Why ‘Mare of Easttown,’ the best new show on television, shouldn’t get a second season

·5 min read
Mare of Easttown
Mare of Easttown

Evan Ross Katz is In The Know’s pop culture contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.

“Doing something great is overrated,” Detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) tells Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) in the fifth episode of HBO’s Mare of Easttown. “Cause then people expect that from you… all the time.”

I thought about this line over and over when I finished the limited series, gutted by the concurrent conclusion of the story (me during the finale:

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) and the reality that my time in the fictional world of the series had come to an end. Sunday, formerly a day of rest, had become Mare’s day for me and many others.

The seven-episode miniseries had managed to clinch the zeitgeist almost as quickly as it ended. The murderers had been uncovered and apprehended, thus ending the arc of the series. All the while, Mare had finally managed to face the past she had long suppressed. Thus, any possibility of a future life for the series felt impossible. As for a spin-off? Siobahn of Berkeley? Ryan of Juvie? It just doesn’t have the same zing.

Still, in theory, more Mare of Easttown sounds like a gift. More time with the townsfolk of Easttown, who we’ve grown to love (or, in some cases, learned to tolerate), and, more importantly, more time with brash, stoic and Rolling Rock-swigging Mare Sheehan. Others, including those involved in the show’s production, felt similarly, and the natural question began to ruminate: Could this limited series get a second season?

“I would absolutely love to play Mare again,” Winslet told TVLine.

“If we could crack a story that we were really proud of and felt like it was a deserving second chapter in Mare’s journey, then maybe,” series creator Brad Ingelsby told the Hollywood Reporter.

“I think everybody would be open to it,” HBO Chief Casey Bloys told Variety.

But as much as I loved the world of Mare of Easttown, I don’t need to go back again. There’s something to be said for loving something and letting it go.

Sure, there’s The Godfather Part II, A Very Brady Sequel and Paddington 2 as prime examples that more can be better. But lest we forget Sex and the City 2 as one of the most notorious examples of cinematic gluttony.

A capitalistic desire to try and squeeze a juiceless lemon, while once confined to film, has become rampant in television in the last few years. First, there was True Detective Season 2. Named one the worst television programs of 2015 by Variety, The New York Post, Newsday and TV Guide, Season 2 didn’t hold a candle to Season 1, which had ranked among the best shows of 2014. Then came American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which failed to live up to its predecessor, which focused on the O. J. Simpson murder case. “It isn’t quite as convincing or thematically unified,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg.

And then, a year later came Big Little Lies Season 2. Similar to Mare of Easttown, an outcry for more BLL began the morning after what was then perceived as the series finale. The show had been a breakout success both in the ratings and among critics, and questions about a continuation popped up frequently. When the series finally returned for a second season with the original cast all in place, plus the addition of Meryl Streep, expectations were high. “If the first season had the luxury of being smarter than people assumed it was, the second was almost sunk from the beginning by the burden of its own prestige,” wrote the Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert in her review.

These are all prime examples of the human desire to want more of a good thing, combined with the dollar-sign nature of Hollywood trying to force a perfect thing to sustain results.

But despite ongoing signs that more is not always better, more continues to be the flavor of the moment. Take a recent interview with Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy, in which she said she “would be just over the moon” if a film version of the hit series “ever came to pass.”

“I hope eventually,” co-creator and star Dan Levy said in another interview when asked to respond to Murphy’s quote. It’s not as though they came forward with plans for a movie, so much as reporters have pried and fans have galvanized behind the idea. And I get it. I, too, miss Moira Rose.

Could a Schitt’s Creek film or a second season of Mare of Easttown deliver big? Absolutely. But is the risk worth the reward when the entity itself is already so decorated? Sure, there are your Better Call Saul’s, which proves there are creative ways to breathe a worthy second life into a story. But on the flip side, there’s also your Joey’s. Perhaps some great works of art are intended to be ephemeral and fleeting, with their memory being what lives on, rather than more of the art itself.

But art, quite often, is commerce, and the business of Mare of Easttown was just heating up. Episode 1 of the series clocked 1 million viewers across HBO and HBO Max, according to Deadline. By Episode 7, the series finale, viewership ballooned to over 4 million — making it the most-watched episode of any HBO Original Series on HBO Max, Variety reports. While one can’t predict where those numbers would go in Season 2, all data indicates that more Mare of Easttown would be a sure-fire success ratings-wise, even if the reviews weren’t as glowing. From an executive’s perspective, this should be enough to hit the go button.

There’s reason to believe that if Winslett and Mare of Easttown creator Brad Ingelsby can find a way for more, more will be delivered. I’ll for sure be watching and more than likely learn to love it, even if I only like it. But the greater question remains: Is the quality relative to the quantity, and if so, are we too often staying at the party too late as opposed to finding a new party, or, better even, maybe just heading home and calling it a night?

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