Mare of Easttown Episode 1 begins with screaming, although it’s not attached to the type of horrific beginning you might anticipate from a self-described crime drama. Instead, the screaming comes from a young woman in Easttown, Pennsylvania startled by a peeping Tom across the street from her. While we don’t meet the woman, at least not yet, we do meet her grandmother Betty Carroll (Phyllis Somerville) who immediately phones Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) and wakes her up at the crack of dawn.
Here we start to see how Mare of Easttown hopes to differentiate itself from the countless other murder television shows on the air. The premiere episode is laser-focused on the characters and dark secrets tucked away in this dreary small town. Mare is a detective, a former basketball champion known as “Lady Hawk,” a grandmother and a divorcée. All of these things play a part in forming the tenets of her daily life, which is crumbling around her.
Tasked with tending to Betty’s prowler, Mare informs the batty older woman that she should call the precinct in the future, not Mare’s personal phone. You get the feeling that Mare has connections with many of the locals because she’s been on the force for so long. Regardless, Mare assures Betty she’ll let the force know and they’ll send a patrol car out later in search for the prowler, described as “ferret-like.”
These daily minutiae are the fabric of Mare’s work, but there are more significant cases on the horizon like the search for a missing teen named Katie who neither Mare nor the police has found any new information on in more than a year.
Her mother, Dawn (Enid Graham) is sick with cancer and struggling to find her daughter, believing the police could care less about her since she has a reputation for drug use and prostitution. She holds a press conference to call on the community to assist instead and Mare isn’t pleased by Dawn going public with her grievances rather than coming directly to her.
Mare of Easttown Episode 1 recap: Mare’s bad day
The chief (John Douglas Thomas) tells Mare they’re going to put some fresh eyes on the case, an outsider. Mare is pissed since it’s her case and she doesn’t want other people getting involved but he’s getting pressure now from Dawn and the public so he doesn’t have much of a choice.
But Mare’s bad day is really just getting started. After her debriefing with the chief, Mare goes to pick out a tank for a baby turtle, a gift for her grandson. She dodges a call from her ex-husband Frank (David Denman), who tries to deliver some important news to her but before Mare can hear it she’s given another call to attend to a burglary between brother and sister Beth (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Freddie Hanlon (Dominique Johnson).
Freddie has a drug problem and robs his sister to pay for his habit. Mare gives chase, twisting her ankle in the process and tracking him down in his home, which is freezing since Freddie couldn’t afford to pay his gas bill. There she also finds rookie Officer Ronald Trammell (Justin Hurtt-Dunkley) who has an aversion to blood. having cut his hand while ransacking Beth’s trophy case, Freddie leaves a blood trail behind that upsets Ronald and almost makes him pass out. Mare isn’t impressed.
Why become a cop if you can’t stand the sight of blood? He’s hoping to overcome it. While Trammel is trying to keep himself from passing out, Mare tends to Freddie, arresting him and putting him in the cop car. Although before she can load him in the patrol vehicle, Beth comes out of nowhere and punches him in the face.
Again, you get the vibe Mare has dealt with this family countless times before. Beth can’t deal with her brother and his addiction anymore, she refuses to take him in again, even though she isn’t going to press charges against him. Mare and Trammel decide to send Freddie to a shelter for now and contact the gas company because it’s technically illegal for them to shut it off in the winter months.
Mare of Easttown Episode 1 recap: Mare’s ceremony and her ex-husband’s ‘good’ news
Once all is said and done, Mare returns home and finds out that the reason Frank has been trying to contact her all day is to let her know he’s engaged to his girlfriend Faye (Kate Arrington) and they’re throwing a celebratory party that evening. All of Mare’s family already knew this, so she’s frustrated that they all declined to tell her.
Not only that but the party is being held at the same time as a special ceremony to honor her old basketball team at the local high school. Of course, Mare can’t really be mad because she told everyone she didn’t want them there. But it’s clear she’s a little jealous that her mother Helen (Jean Smart) and daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) are planning to attend Frank’s party instead.
The ceremony explains why the episode is called “Miss Lady Hawk Herself.” Over two decades ago, Mare scored the winning shot in a significant basketball game, earning her title “Lady Hawk” and becoming something of a local legend. At the ceremony, we find out both Beth and Dawn were also on the team and Mare tries to confront Dawn about the press conference, much to Dawn’s annoyance.
After, Mare hits it off with a newcomer in town (the main attraction being that he is new) at the local bar. Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) is a published author who moved to Easttown to be a guest lecturer at a nearby college. They sleep together and Mare reveals she’s a grandmother who needs to get back to her grandson. Hilariously, Richard is surprised she’s a grandmother and Mare asks if she f***s like one to which he says, “A very hot grandma.”
In the final moments of the episode, Mare returns home late to spend time with her grandson, who tells her he’s opted to name his turtle after his dad, Mare’s deceased son Kevin, who she happens to see a vision of in the corner of his room later that night. Then Mare gets another phone call similar to how the episode started, although this one delivers much darker news than the Caroll’s creepy prowler.
Mare of Easttown Episode 1 recap: Who murdered Erin?
Even when Mare’s day seems terrible, it’s never quite as bad as our story’s central victim, Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny). Erin is around the same age as Mare’s daughter, Siobhan, but her story is much sadder.
A teen mother, Erin lives with her dad, who is constantly angry and prone to snapping at her. The only real joy in Erin’s life is her one-year-old son and an online relationship she has with a guy named Brendan. Other than that, Erin is on bad terms with her son’s father and especially his new girlfriend, Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing), who threatens to do something horrible to Erin if she keeps “texting her man.”
At first, it seems like Brianna is just crazy since Erin and her ex, Dylan (Jack Mulhern), have to communicate regarding their son. But later we find out that Erin actually did send a suggestive text to Dylan one night while lonely. Not that it excuses Brianna’s behavior, but it provides a little more context to her fury.
Well while Mare’s story is unfolding, Erin is preparing to finally meet her online crush Brendan face-to-face for the first time at a party in the woods. (Why do teens on these shows always party in the woods!). It slowly becomes obvious that “Brendan” isn’t real. Brianna catfished Erin as revenge for texting Dylan.
She, her smarmy friends and Dylan corner Erin in a quiet pocket of the woods and Brianna attacks her. Siobhan and her friends arrive in time to break up the fight, but a distraught Erin runs off into the dark forest alone.
The next time we see Erin, she’s dead. Her naked corpse is shown dangling precariously over the edge of a reservoir with a nasty gash on her forehead.
What did you think about Mare of Easttown Episode 1? Will you keep watching the show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
New episodes of Mare of Easttown air Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.