Needless to say, this article is going to dive deep into the current Mare of Easttown series, so stop reading now if you are not caught up on the most recent episode.
Stephen King knows a thing or two about murder mysteries. He has been writing about them the bulk of his entire career, using pen and paper to plumb the darkest depths of the human psyche and introduce his readers to some disturbed killers. In order to create the perfect crime, you have to understand motive, intent, and an alibi. So when Stephen King tweets that he doesn’t believe the most recent reveal in the stunning HBO original Mare of Easttown, we tend to pay close attention to his words. And in this case, I actually agree with him.
OK, let’s catch up. So far, Mare of Easttown seemed to be about one big case, but ended up being about two separate ones. As police detective Mare (Kate Winslet) investigated the disappearance of Katie Bailey and the murder of Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny), we all assumed they were connected. But once Mare unearthed Katie’s captor, she learned that Erin’s killer was someone else, and by the end of our most recent episode, the clues pointed at weasley Billy Ross (Robbie Tann), Erin’s first cousin.
Only, the case likely isn’t that simple, as the episode ended abruptly with Mare’s police chief (John Douglas Thompson) demanding that he get her on the phone after looking at a photograph that we don’t get to see. It’s assumed that Erin’s real lover, and therefore killer, is seen in the photograph. And I think it’s Billy’s brother, John Ross (Joe Tippett).
If it turns out that John was the one who killed Erin, there have been clues along the way. He’s currently in the doghouse with wife Lori (Julianne Nicholson) over an alleged affair with his former lover, but that’s an assumption that Lori jumped to once she learned that John and their son, Ryan, have a secret they are sharing. What if Ryan saw his father with Erin, instead? Also, we know that Billy was spotted by his father covered in blood the night that Erin was killed. But what if Billy was just helping John dispose of the body?
As the most recent episode drew to a close, John and Billy had a conversation (which we joined midway through) about the latter confessing to the murder. Was he doing it because his brother was coercing him to cover for his own crime? Also, who put that gun in the tackle box? We’re supposed to believe that Billy packed it, perhaps to kill off John. But if you watch the scene again, I think John’s the one who packed the gun, and Billy discovered it. John can’t have Billy be a loose end, especially now that he’s developed a drinking problem following Erin’s death… probably due to the guilt he’s caring at covering up for his brother’s heinous crime. Remember, when he had his outburst in front of their father in episode six, Billy claimed he was holding John “accountable” for the first time in his life. That’s suggestive language.
There’s one other theory out there, and it’s a doozy if it ends up being true. Especially because, in his own Twitter thread, someone suggests John and Stephen King says that he “politely disagrees.” What if Erin’s ultimate killer is Lori? What if John and Erin had been having an affair, and John is the father of Erin’s baby… and Lori found out? That revelation would shake Mare to her core, and remember, the show ultimately is about Mare, and the trials she has endured. That might be the last shoe to drop that finally sends Mare over the edge.
WIth only one episode left, Mare of Easttown promises a few more twists to what already has been a riveting first season. I’m not sure another season could duplicate the tension and heartache packed into this case, but if Winslet was game to solve a few more murders, I know I’d be tuning in to HBO each week.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.