures her, “I won’t let you.” How far do the bonds of friendship extend? Is it ever okay to break the law in the name of love and loyalty? How inextricably does family bind us to each other? These are all questions the viewer is left to ponder as the credits roll on Mare of Easttown.

This season of True Detective had an air of the supernatural that I enjoyed, and the acting from Jodie Foster as Chief Liz Danvers and Kali Reis as Trooper Evangeline Navarro was top notch. Even so, I was more than happy to see the last of Ennis, Alaska when the series concluded. While there were parts of the series that I loved, the writing sometimes lacked cohesion. Let’s face it: That ending—or those endings were also pretty confusing. I wasn’t even entirely sure what happened at the end, but thankfully my colleague Britt Hayes has it all figured out.

On the other hand, if the showrunners ever decide to make a second season, I’ll be first in line to return to Easttown, warts and all.

Both True Detective: Night Country and Mare of Easttown are currently streaming on Max.

(featured image: HBO)


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Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.