HBO's 'Mare of Easttown' Is a Sneakily Good Murder Mystery

Come for Kate Winslet doing a Philly accent, stay for the twists.

Michele K. Short/HBO
Michele K. Short/HBO
Michele K. Short/HBO

The first episode of Mare of Easttown, HBO’s new murdery mystery limited series starring Kate Winslet, takes a while to get to the crime its genre would imply. Yes, Winslet’s title character, a divorced detective in a fictional town near Philadelphia, is leading a mostly stalled investigation into an missing girl, but the premiere, directed by The Hunt‘s Craig Zobel and written by creator Brad Ingelsby, is content to meander around its setting and introduce the people in Mare’s life before getting down to the nitty gritty in the later sequences. But stick with it: While the pacing of Mare is a little jarring out of the gate, it’s ultimately what makes the show stand out from the rest of its ilk. It’s as equally interested in the people on screen as it is in the gruesome fate that befalls one of them.

“In this particular case, it was wanting to write about home, wanting to write about where I grew up and the people I grew up with,” says Ingelsby, writer of last year’s quietly great The Way Back. “And while I didn’t grow up with cops and didn’t grow up with an investigation like this, I grew up with my aunts and sisters and priests.” All of those figures turn up as family members supporting and antagonizing Mare. The former high-school basketball stand-out lives with her teenage daughter, Siobhan (Angourie Rice), her mother, Helen (Jean Smart), and her young grandson Drew (Izzy King), whose father, Mare’s son, died by suicide. She’s got a testy but not cold relationship with her ex-husband, Frank (David Denman).

Easttown is a place where everyone knows each other’s business, and have known each other for years. Mare is still called Lady Hawk from her days as a hero on the court, and she still sees her teammates, including best friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson) and grief- and cancer-stricken Dawn Bailey (Enid Graham), whose missing daughter has yet to be found, despite Mare’s efforts to find her. (Guy Pierce, playing a visiting college lecturer, also stars, and Evan Peters joins in the second episode as a detective helping the investigation.) There’s a warmth to Easttown that Ingelsby conveys, but it’s also a place marred by the opioid epidemic, which seeps into the plot, though is never its focus.I won’t spoil who, but one of the characters we get to know over the course of the premiere is eventually found dead at the bottom of the river basin, but Ingelsby balances that jolting reveal with a family drama that feels more akin to This Is Us than True Detective. (In that way, Mare of Easttown owes a lot to the British series Broadchurch.) “I always wanted to keep the family in the story in a very emotional way,” Ingelsby says. “Because for me the story is, at the end of the day, about this family that is broken that has to come together in their own way. I was always aware of the genre expectations… but in the midst of each episode I wanted to maintain the emotional relationships.”

That’s not to say that the murder mystery part of the plot isn’t engaging. “There are clues in scenes that feel like colour, and then there are scenes that maybe feel like they are going to be about clues but are just because we wanted to tell a family drama story,” Zobel explains.

Since Mare was shot about 40 minutes outside Philadelphia, Zobel, who directed episodes of The Leftovers, frequented local restaurants to listen to and observe the local culture. A dialect coach was on hand to make sure the actors nailed the specifics of the Delco accent, so named for the county west of Philadelphia near the Delaware border where the word ‘water’ may be pronounced more like “wooder.” To pin down Mare’s way of speaking, Winslet listened to recordings accumulated by the coach, as well as tapes of Ingelsby’s wife, who is from Aston, the small town in Delaware County where a majority of the series was filmed.

Ingelsby says that Mare was always at the heart of the project. He came to the character first and then developed the story from there. Winslet came on board excited to embody someone unlike anyone she had ever played before. “She said a number of times, ‘This character is nothing like me, which I love. I’ve never held a gun in any of my roles,'” Ingelsby recalls. And while at first it may be jarring to watch the British actress flatten her vowels while wearing an oversized jacket and sporting a bad dye job, it soon becomes clear that the reason to stick with this show is this character. Mare is as driven as she is caustically funny, especially when bantering with her juice-box-drinking and Candy Crush-playing mother, played by the comedic talent that is Smart. Even as Mare gets closer to cracking the case, it’s her life that keeps the series engaging.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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