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Why Mare of Easttown’s small-town backdrop needs to get its due?

The Kate Winslet-starrer opened to positive responses after a near-perfect finale that aired last week

Srivathsan Nadadhur
Jun 07, 2021
cover image

-A scene in Mare of Easttown

A bulk of the streaming content across OTT platforms is populated by thrillers and more often than not, the story is set in a posh, almost faultless metropolis. However, the success of HBO Max's latest mini-series Mare of Easttown is glaring proof of how the small-town backdrop is as absorbing, alluring and intriguing for a thriller, particularly in the case of a murder mystery. From Kate Winslet's immersive performance to the masterly writing and stellar execution, audiences have been all praises for the show, but the significance of the backdrop in the context of the final result hasn't quite gotten its due.

Going by face value, almost everyone knows each other in Easttown. Everyone is interested in each other's lives, have many mutual friends, hang out at the same bars, walk across the same bridge, share the same gossips and have to face each other daily. However, beyond the obvious, every family guards its secrets carefully. Their public and private lives are strangely contrasting. Even Mare, who has lived in the town since her birth, isn't fully aware of its dark side yet. Every time Mare feels like she has cracked the puzzle behind the murder of a teenage woman, she is proved wrong. Even as a viewer, the compactness of the setting makes you feel that you've come perilously close to guessing the murderer right and still fall short.

The limitations of the small-town setting are used to great advantage in building the intrigue in the show. It compels you to observe its ambience, its characters closely. There are only a handful of characters but the show unwraps each of their layers so delicately, gradually that you're hooked. Mare of Easttown explores the vulnerabilities of human behaviour and almost suggests that you can never know someone fully, even if it's your best friend or your own son. 

The show-maker Brad Ingelsby deserves credit for making the backdrop so integral to the storytelling and if this doesn't serve as an indication for storytellers to come up with more thrillers in small towns, we wonder what else will.

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