*Mare of Easttown (Sky Atlantic) - ***
Kate Winslet made a sturdy cop, but the gender politics are a bit questionable.
Why do female cops look so rough on TV? That’s a question I’ve been asking ever since seeing Sarah Lund in ‘The Killing’ with her matted grey jumper and shaggy hair. It’s a question I’m asking again in ‘Mare of Easttown’ (Sky Atlantic) which features the magnificent and beautiful Kate Winslet matted-haired and draped in a torn coat. Perhaps it’s symbolic of the Bechdel-beating power of today’s TV dramas that a woman doesn’t need good looks to complete her. But ‘Mare of Easttown’ contradicts this by giving Winslet a hunky boyfriend (Guy Pearce) and a pretty graphic sex scene.
‘Mare of Easttown’ clearly has ambitions to be a Scandi-style noir in vein of ‘The Killing’ and ‘The Bridge’. It’s set in a small midwestern American town with Christmas trees and grey skies that could easily have walked off the set of ‘Twin Peaks’ (1990-1991). Winslet is hard bitten detective Mare Sheehan. She’s a cop, a mum and a grandmum to a little boy. And she’s living in a town where a girl is missing, a prowler is peeping through windows and another girl is found dead by a stream.
This is Winslet’s first TV drama in a decade. The last time she did so was in ‘Mildred Pearce’ (another HBO show). She’s very good as Sheehan - battered and bruised and with a pretty right-wing mindset on life in the rural America this drama is set. Her appearance certainly mirrors that of Sarah Lund, but her gender politics do not.
Sarah Lund didn’t need a man or sex to complete her. Here Winslet has sex with Guy Pearce and starts a relationship. It’s quite stereotypical and contradictory of her entire image as being a Bechdel-test-beating heroine. She even picks him up in a bar.
The scenery is stunning and the music very ominous. I especially liked the ending scene where the little girl is washed up next to the stream. Very disturbing stuff. I don’t doubt this whodunnit will become a key focus over the next few weeks.
But the whodunnit aspect is not key to this drama’s success. Like ‘Broadchurch’ and ‘The Missing’, this is really a tale of a tightly-knit community and how tragedy can rip a hole in it. There’s lots of potential suspects with everybody hiding something.
This is a strong, Scandi-style mystery thriller with a powerful female lead. But it could’ve been better had it not played to feminine stereotypes.
‘Mare of Easttown’ is on Now TV now.
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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