Are we ready to get our teeth into the story? The first two episodes have been filled with cliffhangers and red herrings to arouse our suspicions, but as we get to know the people of Easttown a little better, the search should be starting to narrow. But this is TV!! So don't unfasten your seatbelt just yet as we should still expect to be thrown off the scent a few more times.
This week's episode again opens by returning to the crime which the series has been circling around, showing us Erin McMenamin's autopsy where Mare and Detective Zabel listen to her weight in pounds and length in inches being read out in a monotone delivery that feels especially depressing. The evidence suggests she wasn't sexually assaulted, so what is the killer's motive? This seems to be the question which various characters are pondering as they drive through winding Pennsylvania roads, staring into the distance against a soundtrack of Extremely Tense Strings.
At home Mare is still alienating herself from her family, furious that her mother is preparing Drew that he might have to go live with his mother Carrie. Helen wants him to be warned so it doesn't feel the ground has fallen out from beneath him, but Mare won't hear it and is vibrating with rage. It feels like the most overt hint so far that Mare's stubborn refusal to accept what she doesn't want to believe can blind her judgement. More on that later. She goes in search of solace from Lori but finds none as she repeats the theory that Frank is in fact DJ's real father. The charge against him is that he was seen carrying nappies into Erin's house from the car, which Frank explains was because she was broke. Yet again Frank plays the reasonable counter to his crazed ex-wife, telling her calmly "you know I never would" sleep with her, and coolly agreeing to take a paternity test.
Given that Frank has a rock solid alibi the focus shifts back to Deacon Mark, who we then discover is the last person who Erin spoke to before she went missing. His explanation sets off all the creepy priest alarm bells, claiming that he sees God as working through him and himself as a vessel, which is just how rampant abuse in the church has been rationalised by figures in positions of power over young people. "Just so we're all clear, was it you on the phone with Erin or Christ himself?" Mare asks, unable to help herself. Looking terrified at what they might find, he hands over his phone.
In lighter news, Siobhan's girlfriend Becca has chowed down on a bunch of edibles and ruins their big radio appearance by throwing up all over herself. Far from seeing this as a moment to escape from as fast as possible, Siobhan turns this into a meet-cute with the flirtatious girl who hosts the show, later going back to find her. At least someone in Easttown is having fun.
On a less wild night out Mare has dinner with Richard, revealing how she was close with her late father and also talking about losing her son. Their heart to heart, in which he talks about having his own son taken away by his ex wife, is a rare moment of openness for Mare. "I spent many years waking up with women I didn't want to see anymore," he tells her of the fandom around his book. It's a comment which, coming from a handsome writer, you might not spot as being somewhat worrying, just like his joking about not having bodies under his porch "yet" in the first episode. Are we supposed to think he's a creep? Mare doesn't even seem to notice what he's saying but alongside the image of him surrounded by women at his book event something feels off.
A fragment of Erin's finger helps establish the crime scene, and Mare impresses Detective Zabel by doing her own version of Sherlock's mind palace and working out the trajectory of where the bullet would of ricocheted. It's the first time the show has really allowed us to see a flash of brilliance from her that isn't about bullishly intimidating suspects left, right and centre, but quietly walking her way through the case.
Things seem to be aligning as it transpires that Deacon Mark was transferred from another church under circumstances that don't seem innocent, but meanwhile Mare is called back to investigate the peeping tom incident. Some lewd graffiti has now appeared and like the prowler in the same spot, is not being taken too seriously. Is it possible that the reason girls are going missing is that all these warning signs are being laughed off as harmless pranks?
Mare's professional respectability and her rapport with Detective Zabel both come crashing down at the episode's conclusion as Mare steals something from the evidence room in the police station, and Zabel turns into incoherent and weird when she discovers him drunk in a bar. In the cold light of the next morning, Chief Carter puts Mare on administrative leave for planting heroin on Carrie in order to win custody of Drew in an act of desperation.
This week was the best cliffhanger ending so far, reminding us of how unstable the protagonist we've been following really is. All the signs have been there, but it's taken her gun and badge being stripped from her for it to feel obvious. Having pushed her family away to focus on work, and even seen another side to her ally at work, Mare's world is about to get very small. This might push her to try and continue with the case or spiral into self-pity, but it's a development which reminds us who the real centre of this dark story is.
Leads gone cold:
Number one suspect: Deacon Mark doesn't have any major rivals for the top of our list this week, with Frank seemingly in the clear. The new side to Detective Zabel is unsettling to see, but surely we can rule the case detective out?
Not to be a plot hole killjoy but Dylan's parents seem like very caring parents who love their grandson and would have found the money for his ear surgery.
Mannequin Pussy – the name of the band who are on the radio show before Siobhan's – is that a rejected title for a Grimes album?
Who is meant to be the creep here? A better question would be who isn't. Lock them up!
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