Mare of Easttown Episode 3: An Admittance of Traumas Past

“Enter Number Two”

Mare (Kate Winslet) looks distraught.
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

The following contains spoilers for Mare of Easttown Episode 3, “Enter Number Two”

The brain is a funny thing. It has many fail-safes to protect its human from danger. Especially when it comes to processing trauma. When someone experiences a deep loss or something extremely distressing the brain will build a wall or closet and lock that pain away so the person can continue to function. After many years of repeatedly doing this, it can become exhausting and this is when it decides to stop working so hard in holding back these emotions. Episode 3 of Mare of Easttown focuses a lot on Mare Sheehan’s (Kate Winslet) crumbling world due to the fact that the emotional dam she’s built is beginning to leak.

These walls are not meant to stay up forever. This is why we have therapy. It allows us to decompress and work through the traumas of our past. It allows our brain to release and therefore lets us “move on.” The problem with Mare is that she hasn’t gone for the help she needs and instead internalizes everything. This compartmentalizing has finally taken its toll and tonight those traumas Mare has worked so hard to keep inside come crashing down as if they were the Berlin Wall.

Mare (Kate Winslet) and Detective Zabel (Evan Peters) interrogate Deacon Burton (James McArdle) in a church
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

Mare has proven since the beginning of the series that she is the best at her job. She knows the right questions to ask and how to read people. In Episode 3, she and Detective Zabel (Evan Peters) go to question Deacon Burton (James McArdle) on why his number was the last that Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny) had called before her murder. Mare insists on conducting the interrogation in the church because a man of God would find it harder to lie in the house of God (which is a correct assumption). Later, Detective Zabel wants to give up a search for evidence in the newly discovered murder scene but Mare is the one who pushes on and eventually discovers an unseen ricocheted bullet that is most likely from the murder weapon. 

Her world started to splinter with the disappearance of Katie Bailey. This is a young woman probably around her daughter’s age and the child of a friend. The stress from wanting to bring Katie home but turning up empty goes against everything she’s been able to achieve with her job. It’s a big professional failure, and she is constantly being reminded of it thanks to Katie’s mother Dawn (Enid Graham), who continues to push for answers. She’s on the news criticizing the job the police did, the job that was Mare’s. She’s protesting and pushing for the case to be reopened. Mare can’t escape it. She is forced to relive those days of searching, working the case, and eventually failing over and over again.

Those splinters turned to cracks the moment her son, Kevin, committed suicide because it was at that moment she was faced with her mistakes as a parent. The “could haves” and “should haves” that echo in every parent’s mind when something horrible happens to their children. Instead of confronting Kevin’s death and going through the stages of grief, Mare is stuck on guilt. She refuses to acknowledge it as a suicide and keeps saying “he died.” Not being able to process Kevin’s death fully is what tore apart her marriage with Frank, who expressed tonight that she couldn’t even say his name. It wasn’t until Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing) called her out on it in Episode 2 and forced her to acknowledge the truth that Mare finally opened up to both Richard (Guy Pearce) and Detective Zabel on the subject.

Frank (David Denman) and Siobhan (Angourie Rice) argue with Mare (Kate Winslet)
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

One of my coping mechanisms, when it came to processing anything that distressed me, was throwing myself into the things I watched. I became hyper-focused on a particular performance and soon would retreat into what my roommate nicknamed “The Katie Bubble.” This would often mean watching the entirety of an actor’s filmography instead of focusing on what would need to get done. It was my way of avoiding any potential failure and anxiety. 

Mare has formed her own “Mare Bubble” and in it she finds her escape in her job and in being a guardian to Kevin’s son, Drew. By doing this she can continue her illusion that she could change the outcome of what happened to Kevin. She could raise Drew the way she wanted to raise Kevin. Be there in the ways she wasn’t for her son, and even for her daughter (Angourie Rice). Just as finding a new actor’s filmography to become fixated on was the glue I needed to keep the rest of my world in focus, Drew became Mare’s glue to keep that emotional dam from exploding.

These are just band-aids though and the bubbles we create end up popping. Mare of Easttown popped Mare’s and tonight we see her struggle to save herself as that emotional dam begins to leak.

Carrie (Sosie Bacon) and Mare (Kate Winslet) attempt to have a civil conversation as they sit across from one another at a picnic table
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

Last week we were introduced to Carrie Layden (Sosie Bacon), Drew’s mother who told Siobhan and Helen (Jean Smart) that she wants her son back. Carrie and Mare are very similar women. Both have faced similar traumas in losing loved ones. Both are fighting to keep their worlds together. Carrie has struggled with drug addiction which had caused her to lose Drew. Unlike Mare, she isn’t allowing her pain and struggles to rule her life. She has taken them, learned from them, and is using them to motivate her to change. She’s not using Drew as a means to deny what has happened like Mare has, but is using him as the reason to be better.

When Richard attempts to explain how he hadn’t seen his son in years and Mare shouldn’t make the same mistake, it’s a suggestion that would hold true to most people. He’s doing it from a place where he’s learned that a compromise is better for everyone instead of war. Mare is not this emotionally developed to understand though. For her, Carrie is a virus that has poisoned her life. She’s the wedge that drove her apart from Kevin, and now is taking away the only thing left of her son. Mare means well and if she would have gotten the help she so desperately needed years prior she would have probably better interpreted Richard’s advice. 

This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t try. Richard recommends talking to Carrie but in order for that to work there needs to be communication and Mare is lacking in the communication department. Everything with her is one way, her way. Any deterring from that causes her to shut down, and that is what happens tonight when Mare attempts to have a civil conversation with Carrie. The moment Carrie mentions that it was only a matter of time until she came for Drew, Mare’s force field goes up and any prior civilness between them becomes obsolete. It then becomes a moment of two “momma bears” baring their teeth and showing which is stronger. This moment is a highlight in seeing up close just how similar these two women are and how much they probably would be close if they could set aside their stubbornness for being right.

Knowing full well that your entire world is falling apart at the seams, a person could do one of two things. They could beat back their own prejudices and seek out help, or they can continue to fight and dig a hole deeper and deeper. Mare of Easttown wouldn’t have much of a story left if Mare had gone seeking help. We are only three episodes in and there are still four left.

Mare (Kate Winslet) shares a drink with Detective Zabel (Evan Peters)
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

Anger and rage can get the better of most of us. Back in Episode 2, Tony (Eric T. Miller) took his rage of having his daughter accused of a crime out on Mare by driving by her house and throwing a gallon of milk through her window.

With the realization that Carrie could very well regain custody of Drew, Mare abuses her power as a member of the law enforcement. She sneaks into the evidence locker, steals a few dime bags, and places them in Carrie’s car.

Winslet has said that Mare is a complex woman whose grief is affecting everything she does because she refuses to acknowledge it. Before planting the drugs on Carrie, Mare contemplates the idea over a drink with Detective Zabel. At the moment it’s just a thought. A thought that could have been derailed if the conversation had occurred with someone like Richard who understands the depths someone would go to in order to keep a family together. The fact that Mare asks Zabel (who is extremely drunk) means that she already knows that she’s going to make this mistake and isn’t looking the angel on the shoulder to tell her “don’t.”

Mare abusing her powers wasn’t just a slap in the face for her job, it was a move that was disrespectful to her father. He was the reason Mare became a police officer. When Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson) confronts her the next morning she knows what actions are to come next. Her oath is to protect people and yet here she was using the privileges that come with that oath to cause harm to someone for personal gain. This is a loss of trust for a man who’s shown to have been a father figure to her along with being a moment of humiliation to the memory of her actual father.

With her suspension, it means that besides losing Drew she’s losing her job. Even though it’s temporary, tampering with evidence doesn’t look good for any future endeavors within the force. Mare’s work was the last line of defense in her brain to help cope with the years of walling herself up, and now she is ripped wide open and exposed. With no gun, no badge, and a lot of emotional damage to get through, to quote Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, “this is where sh*t gets real” for Mare.

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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