Mare of Easttown - What is the theme?
Film Analysis

Mare Of Easttown Plot Emerges from its Powerful Theme

Mare of Easttown is a mini tv series, released in April 2021 from HBO. Acting and directing are magnificent and Kate Winslet was totally impressive. The audience loved the show, but today, I’d like to talk about the screenplay and how the screenwriter of Mare of Easttown uses its powerful theme to craft an organic, intriguing plot with captivating characters.

For those who haven’t seen the show yet, please beware that this article and the relevant video are full of SPOILERS! I suggest that you watch the tv series first and then come back to read more about its theme.

Mare of Easttown is a crime, mystery, drama, where (quoting IMDB) “a detective in a small Pennsylvania town (Kate Winslet) investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart”.

About Theme

We’ve talked about the theme in other articles, but I’d like to restate here that Theme is NOT a subject matter, it is NOT just the topic of a film. The theme is NOT one word, it is a full sentence that reveals the meaning of the story. The theme is the opinion or the question or the idea that the screenwriters want to share with the rest of the world and it is why they write this particular story.

Having said that, let’s see what’s the theme behind the tv show Mare of Easttown and how the writers use it to craft their plot.

The theme behind Mare of Easttown concerns love. And what kind of love is the purest or the least selfish? Well, that’s parents’ love. So, the theme is about this kind of love we may have for someone else. And the message that sends is that “No matter what you do, you can’t always protect your loved ones from danger”. Bad things could happen to them and it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t protect them.

Sometimes, in life, we may try hard to protect our loved ones, but still, they could get hurt. Because we cannot control life.

Plot, Characters and Worldbuilding of Mare of Easttown

In this article, we will examine how the theme inspired the creation of the main story, the subplots, the characters, and the world-building of the TV series and explain how every single choice made by the writer supported his thesis.

The first scene

The story begins with various establishing shots. We then hear a scream pierce the silent morning as the lights switch-on in the window of a house. A bit later, we find out that it was Mrs. Carroll’s granddaughter that saw someone stalking her out of her window.

This short first scene sums up the theme of the entire tv series. That even in the safest environment, a child (or our loved one) might be in danger. And we can’t control it!

Characters in Mare of Easttown

Watching the plot of Mare of Easttown, one could notice that the story abounds in parents and kids. Why is that? The main story is the classic murder – police investigation plot. Why is there a need to see each character as a parent or as a kid?

  • Mare, the protagonist, apart from being a police detective, is also a mother, a grandmother, and a daughter. During the entire series, we watch her in all three of these relationships.
  • Erin, the girl that gets murdered, is presented as DJ’s mother and Kenny’s daughter.
  • Katie, the missing girl, is Dawn’s daughter and a mother of a little girl.
  • Dawn is an old high school friend of Mare’s and is raising Katie’s daughter until she is found.
  • Dylan is Erin’s ex-boyfriend and DJ’s alleged father. We see him in both roles, as a teenage father, and as a son.
  • Brianna is not only Dylan’s current girlfriend but she is also the daughter of Patty and Tony Del Rasso.
  • Ryan and Moira are Lori and John’s children.
  • John Ross himself is also a father, a son, and as a brother as well, in the story.
  • Colin Zabel is not only a detective, who comes to help Mare, but we see him also as a son during the TV series. We actually meet his mother.

Why is there a need to see all of this?

The story is not just about mothers. It is not just about fathers, either. It is about anyone who has such a loving, parenting relationship with another person, such as Beth and her brother, Freddie. One could argue that the story is not just about children, but rather about true love. And the real question isn’t just if parents can protect their children. The true question is: Can we protect the person we love from anything and everything?

Plot and subplots

The main story of the show centers on the murder of Erin, a teenage mother of an infant son, who is found dead by the end of the first episode.
Many believe that this case is connected to another unsolved case of a missing girl, Katie. It’s been a year now that Katie’s been missing and Mare hasn’t managed yet to find anything. But it turns out that the two cases aren’t connected.

Mare’s a good detective but she’s full of guilt because her son committed suicide and she feels that she wasn’t a good mother and that it’s her fault. That’s why she’s trying to correct her past, -or at the very least, make amends- by raising her grandchild, Drew, (her late son’s son) in what she believes to be a safe environment. So, when Carrie, Drew’s mother, a recovering addict who’s 6 months sober now, wants to take full custody, Mare is willing to do anything to keep him there, safe. And by anything, we mean even doing illegal acts

I have already mentioned three different stories. Erin’s, Katie’s, and Mare’s. Three stories, which aren’t connected at all, apart from the fact that Mare is trying to solve them all. And there are many more stories, subplots, in the tv series.

So many separate stories? Is this bad writing? Well, all stories may not be connected on the surface, but they are on a deeper level; they support the same theme. Every plot has been built around this theme.

The Pattern

There’s a pattern here:  Protection Efforts that… fail.

Mare wanted a different life for her son, but it turned out badly for him.
Erin wants two things for her infant son, DJ: to raise money for his ear surgery and to be close to Dylan’s parents because she thinks they are great parents. But when she dies, she can’t protect her child anymore. And DJ ends up being raised by the only person Erin probably wouldn’t want to raise him: her lover’s wife.

Furthermore, Dawn wants to protect her daughter Katie but she can’t do much. She strives to find help, but Katie has been missing for a whole year.
On the other hand, Katie can’t protect her own daughter after being away from her and imprisoned for so long.

Erin’s father, Kenny, seeks to avenge his daughter’s death and shoots Dylan.
Dylan’s parents are devastated because their son is alive only out of sheer luck.
Mare’s new partner is Colin Zabel. Again, Colin is not only presented as a police officer but also as a son. Once again, his mother is trying to protect her son from being hurt because of his love for Mare, but he ends up getting killed after following Mare’s hunch.
When Mare arrests Brianna, her parents freak out. Especially, Brianna’s father sees Mare as his enemy and goes to extreme measures to protect her from Mare.
And finally, John Ross and his brother are trying to protect Ryan, John’s son, from going to jail, so they’re willing to take the responsibility and confess to a murder they hadn’t committed.

One Thing in Common

All of these stories, all of these subplots, have one common thing. The theme. There are all stories about people who are trying to protect their loved ones but for some reason, they fail. They realize that some things are not in their hands.

There are also plenty of other short stories in this mini tv series that support its theme, like Moira’s story, where kids in school are bullying her and Mare and her brother wish to protect her.

We can’t control life. There are so many things, big things… and little things… that might escape our attention and lead our loved ones to danger… or not.

That’s why the first episode begins by establishing love. Pure, unconditional love. The kind of love that you would go to extreme measures for and do anything to keep your loved one safe. That’s mother’s love! Because the screenwriter wants to show that even if you try as hard as you can to protect your loved, still, there might be things that you can’t control.

No matter what you do, you can’t always protect your loved ones from danger or from their choices. The idea that this story supports is that “bad things could happen to your loved ones or your loved ones could make some wrong choices and it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong in protecting them”.

So, this theme gave us so many subplots, so many stories, as well as full and rich characters.


Many praise the exquisite world that the writer, Brad Ingelsby, has created in Mare of Easttown. But this world is not randomly selected to be this way. The theme is also the basis of the worldbuilding of the show.

Easttown is a small town where everyone knows each other. As we’ve said, the theme of Mare of Easttown is about protecting our loved ones from getting hurt.

In fact, Mare sounds like mére in French, which means mother. Mare is a police officer, a role that presents many similarities to the role of motherhood. Her job is to protect and take care of people, arguably making her a kind of mother to everyone there. She is the mother of Easttown. (Remember we’ve said that in the first episode the screenwriter establishes mother’s love?)
But in order to take care of everyone, you need to know them well and to love them deeply. That’s why the writer chose to build this world, Easttown, where everyone knows everybody their whole life and most people are related to each other.
Mare knows each and every one of these people by name!

What’s the Answer?

So, what can we do? If we’re not able to protect our loved ones from getting hurt, what can we do?… I believe the answer that the TV series gives us is in Deacon’s words (from episode 2). Sit beside the person that suffers from an unspeakable tragedy and say: I am here!

And that’s exactly what Lori does through the story. She sits beside her friend, Mare, who has lost her son. And when Lori loses her own son, that’s what Mare also does in the end. She holds Lori in her arms and whispers “I am here…”

Check the relevant episode about the Theme in Mare of Easttown!

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