Given the events of Mare of Easttown‘s most recent chapter, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, despite early suspicions, Erin’s murder and Katie’s kidnapping were committed by separate perpetrators. The Kate Winslet-led Mare of Easttown has supplied no shortage of mysteries in its first few episodes, showing the inhabitants of the titular Pennsylvanian town have been shaken by incredible tragedy. However, episode 5, “Illusions,” seems to frighteningly suggest that there are multiple forces wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting community.
The premiere introduced viewers to Erin McMenamin, a struggling young mother, who is found dead in the episode’s final minutes. Since the discovery of Erin’s body, mutterings around the town and the show’s narrative structure have led the audience to believe that her murder is somehow linked to the disappearance of Katie Bailey, a young woman whose case had gone cold. When another girl, Missy Sager, is abducted, detectives Mare Sheehan and Colin Zabel are able to track her down thanks to a tip from another would-be victim. It turns out that Katie, like Missy, was kidnapped by Wayne Potts, a previously unknown character newly introduced in episode 5. With Katie and Missy now presumably rescued, the plot of the HBO prestige crime drama appears to be circling back to the question that kicked off the season: Who murdered Erin?
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In a show that has been chock-full of red herrings, it seems as though that quandary will be central to its two concluding chapters. While the abrupt death of Evan Peters’ Colin Zabel provided the episode’s most impressionable moment, one mustn’t forget that “Illusions” also took time to check in with some of the town’s other residents, many of whom are acting pretty fishy. Here’s a rundown of the developments in the show that pointed to Katie’s kidnapping and Erin’s tragic end not being connected all along.
Since Mare of Easttown has spent so little time with Wayne, it is particularly hard to deduce the motivations behind his abhorrent crimes. While imprisoned by Wayne, Katie tells Missy that a previous victim, Hillary, had been taken away after becoming pregnant with Wayne’s child after he raped her. While Wayne clearly has no compunction with committing murder (he shot and killed Zabel), the show went out of its way to note that Erin’s body showed no evidence of sexual assault. Therefore, Wayne, who appears primarily motivated by his desire to exercise perverse control over his victims, would make for an unlikely suspect for Erin’s violent but far less drawn-out death.
It’s also revealed that Wayne preyed upon young women with substance abuse problems, forcing them to undergo a painful withdrawal once in captivity. Perhaps their abuser exploited their dependency, using a crippling detox period to his advantage. As far as the audience is aware, Erin had no history with drug use, making her something of an outlier within the parameters of Wayne’s victimology. Katie and Missy were also taken while performing sex work at the time of their abductions. Despite advertising on an escort service site, Erin never met up with any clients – at least not according to her best friend, Jess.
Evidence Surrounding Erin’s Death Feels More Personal
While the horrible crimes inflicted upon Katie were by that of a disturbed serial abuser, the evidence in Erin’s case continually points to a killer with a more mundane personal connection to her. When Mare looks through Erin’s things in Mare of Easttown episode 4, she discovers a heart-shaped necklace engraved with the date “5-29-17,” which feels significant. Since it is unclear which year the events of the show are meant to take place, it’s possible that this is the date of JD’s birth or the date Erin’s mother died. It could also have been given to Erin by JD’s biological father, a man who has yet to be named.
Father of her child aside, the show has shown how Erin’s life intersected with so many of the Mare of Easttown‘s other major suspects. Mare’s ex-husband Frank was Erin’s former teacher who helped out as she struggled financially. Lori, Mare’s best friend with a familial connection to Erin, may well gain custody of her child. Erin has some sort of relationship with Deacon Mark, who saw her the night she was killed and disposed of her bike in his fear of being targeted in the investigation. As far as Mare knows, her daughter Siobhan was the last person to see Erin alive (information that Siobhan wasn’t entirely forthcoming about).
These interpersonal dynamics heighten the show’s central mystery as Mare (and viewers) sift through all possible motivations of the characters introduced through the first five episodes. Katie’s horrific situation was unquestionably nightmarish. However, the idea that Erin was killed by a person she once knew and trusted is, in a way, even more frightening.
Where Was Dylan on the Night Erin Died?
After being shot by Erin’s father Kenny, Dylan slowly began to slip down to the bottom of Mare of Easttown‘s suspects list. However, with the reveal from his girlfriend Brianna that he wasn’t home at the time of Erin’s murder, it would seem Mare and the police would be wise to investigate him further. Dylan, who was seen arguing with Erin over money for JD’s ear surgery shortly before she was killed, certainly has a motive. There is also a strange dynamic between Dylan and Erin’s close friend, Jess. When Dylan asks Jess what she told the police, she replies, “Nothing, just like you said,” implying that Dylan is exercising more control over the situation than previously thought. Damningly, Dylan, Sean (Dylan’s friend), and a seemingly reluctant Jess dispose of Erin’s journals, likely in an attempt to obscure evidence. However, it’s entirely possible the paper that Jess slipped out of Erin’s diary and pocketed will come back to crack open the case for Mare.
What’s Up With the Ross Family?
There is something weird going on with the Ross family. During Mare’s visit with Lori, John, and Billy Ross, talk turns to Erin, and the audience (and Mare) are given into some crucial bits of information regarding the show’s timeline and Erin’s personal backstory. After her mother’s death, it turns out Erin stayed with her cousin Billy for at least a few weeks. After this is mentioned, Billy is notably evasive, shiftily trying to redirect the conversation before making an awkward exit. Considering JD’s age and similar red hair, is it possible that his father is Billy? If incest and/or statutory rape was involved, that may help explain Billy’s odd behavior and reactions throughout the series.
John has also been acting suspiciously. Mare of Easttown episode 5 sees him kicked out of the house after his son Ryan tells Lori of an affair he has been having. Worse was that Lori had overheard an earlier conversation where John coerced Ryan into keeping quiet saying, “It’s our secret, right?” Notably, he was out with his brother and Kevin on the night Erin was killed, so it is possible that has is withholding some information relevant to the case. Then there is Lori, played by Julianne Nicholson, who, though being second-billed in the credits, has had relatively little to do so far. Could the show be setting her up as a major player in Erin’s death, laying track for an awkward confrontation with Mare?
So far, Mare of Easttown has been incredibly judicious with its reveals, and with two more episodes coming, there is sure to be more mystery-unraveling. The HBO series has also, smartly, centered its storytelling on its healthy roster of characters, showing how the loss of the Easttown’s young women shake the community in various, frequently traumatic ways. Perhaps the show’s final chapters will highlight a thematic link between Katie and Erin, both of whom were essentially swallowed up by a small town ravaged by poverty and an ever-looming drug epidemic. However, at least right now, that seems to be the extent of their cases’ similarities.
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