meEscapism takes many forms, and my current preference is to leave my perfect penalty fee life back for an hour every Monday and I immerse myself in the grim events of a small town in America’s icy rust belt, a place torn by intergenerational trauma and torn apart by missing girls, addiction, and murder.
I mean, I’m hooked on Mare of Easttown.
The HBO crime series (which centers on a detective named Mare in a place called Easttown, not Mayor from a place called Easttown) is a break from the pandemic-era fantastical television era, populated by period dramas of pomp and pomp and Baby Yoda.
It’s a murder mystery, and one that on the box so closely resembles the cliches of its genre: a beautiful local teenager found dead, a tough detective tasked with figuring out which idiosyncratic citizen dunit, that I hardly saw. Promotions that featured Kate Winslet as scruffy cop with a greasy ponytail, “no makeup” makeup, and a permanent frown also seemed too obvious a play for next year’s Emmys. More Girls-on-Slabs award bait? No, thanks.
But I’m thrilled that I was wrong and deeply grateful for the hangover it left me on the couch one Sunday where I inhaled the first two episodes in one sitting.
The show is an unexpected delight.
Above all, because it is really good. Beyond the standard genre tropes is a story of such rich and surprising specificity, of people and relationships that feel textured, and an environment so vivid that you can feel the claustrophobia of small-town life. Easttown, Pennsylvania, is the kind of place journalists desperately tried to decipher during the Trump years: mostly white, financially depressed, and brimming with nostalgia for a lost heyday. It’s here that Winslet’s Mare, a 40-something grandmother with a vaporizer and gruff exterior, fights opioid-fueled petty crime on a daily basis, while attracting the attention of several suitors at her local bar and handling withering disapproval. of her teenage daughter and her mother. Amid the fabulous details is humor and a maddening, suspenseful intrigue that Mare must solve.
But what has been so enjoyable is not just the show itself, but the experience of watching it these last few weeks.
The miniseries will only be released on streaming platforms one episode at a time. After that first viewing, I had to wait a week between each episode, counting the days until Mare’s Monday (as the writer Peter Taggart called them) before I can see another.
“How are we supposed to wait another week !?” my boyfriend yelled at the laptop after watching the latest installment. I shared his frustration (that ending!). But, in truth, I also love the cultural edge that is imposed on us.
It’s a reminder of TV before, when we couldn’t devour a series in a single weekend. There is a particular pleasure in having to put together a show slowly when there is a real puzzle at its core, and even more so when it feels like a fleeting collective experience among the audience.
There are enough people in my life and on my Twitter account watching Mare that he almost feels like before again: arguing over which local priest or male member of the Ross family we should consider (ALL OF THEM), imitating the Durder assassination accents and jokes about Pennsylvania specific regional sandwiches. As with Game of Thrones, another broadcast-age show that prevailed for weeks and years, the fun of trying to solve the puzzle in real time, on Reddit and Twitter, on podcasts and group chats, becomes almost as much fun as the show. itself (but please God let the payoff be better this time). I’m inhaling fan theories harder than Winslet hits Juul.
I was born too late for the “who shot JR?” frenzy sparked by the soap opera Dallas in the 1980s, which saw 83 million people tune in after seven months to find out, and too young to wonder who killed Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer when it first aired in the early 2000s. 1990s. But I’m old enough to know they were both real things It brought people together in feverish speculation and cast long cultural shadows. Both shows were parodied by The Simpsons in 1995, with the twin suspense episodes about Who shot Mr. Burns, which became a cultural moment in its own right. I was a kid at the time and I loved guesswork, but those moments are getting harder and harder to come by.
In the 90s, of course, it felt like everyone I was watching The Simpsons (my family used to plan dinner time around that), and even if that’s not strictly true, it was the last decade of truly massive cultural events. You didn’t have to dive into the corners of Reddit or search for podcasts because the great shows were ubiquitous enough to be discussed anywhere. For every friend who recovers from the last Mare Monday, there are many more who do not know it exists or do not have the paid subscriptions to join.
I got to see Twin Peaks years later (I don’t recommend doing it alone), so I know who killed Laura Palmer. But I’ll never know what it was like to agonize over it, week after week, in real time. Mare fans have less than two weeks to enjoy playing chair detective.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism