🚨This post contains detailed spoilers for Mare of Easttown. 🚨
At the end of the penultimate Mare of Easttown, the killer has confessed and the case has been solved. But unlike an episode of Columbo in which the murderer is revealed in the opening act, the events surrounding Erin McMenamin’s (Cailee Spaeny) death and the father of her baby are not as clear-cut as the creator Brad Ingelsby might want you to believe. Not all confessions are reflective of what actually happened and it is still not clear what happened in Brandywine Park on that cold January night.
Mare (Kate Winslet) is still recovering from the gunshot wound she sustained during the tense (and very Silence of the Lambs) game of cat and mouse with kidnapper Wayne Potts (Jeb Kreager) during last week’s Mare of Easttown episode, “Illusions.” At the start of “Sore Must Be the Storm” it is revealed this case is not connected with the recent murder, and Erin’s killer is still walking around Easttown as free as a bird. Deacon Mark Burton (James McArdle) is pulled up on charges of tampering with evidence — aka Erin's bike — after his colleague (and Mare’s cousin) informed the police about his confession regarding what really happened that night. The FBI is also assisting and rather than pulling rank or being openly hostile, Mare is open to their help. This includes identifying the gun that killed Erin, which is the Colt Detective Special (“Your pop probably had one, Mare”), and this points to someone with a link to law enforcement dating back to the 1980s. Many of the jigsaw pieces have fallen into place to reveal the circumstances surrounding this crime, however, with one episode left to go, this image is far from complete.
Out in the wilderness, Mare has pursued the Ross brothers who have gone for one last fishing trip before permanently shifty-looking Billy (Robbie Tann) hands himself in to the police for killing Erin. She has been told to wait for backup, but Mare is trying to pay for her past sins by diving headlong into this confrontation. Unlike the scene at Wayne Potts’ home last week, Mare is now armed — she has been reinstated — and has weighed up the risk. No doubt her guilt about Colin’s (Evan Peters) death and even her daughter’s trauma at being the one who discovered her brother’s dead body is fueling this choice. Plus, her best friend is the wife of one of these men, and that personal connection clouds her judgment.
There are echoes of several famous brother scenarios as John (Joe Tippett) has packed a gun in the fishing tackle box and Billy has clocked this weapon. Could a Godfather Part II or Of Mice and Men situation be on the cards? The motive for this nostalgic adventure is framed as one last moment of freedom but the energy is far more sinister. An additional curveball has presented itself as the identity of the person in the photograph from Erin’s diary could crack the entire case — this image has not been shown to us yet. Unfortunately, Mare’s phone is now off and she is walking into a dangerous situation without all the facts. What could possibly go wrong?
After narrowing the top 10 Mare of Easttown murder suspects last week, two men stand out from the pack and we are going to break down who is the most likely culprit.
“I ki… I killed her. Oh, Jesus… Oh, Jesus Christ, John, ” Billy tells John before weeping in his arms. A confession as unambiguous as this is all we need to know Billy killed his cousin’s daughter, right? Wrong! There are some elements that cannot be denied, including his own father walking in on him in the laundry room covered in blood between three and four am on the night Erin was killed. The blood could have come from moving Erin’s body from Brandywine Park to Sharp’s Forest, although this doesn’t mean Billy pulled the trigger. It is likely he is covering for whoever did it, but who is the real culprit?
The other clues pointing to Billy are how close he was to Erin or rather that he had the opportunity to get her pregnant. The date on the heart necklace Mare found in Erin’s secret drawer spacer has been identified as the date of the family reunion at Lake Harmony, which was arranged after the death of Erin’s mother. Whatever went down that weekend is significant enough to memorialize on jewelry and Erin did sleep in the same cabin as Billy. This circumstantial evidence adds up to him being DJ’s father, and the receipt at the jewelers proves someone from the Ross family purchased this inscribed item. It wasn’t worth enough sentimentally to keep and the young mother tried to sell it back to the store (presumably to add to the DJ ear surgery fund), but the helpful owner tells Mare that inscribed items cannot be returned. Did Erin ask for money and Billy was worried the volatile Kenny (Patrick Murney) might find out? After all, Kenny did shoot Dylan (Jack Mulhern) when he thought he killer Erin. The most relevant question is if Billy isn’t the Mare of Easttown baby daddy or the killer then why is he willing to confess?
John and Billy’s father lamented having his two adult sons living under his roof, although John’s stay is only until he can “work his way back” to his wife Lori (Julianne Nicholson). John’s past infidelity is discussed in detail but there is no confirmation that he is sleeping with Sandra — or any other woman. Plus, Lori tells her BFF that the last time John cheated she could sense it, whereas this time it blindsided her. This makes me think that there is something far more insidious going on than his inability to stay faithful. John makes Lori promise she won’t spill to Mare in order to protect Billy but does he have an ulterior motive for wanting her silence?
When Lori asks him about the family gathering at the lake, John is evasive and the next time we see him with Billy is the confession scene. Demanding that he utters the words out loud — “No, Billy, you gotta say it. I need to hear you say it” — could be considered coaching his brother rather than hearing this admission for the first time. Everything points to Billy on paper but there is no denying that John is conducting the whole thing. Despite all signs pointing to either brother, perhaps they are protecting another Ross male and young Ryan (Cameron Mann) is still a potential suspect. Much like his dad and uncle, his demeanor is giving off a vibe (or maybe I suspect everyone on Mare of Easttown). But if he did kill Erin (perhaps because she had a relationship with John) then his uncle might be who he called to help move the body. In Easttown, the young are stuck in a cycle of trauma created by the previous generations.
After the Mare of Easttown's most recent episode finished finished, I somewhat arrogantly proclaimed to my husband that one of the top suspects I had identified was the killer. In fact, I was pretty emphatic that John (my number one pick) had committed the crime. However, this being a television whodunit means my certainty grew weaker the more I thought about it. Sure, it seems like one of the Ross brothers fired the weapon (and is the father of DJ), however, several other loose ends cannot be ignored. The photo Jess (Ruby Cruz) took from the diary is the key to this, but why was Dylan so adamant about destroying Erin’s private thoughts? Where was he when the murder went down? There is a chance he witnessed something but there is no direct link between Dylan and the Ross family — unless money is his motive and he was paid to burn those pages.
Unlike an episode of Law & Order that telegraphs who did it based on the most recognizable actor in the cast, it is highly unlikely that Emmy-winning Guy Pearce as author Richard Ryan committed the crime, but he is still floating around with excellent gift basket selections and an understanding aura. Is he just a friendly new Easttown resident?
The fact that the weapon is similar to one Mare’s father would’ve owned (and maybe shot himself with) could be a major red herring, however, where is this gun kept and who has access to it? Mare’s daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) spiraled majorly while making her tribute movie to her brother in Mare of Easttown's "Sore Must Be the Storm" episode and did Kevin's words about first heartbreak touch a nerve? Her behavior after the party in Sharp’s Woods was evasive, but she didn’t appear to have a prior relationship with Erin (or that we know of). The other person who might have access to the gun is Mare’s BFF Lori, which could explain her bad poker face when Mare questioned her about John's whereabouts, but not for the reasons we are meant to believe.
This crime is still throwing up more questions, but one more Mare of Easttown chapter to go means the answers are forthcoming.
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