Going into the last two episode of HBO’s hit mystery drama Mare of Easttown, one thing is certain: We know a lot less than we thought we did about the murder of Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny).
The fifth episode ended in a bloody climax that left Kate Winslet’s Mare wounded and her partner detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) dead at the bar belonging to Wayne Potts, the man responsible for the disappearance of Katie Bailey and, more recently, Missy Sayers. Only, he is seemingly not involved in Erin’s death; it’s just a grim coincidence that Easttown is a place where many bad things happen to young women.
Now the investigation must recenter on some earlier suspects, which means we’re thinking hard about some of the series’ unanswered questions, at least some of which will probably have to do with Erin’s case. (One just has to do with indie rock, but allow us this.) Come with us down this rabbit hole into the outstanding issues we’d like to see Mare of Easttown resolve in its penultimate and final episodes.
Why did Dylan and Jess burn Erin’s journals? Who is in the photo Jess puts in her pocket?
Though it seems like it would be too obvious to make the murderer Dylan-Erin’s ex, who is not actually the father of her baby-his behavior has been HIGHLY suspicious. Even if he didn’t actually murder Erin, he is certainly suppressing important information about her death. Case in point: That little journal burning party he had with his friend and Jess (Ruby Cruz), Erin’s bestie. What information is contained within Erin’s private writings that all these people, one, know about and, two, want gone? Presumably, the reasons that Dylan and Jess are both determined to conceal these facts are different. Jess, at least until now, has seemed to act in Erin’s best interest. Or has she? She went to Lori, not Mare, with the information that Dylan isn’t the baby’s father, dropping the rumor that it’s Frank. She lied to Mare about the true location of Erin’s journals. Does she think she’s protecting her dead friend or is she letting a killer go free? Whereas Dylan is all for burning the evidence without much sentimentality, Jess spends some time thumbing through Erin’s words, and she eventually pockets what looks like a photo tucked between the pages. Who is in that photo? Does it reveal the actual father of Erin’s baby? Is it someone connected to Mare? (Her son, Kevin, maybe?) In theory, the photo will come into play in the final two episodes, and I’m betting it has little to do with why Dylan is on a pyro spree. – Esther Zuckerman
Where did Dylan go in the middle of the night of Erin’s murder?
Thanks to episode 5, we know that Dylan has, uh, absolutely zero alibi. When Brianna finally confronted him about where he was the night Erin was murdered, he gave a lot of answers that turned out to be completely untrue. First he says he was feeding DJ, then he says he was smoking, and then he tells her to leave him alone. Great work, Dylan! Was he the person a hysterical Erin was going to meet when the Deacon said he picked her up and drove her to the woods? It’s likely, but why would he kill her? He obviously wasn’t jazzed about being a father (though he’s since softened up on that after his hospital stay), and he may have suspected that the baby wasn’t his anyway. Killing Erin would only make parenting more his problem. But he’s also not helping out the investigation very much at all, using his manipulative relationship with Jess to burn Erin’s journals. Obviously, there’s something in there about him he doesn’t want the cops to find out. – Emma Stefansky
Who the hell is Richard and what is his deal?
Seriously, what is Richard’s whole role in this? Here’s what we know about Richard: He’s in town guest lecturing at a local college, but hasn’t really integrated with most of Easttown. He wrote one bestselling National Book Award winner that was turned into a TV movie in the ’90s starring Jill Eikenberry. He has a son named Luke that his ex took away after he philandered following the release of his book. He’s portrayed by Guy Pearce, who, aside from Winslet and Jean Smart, is probably the most famous person in this show. Is he really just there as a love interest for Mare? It seems hard to believe, but at this point he seems so disconnected from the case and the world that I can’t see how he fits in unless there’s some crazy twist. – EZ
Why does Kenny react so angrily to John Ross when he tries to comfort Kenny after Mare says that Erin’s dead?
After a weird conversation over a table full of Rolling Rocks in episode 5, we learn that Erin, escaping a tense home situation, had lived with Billy Ross, John’s brother, for many months, which he at first brushed off as lasting just a few weeks and dodged a few other questions lodged his way. Something’s fishy here-and it doesn’t help his case that Billy took off right after cracking open a fresh cold one. It would seem that Kenny knew about his daughter’s living arrangements based on how he reacted to the news of Erin’s death, angrily lunging at and pushing John, and it’s not ridiculous for him to think that two brothers in a tight-knit community, where everyone knows each other, would have shared a few secrets with each other, or even acted together to commit and/or cover up a murder. We also have doubts about Billy’s intentions. Did Erin and Billy form a physical relationship during their cohabitation? (Moreover, is Billy now in the running to be DJ’s father?) Did Billy have something to do with Erin’s death? He sure does seem suspicious after acting so skittish around Mare. – Leanne Butkovic
Who is Lori’s husband John having an affair with? Or, what is the real secret John is asking Ryan to keep?
When Lori walks by her son Ryan’s room and sees her husband whispering to a sullen-looking Ryan, it’s not clear what exactly is happening. Did Ryan witness something he wasn’t supposed to see? Lori confronts Ryan, who beat up the school bully for being cruel to his sister, about what’s going on, finally asking if his dad, John Ross, asked him to keep a secret, followed by the vague question, “Is it happening again?” Ryan nods, but what is “it” that he’s confirming? An affair is the easy first guess, but who would it be with? There aren’t many candidates we’ve seen John philandering around with, but he could be visiting sex workers in the area. It’s also possible that the “it” could be a much more nefarious habit of John’s that has resurfaced, or that Ryan stumbled upon a piece of evidence that connects John directly to Erin that has somehow happened before. Whatever the answer is, this seems like a question that will definitely be addressed in the show’s final episodes. – LB
What was the point of Jess having told Lori that Erin asked her to keep a secret about Dylan not being DJ’s father?
In what is perhaps the show’s weirdest about-face, Jess “comes clean” in the second episode and confides to Lori that Erin told her that Dylan is DJ’s not father, and Erin suspects that it’s Frank Sheehan. Both Frank, who when confronted by Mare vehemently denies it,and Dylan submit DNA for paternity testing, and we learn that neither of them is the father, throwing Jess’s confession into question. Did Erin think that Frank really was the father? Did she lie to Jess for some reason, or lie to Frank so she could get help with the baby? (Frank, a teacher at the high school, does say that he brought Erin diapers at least once.) Was Jess lying to throw Mare off the scent temporarily to buy time so she could hide some evidence (those journals, perhaps)? Does Jess have any reason to drive a wedge further between Mare and Frank? We wouldn’t be surprised if Jess becomes even more of a key player in the next two episodes as Mare closes in on what really happened that night. – ES
Who is DJ’s father?
You’ve gotta feel for baby DJ. Presumably, he still needs the ear surgery that Erin and her ex-boyfriend Dylan argued over way back in episode one, and his life will probably not get any easier after that’s wrapped up. Earlier in the series, it was established that Dylan and Mare’s ex-husband Frank are definitely not the father. So, who is it? Unless it was a total red herring, the fact that Erin’s friend Jess thought Frank was DJ’s father should probably still have a payoff within the larger narrative. Erin kept the identity of DJ’s father a secret for a reason, and there could be another family connection. Toward the end of episode one, Mare has a vision of her troubled son Kevin, who died in February of 2018, and you could say Kevin resembles DJ, who was born in November of 2018. Could Kevin be the father? That feels unlikely-there’s a theory floating around that Siobhan killed Erin to keep her brother’s secret-but stranger things have happened in Easttown. – Dan Jackson
Who is the ferret man?
The entire show opens up with an incident that initially seems like a way to indicate just how boring Mare’s job can be and how tight a community Easttown is. Betty Carroll calls her early in the morning to come investigate a creepy dude her granddaughter saw in their yard. Mare is frustrated because this is below her pay grade. Betty describes the guy as wearing a hoodie and looking like a “ferret.” Mare can’t talk to the granddaughter because she has already left town, and the security camera isn’t working. Later on, it is back up and running when a neighbor kid vandalizes Betty’s property, but Mare deletes that evidence, assuming it isn’t worth the hassle. What else could those cameras have captured, and is it something related to Betty’s death? Betty has a heart attack while driving to get cereal, but maybe that’s not the full story. Anyway, Mare has clearly been focusing on the ferret guy. She drew a picture of him in her notebook, which is visible in episode 5. Maybe this ferret man had something to do with Erin’s death. Or maybe he’s just a random creep. You know who sort of looks like a ferret, though? Billy Ross, who is high on our suspects list. – EZ
Is Wayne Potts involved in Erin’s death in any way?
Based on the events of episode five, we still know very little about Wayne Potts, the man behind the kidnapping of Katie Bailey and Missy Sayers. According to the woman who spoke with Mare and the dearly departed Detective Zabel in episode five, there’s a disturbed guy attacking sex workers who drives a blue van, smokes Winston cigarettes, and has a beard. Potts has a blue van and kept Winston’s on his coffee table, but he definitely doesn’t have a beard. (We never actually see him smoke the cigarettes either.) So, it’s certainly possible that he’s been working with an accomplice, and that person could be Erin’s killer. – DJ
What was the deal with the car crash that opened episode 5?
It’s OK if you don’t even remember this happening. The ending of episode five was so shocking and immediately inspired so much discussion-RIP Colin-that it’s easy to forget that the episode kicked off with the death of town-gossip Betty Carroll, who died of a heart attack while behind the wheel and knocked the town’s power out. She’ll never see the peeper of Easttown be brought to justice. At the same time, she didn’t have to live to see her husband confess his affair with Helen to a whole crowded room of people at her own funeral gathering. The Carrolls feel like one of the more comedic plotlines in Mare of Easttown‘s web of intrigue, so it would be surprising if they ended up tying into the larger mystery of Erin’s death. Still, the heart attack and car crash felt a little suspicious, and it’s only natural for a show like this to make you a little paranoid about bits of narrative contrivance and coincidence. – DJ
Did Siobhan ever go see boygenius?
Indie rock, occasionally by Philadelphia-based artists, has been a huge part of the soundtrack of Mare: Clairo and Grouper have closed out episodes, Mannequin Pussy has been name-dropped several times, Emmy-nominated Big Thief had a track squeezed in and so has Julien Baker. Speaking of Baker, after Siobhan’s band plays a set live on the radio, the DJ Anne hits on Siobhan by inviting her to see indie rock supergroup boygenius, made up of sad-girl icons Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. Did they ever go to the show? Did it rule? Who is Siobhan’s favorite member? What was her opinion about Bridgers smashing her guitar on SNL? We here at Thrillist would love a spinoff of Mare that was just about Siobhan’s band and the eastern Pennsylvania music scene. – EZWant more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.