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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Mare of Easttown.
The heartbreaking first episode of Mare of Easttown sets up the show's central mystery: Who killed Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny), a young single mother who ventured out in the woods one night and never returned. The seven-episode HBO miniseries is set in a small Pennsylvania town, where the show was also filmed. Within this tight-knit community, anybody could be a suspect.
Technically, it's Detective Mare Sheehan's (Kate Winslet) job to identify Erin's killer. Speaking to Oprah Daily, Winslet elaborated on the difficult position Mare finds herself in, caught in a web of relationships. See if you can follow the dots: Erin is the daughter of Kenny McMenamin, who is cousins with John Ross, who is the husband of Mare's best friend, Lori (Julianne Nicholson). "She knows Erin," Winslet says. "Everyone knows everyone, even if they're distant family members. Worlds collide in small towns very freely. We made decisions that people's lives would overlap and we built that into all of their backstories."
According to Winslet, Mare feels an urgency to solve the case due to her connections with people in the town, and to her own past. "She always felt desperately sorry for Erin. Because she hasn't been able to solve the crime with Katie Bailey, it makes her feel even more determined to solve the Erin crime," she says.
But as of the end episode 3, it'll be much harder for Mare to fulfill her task. Like the best detective shows and novels, Mare of Easttown sets up enough clues for audiences to piece together their own theories. Based on the evidence we have, these are our lead suspects. Sherlock, feel free to call us if you need a new Watson.
Who is he: Dylan (Jack Mulhern) is Erin's ex-boyfriend. They're raising their son, DJ, together. The arrangement is tense due to his current girlfriend, Brianna's (Mackenzie Lansing) jealousy.
Why is he suspicious? Dylan is suspicious from the start. He and Brianna lured Erin to the woods the night of her murder. They were "catfishing" her by pretending to be a prospective romantic partner. Then, once she got to the woods, Brianna beat her up. Kenny, Erin's father, immediately blames Dylan, and takes matters into his own hands: He shoots Dylan.
Did he do it? The detectives have not ruled him out.
Who is she? Brianna is Dylan's new girlfriend. Her parents own an Italian restaurant in town, but access to spaghetti does not automatically turn her into an agreeable person, unfortunately.
Why is she suspicious? Simply put, Brianna has it out for Erin. Motivated by jealousy, Brianna lured Erin to the woods and attacked her.
Did she do it? Brianna peaked as a suspect in the first episode, which—under the unofficial rules of Detective Dramas—means that she's likely not our perpetrator. However, if she did do it, Mare doubts that Brianna worked alone. Erin's body was moved from a park and placed into nearby creek. If anything, the detectives think Brianna and Dylan worked together.
Who is he? Frank (Dylan Denman) is Mare's ex-husband and a math teacher at the high school. Erin was his algebra student.
Why is he suspicious? The show's second episode exposes Frank's unexpected connections to Erin. Speaking to Lori, Erin's best friend reveals her suspicion that Frank was the father of Erin's child. She says she saw the two of them together in Frank's car, with Frank holding baby supplies. When Mare confronts Frank, he swears he only "felt sorry" for Erin. He agreed to take a paternity test.
Did he do it? Probably not. John, Frank's friend, ultimately provides an alibi: At the time of Erin's death, Frank was asleep—and he has photographic evidence.
Who is he? Kenny is Erin's dad.
Why is he suspicious? As Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) says, the top suspects tend to be a family member or an intimate partner, which leaves Kenny and Dylan. Aside from Kenny, none of the other suspects have a registered firearm—and Erin was killed with a bullet.
Did he do it? Kenny is far from our primary suspect. But his actions in episode 2 show that he possesses an impulsive streak. When he thinks that Dylan killed his daughter, he takes him out to the woods and shoots him. Dylan survives, but barely.
Who is he? Deacon Mark (James McArdle) is—you guessed it—the local deacon who preaches at the church most of the characters attend.
Why is he suspicious? As phone records show, Deacon Mark was the last person Erin called the night she was killed. Naturally, Mare and Detective Colin Zabel's (Evan Peters) internal alarm bells go off, as do ours. Speaking to the detectives, Deacon Mark explains that he and Erin "became close" after meeting in the youth group. "I make myself available to all members of our parish but especially our youth. I find that they need me the most," he said, admitting to being alone with Erin.
Did he do it? Deacon Mark has moved to the top of our suspect list. Why? He has Erin's missing bike. Knowing the detectives are after him, Deacon Mark drops the bike off a bridge in the middle of the night, looking over his shoulder with barely disguised anxiety. Do those seem like the actions of an innocent man?
Who is he? Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) is a novelist living off the glory of his one successful book. He's teaching at a nearby college and pursuing a low-key romance with Mare.
Why is he suspicious? There's only one real outsider in Mare of Easttown, and that's Richard Ryan. He says he's in town for a professor job. But what is he doing in Easttown when he's not wining and dining Mare at the town's fanciest restaurant? Right now, Richard seems suspicious precisely because he seems so innocuous.
Did he do it? So far, he doesn't appear to have any connections to Erin McMenamin. But we're not ruling anyone out.
Cathy Lahey's son
Who is he? The neighbor of Betty Carroll (Phyllis Somerville), an Easttown local.
Why is he suspicious? Betty is convinced that her "very strange" neighbor is behind Erin's murder. At the town carnival, she shares her theory with Mare's mother (Jean Smart). "He's one of those people who leaves town and you find out ten years later that he murdered somebody down in Florida, and you say, 'Yep, I'm not surprised,'" she said. Later, she tells Mare the same thing.
Did he do it? Aside from Betty's strong conviction, there is no proof that Cathy Lahey's son did anything wrong. But a good hunch can go a long way.
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