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Mare of Easttown Episode 4: Livin’ On Some Prayers

“Poor Sisyphus”

Photograph by Sarah Shatz/HBO

The following contains spoilers for Mare of Easttown Episode 4, “Poor Sisyphus”


As the song says, “We’re halfway there!” That’s right, Mare of Easttown has reached its halfway point. Episode 4 refocused our attention on the major cases that have been the driving force for Mare (Kate Winslet), Detective Zabel (Evan Peters), and the rest of Easttown, Pennsylvania. Who killed Erin (Cailee Spaeny), and what happened to Katie (Caitlin Houlahan)?

From the very beginning of the series, Dawn Bailey (Enid Graham) has been holding out hope that Katie is still out there alive. She has fought to keep that hope burning by keeping Katie on everyone’s mind. She prints out fresh posters to post wherever she goes. She continues to plead to the police to search. She’s allowing Katie’s disappearance to rule her life, which can cause people to take advantage of her.

In Episode 4, Dawn finds herself at the mercy’s end of some phone calls regarding her missing daughter. Katie’s disappearance occurred a year ago so the fact that someone has waited this long to request a ransom should raise eyebrows. It raises them for Beth (Chinasa Ogbuagu) who insists that she informs Mare. Dawn isn’t thinking clearly. The hazy uncertainty that she’s experiencing is due to the fact that her parental instincts to find her child are telling her to do whatever it takes. It was the same instinct that led Kenny McMenamin (Patrick Murney) to put Dylan (Jack Mulhern) in the hospital when he believed Dylan caused Erin’s murder.

Dawn (Enid Graham) tells Beth (Chinas Ogbuagu) about the phone calls she's been receiving.
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

Dawn is smart. We’ve seen it. She had talked Tony Del Russo (Eric T. Miller) out of going after Mare right there in the gas station back in Episode 2 when Mare had suspected his daughter, Brianna, to also be involved in Erin’s death.

The “what if” is powerful though. To Dawn, what if this caller is telling the truth and he does have Katie? What if she brings the police in on this situation? The caller could run and Katie could never be found. What if she refuses to bring the money? They could kill Katie. What if she does bring the money? It offers the chance that she could be reunited and the horrible nightmare she’s been living for a year could end.

Against her better judgment, she accepts the caller’s requests. I love that her common sense did keep her from stealing the money from her place of work. Instead, she turns some posters into bundles and brings them to the location they say over the phone. 

Bad karma is just being asked for by anyone who would attempt to con a grieving mother into giving them money. When the caller attacks Dawn it’s revealed to be Beth’s addict brother, Freddy (Dominique Johnson), looking to cash in on Dawn’s grief to collect some money. I’ll say it, Mare of Easttown, this was a low blow. It hurt watching the hope Dawn held onto drain away into sorrow. The twist of the emotional dagger came when she returned home to Beth, who has been trying to protect her brother by allowing him to stay with her and lie about how her chemotherapy was what caused her to fall in the first place. 

This is a woman who had spent a year living on a glimmer of hope, and tonight that glimmer was extinguished. It actually felt more like the Evil Queen ripping out your heart, stomping on it, and crushing it in front of your face while laughing. I truly feel going into these final episodes that Dawn’s hope of ever locating her daughter will start to falter. In Episode 3 we got Mare’s rock bottom, but Episode 4 certainly went to Dawn.

Helen (Jean Smart) plays with a deck of cards.
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

I truly believe that every household should have someone like Mare’s mother Helen (Jane Smart). Back in Episode 1, I discussed how Mare has the biggest “I give no you-know-whats” attitude. Well, Helen could give her a run for her money.

Inside the Sheehan household, Helen has done her job. Her children have grown and this is the time when she should be allowed to relax and enjoy being a grandmother. Instead, she is there to help Mare but is being treated more as a parent to everyone living in the house. That said, she calls Mare out for having put the pills in Carrie’s (Sosie Bacon) car because it was a selfish decision that could give Carrie an even better chance at taking Drew.

Helen is the voice of reason but she still knows when to just sit back and be moral support. She knows that Mare is suspended and that getting herself involved in the case could land her in worse dirt, but she also knows how dedicated Mare is at her job. When Mare decides to go seek out Zabel for help, Helen doesn’t stop her, which actually shocks Mare. Yes Mare, sometimes your mother can be understanding if you would give her the chance to be.

She has the ability to become people’s emotional rock. Back in Episode 2 when Mare leaves a distraught Patty Del Russo (Connie Giordano) outside their house after Tony had decided to confront Mare and then follow her, it’s Helen that’s left to console Patty. Tonight, all Helen wants to do is enjoy her secret stash of Haagen Dazs when Siobhan’s (Angourie Rice) ex-girlfriend Becca (Madeline Weinstein) shows up to speak to her. Instead of getting to indulge in some delicious, secret ice cream, poor Helen gets dragged into the relationship troubles of Siobhan bringing home her new girlfriend (Kiah McKirnan). To make matters worse she gets concussed after Becca flees hitting Helen with the heavy door on her way out. Becca, you couldn’t take a single moment to stop thinking about yourself to make sure Helen was okay? These are things to work on if you want your relationships to last.

After all this, I really hope Mare and Siobhan give her one heck of a Mother’s Day present. Mare’s bedside manner while Helen heals is certainly not like another recent Winslet character. In Ammonite Winslet’s Mary Anning nurses Saorise Ronan’s Charlotte back to health by being attentive and nurturing. Mare on the other hand is that friend who discovers you sleeping on the floor of your bedroom and instead of checking to see if you’re breathing decides to nudge you continuously with their foot until you wake up. Then they just leave because their job is done. (Not that I’ve experienced that situation or anything.)

Speaking of Mare, that spiral downhill into the fiery pit that is rock bottom last week left her without a job may have actually proven to do some good. Mare is opening up and not just to Richard (Guy Pearce). She’s spoken about not being mentally well to her best friend Lori (Julieanne Nicholson). These are baby steps and there’s still a lot of baggage to unpack. She’s starting to realize how deeply troubled Kevin was and that Carrie may actually have begun to change. Mare is working on accepting the idea of having a second chance at her life which makes me hope that she begins to support Carrie in developing hers. She’s also talking to a therapist, which is a huge step so snapping fingers for that. I hope by the end of the series we get to see a Mare that can come to terms with the tragedies of her past and begin to heal.

Mare (Kate Winslet) and Detective Zabel (Evan Peters) look over evidence
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

Mare of Easttown started its life as a murder mystery, but as we progress this story is twisting and turning. Sometimes a detective can work a case to their heart’s content but the evidence isn’t leading anywhere. Then another crime happens and the new evidence can help link previous cases one never thought connected. Mare and Detective Zabel have been working hard breaking down the information they have so far with the assumption that Katie’s disappearance and Erin’s murder have nothing in common.

Then tonight introduced Missy Sayers (Sasha Frolova), a prostitute that we witness get nabbed by a client. The fact that she has a similar profile to Katie leads Mare and Zabel to believe that the two could be connected, but how could this fit in with Erin? Missy’s disappearance brings them to question Jess (Ruby Cruz) on how Erin was going to pay for DJ’s ear surgery. Sometimes it takes a sacrifice to gain new knowledge that can help fill in the dark spots. Missy was the sacrifice they needed to discover an important piece of the puzzle. Erin was going to attempt to work at the same escort service that Missy had. Making all three of the girls connect, and turning Mare of Easttown into an episode of Law and Order SVU.

Of course, we’re only halfway through Mare of Easttown which means there still had to be some surprises tonight. From the early moments of Episode 4, I had a sense that Missy was going to find herself with Katie, and I was correct. Knowing that Katie is alive makes what happens to Dawn here on out harder to watch.

This town has invited us in from day one and here we are, discovering its deep underbelly. Who is the mystery man who is holding Katie and Missy captive? Why is he doing this? Is Mare of Easttown’s murder mystery going to turn into something more along the lines of human trafficking, and is Helen going to be able to finally have a quiet night to herself so she can enjoy her hidden stash of ice cream?

Written by Katie Bienvenue

Katie is a writer, cosplayer, craftswoman, and Barista. When she isn't talking about Chainmaille she is usually found discussing some television series, film, or how to properly make one's latte.

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