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The Ending Of Mare Of Easttown Explained

Contains spoilers for "Mare of Easttown"

"Mare of Easttown" introduces the two most important components of its story in its title. Mare (Kate Winslet) is the series' protagonist and Easttown, Pennsylvania is the location in which the entirety of its action takes place. The series introduces a large ensemble of characters and numerous crimes into that initial setup, but by its end, it's Mare and her small town that the series foregrounds.

Despite functioning as a suburb of Philadelphia, Easttown itself is a tight-knit community. In its pilot episode, Mare, a local police detective, catches Freddie (Dominique Johnson), the drug-addicted brother of her old friend Beth (Chinasa Ogbuagu), stealing from his sister. Mare responds not by arresting Freddie, but by having her partner contact the local power company to ensure Freddie's home is properly heated. That's local policing at its finest. It's also an early display of Easttown's community character. Everyone knows everyone else, and they always help each other out when push comes to shove.

The pilot also introduces a murder, which serves as the backbone of the series' story until the back half of the finale. The victim is young mother Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny, previously on "Devs") who, due to Easttown's smallness, is connected to a large number of Easttown residents by acquaintance, blood, or enmity. Identifying Erin's killer is an important moment in the finale of "Mare of Easttown," but it's not the most important moment. Rather, after the killer has been apprehended, the episode continues on to focus entirely on Mare and her growth, both as a person and as a resident of Easttown.

The real killer was family

In the penultimate episode of "Mare of Easttown," John Ross (Joe Tippett), the husband of Mare's closest friend, Lori (Julianne Nicholson), coaxes a confession for the murder of Erin from his brother Billy (Robbie Tann). In the opening moments of the series finale, it's clear that Billy, a bachelor, is innocent and has merely been designated to take the fall in order to spare John's family. Mare catches John early into the finale, and he confesses fully to Erin's murder himself.

Soon, however, Mare notices some inconsistencies in John's story. She learns that it wasn't John, but his and Lori's young son Ryan (Cameron Mann) who was responsible for Erin's murder. In short, John was having an affair with Erin, and Ryan intended to threaten Erin with a stolen gun in hopes of scaring her away from his father. In an ensuing physical altercation, Ryan accidentally pulled the gun's trigger and shot Erin.

The relationship between parent and child is central to "Mare of Easttown," from the insistence of Mare's former basketball teammate Dawn (Enid Graham) that the local police find her missing daughter Katie (Caitlin Houlahan), to Mare's guardianship of her grandson Drew (Izzy King), while his mother Carrie (Sosie Bacon) is in recovery for drug addiction. In the latter case, Mare plants drugs on Carrie in hopes that a drug charge will weaken Carrie's case for custody of Drew. The Ross family's complicity in covering up Erin's murder in order to protect Ryan, then, may be more severe, but nevertheless originates from the same family-first mindset that drove Mare to risk her career and her freedom by stealing from an evidence locker and planting drugs in Carrie. Mare gets to keep her career and her grandson by the end of the series, but Lori isn't so lucky. The seeming injustice of this juxtaposition is a critical part of the finale's mixed emotional bouquet.

Mare of Easttown isn't a show about murder

Despite the centrality of the murder of Erin McMenamin to the story of "Mare of Easttown," the series in its final moments reveals itself to be about community and growth. Biological family is responsible for conflict throughout "Mare of Easttown," but found family, in the form of the Easttown community at large, is a source of healing.

Following a short time jump as we approach the end of the series finale, the surviving and non-jailed members of the Easttown community all attend a sermon by Deacon Mark Burton (James McArdle). Deacon Mark emphasizes the importance of reaching out to those who need it most in times of suffering. Seemingly inspired by the sermon, Mare visits Lori who, prior to the time jump, attempted to break of their friendship with one another due to Mare's involvement in jailing both her husband and son. Mare's visit, however, quickly becomes a moment of catharsis for Lori.

This, then, is the small Easttown community working once again at its best. Just as Mare's first instinct when confronting Freddie's theft was to ensure he had proper shelter, Mare's visit to Lori demonstrates how community can nurture genuine human connection — even between a mother and the police officer whose detective work resulted in the dissolution of her family.

The final shot of "Mare of Easttown" is of Mare entering her attic for the first time since she discovered her son's body hanging there after he died by suicide. Mare too, then, has grown. Though she hoped to find justice for Erin, she instead tore apart a family she loved. Accepting that injustice leads her in turn to accept the injustice of her son's suicide and begin her own healing process, with her Easttown community around her.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.