In a year that was crammed full of television, some good but mostly bad, HBO’s Mare of Easttown was a pleasant reprieve—a juicy whodunit set in a pleasantly gray town that was actually a vessel for an exploration of the multi-faceted disappointments of motherhood. The show came to a very satisfying conclusion on Sunday, neatly wrapping up every single dangling thread, as if insulating itself against the scourge that haunts prestige television of this nature: the looming threat of a second season predicated on little more than the success of the first. Though it is pointless to say this now, I’d like to issue some gentle advice to the creators of this show. We do not need a second season of Mare of Easttown, no matter what anyone says.
Spoilers ahead, do not read if you haven’t seen the finale.
In an interview with TVLine, Kate Winslet expressed mild interest in participating in a second season of the show, should one come into existence. “I would absolutely love to play Mare again,” Winslet said. “I miss her. I really do. It’s the strangest thing. I feel like I’m in mourning. It was an absolutely wonderful role.” To be fair, Winslet is correct. Watching Winslet do some of her best work as a grieving mother and police detective while wearing sweatpants and speaking in a not-quite-comical Delco accent was a pleasure, as was witnessing the show’s central mystery unfold. The finale itself was satisfying in the way that few shows of this nature are: Mare found Katie Bailey and solved the mystery of who killed Erin McMenamin (it was Ryan Ross, the son of her best friend Lori, and not his father, John, or his uncle Billy, both of whom were suspects.) At the end of the show, Mare finally closed the chapter on her own grief, taking down the stairs to the attic, where she found her son, Kevin, hanging from a rafter, and climbing up. Let the healing begin.
It was a fitting end to a story that was about motherhood as much as it was about murder, but what it really showed was growth. Mare spent the duration of the show’s seven episodes running away from her grief by plunging headfirst into work, attempting to mother the town and its scores of missing girls the way she was unable to do for her son. She achieved closure by accepting her son’s death, making for a sad but ultimately hopeful ending, airtight enough to not invite the possibility of a second season into the mix at all. But the chance that there could be more Mare in the future is still there. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, creator Brad Inglesby left some space for a possible second season.
It was written as a limited, and it ends — there’s no more mystery to be solved. Kate and I, if we could crack a story that we were really proud of and felt like it was a deserving second chapter in Mare’s journey, then maybe. I haven’t cracked that yet; I don’t know what that is, honestly. But if there was a world in which we were convinced, this is a continuation of the story that honors the first chapter and does things an audience will appreciate, then maybe. But as of right now, I have no idea what that could be.
This isn’t quite confirmation that a second season is on the way, but it does show that he’s open to it as a possibility. Other HBO shows of this nature, like True Detective and Big Little Lies, managed to eke out a second season from their first, but of the two, the former did it only by retooling the premise to make the second season more of a discrete unit rather than a continuation of the first season’s narrative. Big Little Lies tried to keep the party going for a second season that made absolutely no sense. The tendency to do more when less is required is not unique, but treating prestige television dramas as if they were Marvel franchises cheapens the original experience. Mare could solve crimes in Easttown for the forseeable future, cranking out episode after episode of procedurals, but the impact of the show’s first season, which was very watchable, slightly overacted, and honestly, good, would lessen with each iteration. Sure, I would love to watch Kate Winslet vape in a barn coat while staring into the horizon on a loop. But also, sometimes, it is best to leave well enough alone.