The final episode of Mare of Easttown was a solid hour of twists and personal trauma, which should not have been a huge shock to any of us, mostly because the first six hours of the series were also filled with twists and personal trauma. The confession from Billy Ross seemed suspect from the jump, for a handful of reasons, the biggest one being that the show had too much time left to fill to wrap up its WhoDunnitAndWhy that cleanly. Something else was always coming. It was just a matter of what that was. And guess what: it was devastating, too. Surprise!
Two notes before we get into discussing the business of it all:
- Even though the show was relentlessly bleak and sad straight up through the final minutes, it was kind of nice to have a show we all watched together and speculated about, especially given how many of the quote-unquote big shows of the last year were dumped as full seasons on streaming platforms and therefore impossible to talk about together in any sort of structured format
- What I’m going to do here is rank the twists that happened in the finale, not necessarily by what was most shocking as much as by what I felt was most noteworthy or important given the events leading up to them
This is all art, not science. It’s not even really art, now that I think about it. It’s not art or science. But we sure are doing it anyway. Here we go. Spoilers ahead, obviously.
8. John was DJ’s father
One of the most important lessons you can learn in life is to not be the guy who shouts “I TOLD YOU SO” when you get something right. It is not a great look, in general, and it is not very chill, and so I will not be engaging in any of that kind of behavior now that we all know John was the father of Erin’s child. I may, possibly, drop a link to an unidentified article I may or may not have put together last week, but that’s all. I know. I’m sorry. I never said I learned the lesson, just that it’s important.
But anyway, yes, this was the first big twist of the episode, the reveal that the picture from the cliffhanger depicted a sleeping John in bed with Erin. It’s not like I decoded the Voynich manuscript by figuring it out. The show was winking pretty hard at us in the previous episode. Between Billy getting suspiciously extra annoyed about John’s repeated avoidance of consequences, and the urgency in the Chief’s eyes when he told anyone who would listen to get Mare on the phone, and the thing with the near-Fredoing of Billy at the lake, I mean… yeah. Didn’t take a ton of clairvoyance to put this one together.
And let’s focus for a second on John. What a putz. What an ass. Fathered the kid with an underage Erin and was prepared to dump the blame for the baby and the murder on his failson brother, and then was prepared to kill Billy at the first sign of wavering. Even the thing where he copped to the murder to protect his family was kind of weak because, like, buddy, that is the absolute least you can do at this point. Get him outta here.
7. Mare kind of got her life together?
There was growth here. Baby steps. And given everything Mare went through before and during the time period depicted on the show (dead son, dead partner who she wanted to smooch a little, murder investigation that destroyed her best friend’s family, teen daughter who got drunk and then got real honest about things, custody battle with the mother of her grandson that included planting drugs on a recovering addict, taken off the big case for being a loose cannon, etc.), baby steps count for something.
And most of it was done by letting go. Siobhan left for college, Richard left for a new teaching gig, Carrie came clean about using again and Mare thawed a bit toward her. It all led to her finally going up into that attic. It’s good. It’s not great, for sure, because nothing on this show worked out great for anyone, but it’s good. Growth is good. Ideally, you can grow in your own life without going through… all of the stuff I listed in the parenthetical earlier, but still. Baby steps.
6. Old Man Carroll was the owner of the mysterious murder weapon
Love this guy. Favorite character on the show, no contest. First, he blurts out the secret about his fling with Helen in front of half the town, which was delightful if only for the little showcase of embarrassment and horror that Jean Smart got to put on in its aftermath. Then, this week, he reveals that the gun he keeps in his shed just mysteriously went missing the night of a very prominent local murder, all casual-like, to the degree he named it third on the list of items that have gone missing lately, right behind his Eagles Super Bowl cup and a really good pizza slicer. Terrific television character. Make a whole spinoff about his missing football cup.
Also: On a show littered with glorious Philly/Delco-accented pronunciation (“overdose” = eau-ver-deause; “hoagie” = heaugie; “call him on the phone” = CallimOnnaFeaun), it is incredible to me that it took them this long to drop a good “Iggles” instead of Eagles. I’m glad they snuck one in, I guess, but if this series had been a truly accurate depiction of southeastern Pennsylvania, at least 60 percent of all the conversations would have been about — or veered toward at some point — the 2018 Super Bowl. They can fix it in the spinoff about the cup. I am barely joking.
5. Richard was just, like, a good dude
Unbelievable. Shocking to me on a very deep level. It shouldn’t be at this point, if I’m being honest with myself, because the series at no point gave any real indication that Richard was anything other than a sweet man with crippling writer’s block and a fabulous head of hair, but still, I repeat: You simply cannot have a more suspicious character on paper than “roving handsome college professor played by Guy Pearce who shows up in a small town right around when a teenage girl is found dead in the woods.” I’m still convinced he is guilty of some horrifying act that the show just never got around to discussing.
In fact, I’m extra convinced now that I know he drives a Jaguar. I don’t know why. But I am. His whole aura screams “has skeletons in his closet that he hides by jumping from town-to-town before people start poking around.” I don’t like him. It’s to the point that when this happened…
… I was rooting for him to crash his Jag into every single one of the parked cars on the street. Just scrape them all and mangle his paint job. I bet he stole Old Man Carroll’s Eagles cup. It’s probably in the trunk. Screw him.
4. Dylan had nothing to do with any of it
What’s interesting here is that Dylan’s apparent innocence means two things:
- His alibi of “I was driving around by myself smoking pot at 2 a.m. the night my ex was murdered, after me and my new girlfriend catfished and ambushed her” was legitimate, which is hilarious
- The whole thing with him terrorizing and basically threatening to kill Jess in the previous episode was just because the journal-burning looked sketchy in hindsight, which is also hilarious because Jess hanging on to the picture of Erin and John is one of the main reasons Dylan was fully cleared
My money had been on Dylan blackmailing the real father. I was sure he was involved somehow. But it turns out he’s just a garden variety local dirtbag, not a murderous dirtbag. I regret the error.
3. Erin got double-catfished the night she died
Poor Erin. The last night of the girl’s life was spent getting catfished back-to-back, first by Brianna and Dylan with the whole “secret admirer who wants to see her dance” thing, and then by Ryan when she was trying to meet with John. Just a heartbreaking punctuation mark on a heartbreaking life, complete with a crappy dad and crappy ex and a crappy dude who took advantage of all of that and left her with a baby to raise herself. It’s a huge bummer to think about, all the way around. Let’s move on!
2. Ryan killed Erin
Here’s a question: When did you know it was Ryan who killed Erin? Not when you suspected, or when you developed a hunch. When you honestly, truly knew. Because I want to sit here and tell you I knew before the show spelled it out. I want to tell you I was sure when Old Man Carroll told Mare that Ryan had access to the shed that contained the same kind of gun that was used to kill Erin. But the truth is that I wasn’t 100 percent sure until I saw the look on his face in the screencap up there, right before he tore off over the fence.
I think I just didn’t want it to be him. I was hoping someone stole his key, or someone else took the gun after he grabbed it, or something. He’s another one like Erin who was betrayed by the adults in his life and is now paying the consequences for the terrible decisions all of it led to. Another huge bummer! Let’s try to find a silver lining here…
He is pretty good at climbing fences, I guess? Can’t take that one away from him.
Let’s look at what Lori is dealing with by the end of the season:
- Her repeatedly unfaithful husband is in jail for fathering a child with an underage girl and covering up her murder
- Her son is in juvy for killing the girl her husband had the affair with
- Her best friend was the one who sent both of them to prison
- She’s now raising the child her husband had with the teenage girl her son murdered
What a lay-up line of misery. I feel so bad for her, even knowing that she was helping to cover it up at the end, even after watching her let her son confess to premeditated murder without an attorney in the room. (Come on, Lori!) If there is a second go-round with this show, if they listen to me and do a full seven-episode examination of who took the Eagles cup and why, I hope it starts with Lori and Mare on a beach in Hawaii sipping umbrella drinks and building sandcastles with the small children they are now both raising alone. Those two need a vacation desperately. Mare of Lahaina. It could work.