The first few episodes of Mare Of Easttown suggested that creator Brad Inglesby had figured out a solution to the herky-jerky pacing that tends to befall episodic murder mysteries. Alas, “Poor Sisyphus,” easily the show’s weakest episode so far, serves as a reminder that in a story with so many reveals to parcel out, there can’t be peaks without troughs. “Sisyphus” is certainly not a bad hour of television. But it spends the bulk of its time fleshing out subplots that initially seemed to serve more as a window dressing rather than going story concerns.
The lull is not terribly surprising, because if Easttown was going to hit a speed bump, the best place for it to happen is after Mare is relieved of her duties after unwisely attempting to frame Carrie for heroin possession. To quote Bacharach and David, Mare just doesn’t know what to do with herself now that Colin has been elevated from a stalking horse to the lead detective on the McMenamin case. Mare is refreshingly blunt and transparent about her massive transgression. By the time we see Mare and Lori chatting in the park, Lori already knows what happened and before long, she’s broken the news to Helen and Siobhan.
That’s where the first questionable detour takes place, as Siobhan decides that while people are getting things off their chests, she’ll let the family know she and Becca split up. The conversation gave Mare a great moment of humanity in a time when she needed it most. Even at her lowest point, she has time to soothe her kid during a difficult time. That thread could have ended there, but instead, it evolves into a full-blown love triangle that somehow ends in a concussed Helen being rushed to the hospital. It’s great when this show gets to sprinkle in some of its pitch-black humor, and God knows I’ve never laughed harder at this show than when Becca saw Siobhan’s basement tryst and screamed like Jamie Lee Curtis in her prime.
But is it a good use of Easttown real estate? As with all subplots in a story such as this, most of the audience will decide certain characters and plotlines could be lifted out entirely, but few will agree on which is the weakest link. And there are quite a few candidates for possible exclusion, most of which pop up in “Sisyphus.” The biggest target might be Dawn Bailey, who agonizes over whether to do business with a shady anonymous caller who claims that five stacks are all that separate Dawn from her long-lost daughter. As suspicious as the whole thing is, Dawn pretends to go along with it because she can’t help but investigate every potential lead. But we only learn things we already know: Dawn will do anything to find her daughter and Freddie Hanlon will do anything to get money to feed his habit.
Mare is just as relentless, of course, but the time devoted to her feels well-spent and illuminating. The same can be said for Colin, who takes point on the investigation and goes so far as to ambush Deacon Burton at the pharmacy to ask more questions about his hasty relocation. As it turns out, there were accusations of impropriety related to Burton’s relationship with a teenage girl from his last parish. Apparently, Burton prefers his lessons hard-learned, because why else would he forge another ambiguous relationship with a teenage parishioner? Not even Father Dan, Mare’s cousin, can get Burton to open up about his shady past and possibly shadier present.
The episode comes to life when Mare and Colin are finally reunited and pursuing those answers together. To her credit, Mare does a halfway decent job of honoring the terms of her suspension and even makes an earnest attempt at opening up to the new therapist she’s now obligated to see. She might have continued walking the straight and narrow path except for the disappearance of Missy Sayers, yet another raven-haired young woman to go missing in the area. Whispers of a possible serial killer begin to emerge, which is understandable given the double gut-punch of the anniversary of Katie’s disappearance and the discovery of Erin’s body.
A pattern begins to emerge when Mare and Colin discover Missy and Erin both had profiles on Sidedoor, an escort site on which Erin did business under the name Jasmine. But whereas Missy was actively meeting clients, including the one who abducted her, Jess insists that Erin never actually went through with any dates. They set up the page together in a moment of desperation, once it became clear that any money for an ear surgery would be coming from her alone. For a moment, it looks like the investigation is starting to solidify.
But Easttown is replete with surprises, so the final scene reveals a more complicated picture. When Missy Sayers is first attacked, the assumption is that she was killed. Instead, a very much alive Missy is led into a dark bunker where she’ll be held captive with none other than Katie Bailey herself.
- SNL’s “Murdur Durdur” spoof is pretty great, including the absurd (yet hilarious) shot of “Care” inhaling vapor from a soft pretzel. Seems like the consensus is that Furthur Burtun murdured the durdur, which...fair.
- Colin officially asked Mare on a date once their work together is done, which means Colin wasn’t just letting Captain Morgan speak through him when he flirted with her at the bar. Exciting times for anyone ’shipping these two.
- Colin’s mother is super shady but I’m here for it.
- Both Frank Sheehan and Dylan Hinchey have been excluded as the father of Erin’s baby. So… yeah, that’s something to chew on. Maybe Faye will let him sleep in the bedroom again.
- At least Dawn was shrewd enough not to carry real cash to the meeting, stuffing the deposit bag full of coupon clippings instead. The red flag was probably the amount Freddie asked for, which is only a third of the official reward money.
- I rewatched the pilot with my Mom and noticed, for the first time, that the Carrolls have a fridge magnet advertising Delrasso’s delivery. Very nice touch.