“Mare of Easttown” was a historic rarity for HBO during its acclaimed and buzzy run last spring. The Kate Winslet-led drama joined “The Undoing” as one of only two shows in HBO history to grow viewership totals week by week, and the “Mare of Easttown” finale also set a ratings record for HBO Max in terms of streaming viewership. But while fans were obsessed with “Mare of Easttown,” and spent weeks theorizing about how it might turn out, creator and writer Brad Ingelsby found himself a little bit surprised by the attention.
“I really had no idea that people would get so wrapped up in the mystery. I didn’t think the mystery was all that interesting or unique. I was really interested in Mare as a character,” Ingelsby, who is nominated at the Writers Guild Awards this year in the Original Longform category, tells Gold Derby during our “Meet the Experts” panel.
As Ingelsby reveals, while the public conversation about how “Mare of Easttown” might resolve was happening online, the “Mare” team – including director Craig Zobel – was still finishing the edit on the show. “So we were sort of trying to make sure we were covering all the setups and payoffs we could,” he says. “We were still working quite a bit at that time. So I couldn’t get too caught up in what was going on with the audience and their reactions. But I think what was helpful is seeing what was working – which characters were resonating – and then being able to go into the edit and say, ‘How do we give them more beats? Are there different takes we can use? Let’s give them payoffs that we feel an audience will want.’ So I think there was a bit of that going on, in terms of the emotional satisfaction of the show.”
But not with the payoff of the mystery. Ingelsby says the resolution was something he came up with before writing the limited series. “I had to have the ending in mind, because I’ve watched a lot of these shows in the past – love them, devour them – but I sort of had a strong idea, or I guess, belief that you did really want to stick the landing. And by that, I mean, it needs to be surprising in terms of the revelation of the killer, or the mystery itself. But also really emotional.”
As viewers know by now – spoiler alert for those who don’t – the killer in “Mare of Easttown” is the teenage son of Mare’s best friend, Lori (played Julianne Nicholson), and his culpability forces Mare (Kate Winslet) to face up to the death by suicide of her own son.
“The revelation of the killer has to echo back on her own life and her own situation and her own journey as a character in really getting her to confront the thing that she’s been avoiding in her own life,” Ingelsby explains of his thoughts on writing the ending. “I was convinced that the ultimate reveal had to be someone close to her in that it would get Mare to confront the demons in her own life and have to tear down the fortress walls that she’s built. So I really had to know who the killer was at the beginning. Otherwise, I think I would have been lost. And that’s really something I do in all scripts – trying to know the ending. Otherwise, it’s just sort of a winding road along the way. I try to know the ending as best I can. It’s not always the case. But I try to.”
All episodes of “Mare of Easttown” are streaming now on HBO Max.
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