United States of America, Pennsylvania, a small town with the faceless name of Easttown. Forty-six-year-old Meir Sheehan is a detective sergeant for the local police. Being a police detective in a town of 10,000 where everyone knows you is not easy. If any resident of the town noticed something that she did not like, then she would not go to the police to file a report, she would call Meir directly on the phone – and she did not care that it was only four in the morning.
A year ago, an event occurred that shook the whole town: Don Bailey (Enid Graham) lost her daughter Katie. Of course, both the police and the residents of the city were looking for the girl, but for a year no traces could be found. Meir led the investigation, and this failure hangs on her conscience.
And then Don and a few friends staged televised pickets, and the police chief of the city of Carter (John Douglas Thompson) was pressured from the county to reopen the investigation. Meir is terribly reluctant to open this case again – at one time she did everything she could – and then from the district they sent the district detective Colin Zeibel (Evan Peters) to help her, which clearly annoys the woman, because she believes that she doesn’t need any help. But there is nothing to be done, she will have to open this case again.
And suddenly the town is shaken by new terrible news: Erin McMenamin (Caylee Spaeny), a 17-year-old single mother, has been found murdered in a creek. Now Meir will have to investigate this case as well.
The creator (showrunner) of the series is screenwriter Brad Ingelsby, and this is his first series experience. Initially, the series was supposed to be directed by Gavin O’Connor, who directed several films from Ingelsby’s scripts, but he was busy on other projects, and as a result, Craig Zobel became the director who directed all episodes of the series: he did some episodes in The Leftovers “,” Westworld “,” Outcast “and” American Gods “, he also made an excellent, albeit rather provocative picture” The Hunt “, which I really liked.
Easttown is a real-life town in Pennsylvania, moreover, Brad Ingelsby lived in this city and it is quite possible that some real residents of the city were reflected in the characters of the series.
The series is very interesting. This is not a pure detective. There is a multi-genre fusion here, in which a fascinating detective story coexists with drama, various psychological problems, complex and intricate human relationships, while there is also some portion of black humor.
Murder in a small town and the search for a killer – this has been in many series, and here the excellent British series “Murder on the Beach” with David Tennant and Olivia Colman immediately comes to mind, as well as the strange Scandinavian series “Murder”.
With “Murder on the Beach” this series is especially related to the fact that the murder is investigated by a female detective living in the very small town where she knows almost everyone, and a visiting detective who does not know anyone in the town.
But in Meir of Easttown, as I wrote, the investigation is not the main thing. Here the life of this rather depressive town and the life of the main character are interestingly shown.
Meir experienced a terrible misfortune from which she never recovered: two years ago, her son, a drug addict, committed suicide, leaving without a father his little son, Meir’s grandson. The grandson lives with Meir, she does not have a soul in him, but this grandson is threatened by the boy’s mother, a former drug addict who seems to have given up drugs.
Meir doesn’t care what she looks like: she doesn’t use makeup, she doesn’t care for her hair, she dresses in cheap clothes in faded colors, she has a vape in one hand, which she constantly smokes, in the other, a bottle of beer. The image, to be honest, is not very attractive. And this was well understood by the customers of the series at HBO, who suggested that the director and performer of the role of Meir, Kate Winslet, somehow slightly embellish this character, but it was Kate herself, who also acted as an executive producer in the series, who insisted that Meir should be shown in this way, as written in Ingelsby’s script.
And this character just turned out to be so interesting, thanks to its ambiguity and layering. Meir evokes sympathy in the audience – both because of the drama she has experienced, and because of the difficult relationships she has to exist in this life, and because of the difficult and painful decisions she has to make when her duty as a police detective forces her to arrest people she knows well on terrible charges.
At the same time, Meir, for all her unkemptness, has a bright charisma and a certain attractiveness, and the fact that some men want to enter into a romantic relationship with her is not surprising at all.
Excellent role of Kate Winslet: complex, multifaceted and emotionally rich. This character does not try to please the audience – we are even shown how Meir herself commits a real criminal offense, and she cannot be justified in this in any way – but nevertheless, it is unlikely that anyone will remain indifferent to Meir Sheehan.
In addition to Kate Winslet, there are many other wonderful roles in the series. First of all, I will note the wonderful Jean Smart, who played the mother of Meir Helen. The old woman, like Meir, loves to drink, she is responsible for a fair amount of humor here, and Jean Smart’s Helen turned out to be simply wonderful – bright, sarcastic and witty.
I liked Angourie Rice, who played Siobhan, Meir’s adult daughter. It seems to be nothing special – just a girl with her own psychological problems, living in a family with difficult relationships – and the character turned out to be realistic and humane.
Actor Evan Peters, who played District Detective Colin Zabel, I had only seen a cameo role in WandaVision before. Here he liked it, although the character himself is not revealed in a purely scripted way. A kind of “Varangian” that no one seems to need in Easttown, but he still begins to play a certain role in the story, it was also interesting to observe his relationship with Meir. Peters reminded me a little of the young Malcolm McDowell of the “Oh, Lucky Man” era, something subtly similar slipped through him.
I also note the episodic, but interesting role of Guy Pearce: he played a writer who accidentally ended up in Easttown, who wrote a famous novel twenty years ago, after which he began to teach other people writing skills, and he himself never wrote anything worthy. Meir and the writer have a fleeting romance, and this is shown neatly and with interesting psychological nuances.
You can talk about other roles for a long time – the closest friend of Meir Laurie, performed by Julianne Nicholson, is very good; David Denman did a great job as Meir’s ex-husband Frank; John Douglas Thompson was quite convincing in the image of the head of the Carter police station, and there are other quite worthy roles.
But let’s better talk about the script and the dramaturgy of the series, because the skill of the screenwriter can only be assessed after watching, when we see the whole picture in full. And the scenario here is extraordinary. The detective component is well done: there are a lot of suspects, and Ingelsby skillfully presents the audience with certain “tricks” – characters against whom there is serious evidence, but who will not turn out to be murderers. And here – unlike the series “Murder”, where such tricks were developed for a long time and tediously, as many as three episodes – such suspects were dealt with rather quickly.
At the same time, I do not argue at all, there are a couple of direct citations of some other well-known detective works, but this is exactly what is intended – quoting, not imitation.
And it’s interesting to see how skillfully Ingelsby connects a large number of very diverse characters into a single picture. Only at the very end of the series do you understand why we were shown one scene in the first episode, which at first seems random, in the second – another, and then it turns out that not a single episode here is a passing one: all the guns hung on the walls in the first act, in in the end they shoot, and sometimes in the most unexpected way.
Also some compliments to director Craig Zobel. He did an excellent job of demonstrating the atmosphere of this depressive town and showing the psychological state of its inhabitants, where everyone knows everything about each other, where you can’t hide a single skeleton in a closet, and yet, as usual, the residents are full of these skeletons.
I really liked this series, in my opinion – this is one of the best series for the whole past year. Excellent script and staging, excellent acting – watched without stopping, very exciting. And after all, it would seem – a rather depressing situation, a completely extinct and very contradictory main character – but it looks just fine!
PS This is a mini-series, the story seems to be over. However, after looking at the ratings, HBO offered the creators to make a second season. It’s still unknown if there will be a second season or not. But the consent of Kate Winslet to participate in this, as far as I heard, has already been received.
Meir of Easttown / Mare of Easttown review
Director: Brad Ingelsby, Craig Zobel Cast: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, Evan Peters, Cailee Spaeny, Guy Pearce, David Denman, John Douglas Thompson, Joe Tippett
Series, USA, 2021, 60 min. Detective, drama, 7 episodes in 1 season