12 Questions We Still Have After the 'Mare of Easttown' Finale
Even with its tidy ending, the HBO series left us searching for a few more answers.
This post contains mega-spoilers for the Mare of Easttown series finale, "Sacrament."
HBO's hit mystery drama Mare of Easttown, starring Kate Winslet, concluded with a devastating and graceful episode that tied up its most essential dangling threads (i.e., who killed Erin and who DJ's biological father is), yet left open some burning questions (e.g., who was the ferret man?) and created entirely new head-scratchers to puzzle over (such as whether the timelines made sense and why the HBO Max app started showing us episodes of The Big Bang Theory when we were trying to watch the big ending), possibly forever. Here are 12 questions we're still trying to work out.
Who is the ferret man?
The show opens with an incident that initially seems like a way to indicate just how boring Mare's job can be and how tight the Easttown community is. Betty Carroll calls Mare early in the morning to report a creepy dude her granddaughter saw in the backyard. Mare, frustrated because this task is below her pay grade, listens as Betty describes the prowler as a hoodie-wearing man who looked like a "ferret," which Mare can't corroborate because the granddaughter has already left town and Betty's absent-minded husband, Glenn, hasn't set up the security camera properly. A week or so later, the camera is operational when Mare returns after a neighbor kid vandalizes the Carrolls' property—and months later, it helps Mare break the case by revealing that Ryan Ross had stolen Glenn's gun, the weapon used to shoot Erin. But we still don't know for certain who the actual ferret man is. We think it's ultimately that wandering old man with dementia who Mare tackles late one night. We know that it can't be Ryan, as he wasn't outside the Carroll home until the following night. What about the bawdy graffitiing neighbor boy? Reddit fave Richard? Or does Easttown have some random perv creeping around who has gone unapprehended? Who is the ferret man?! This will plague us forever.—Esther Zuckerman
Does Glenn Carroll's missing gun timeline actually make sense?
Glenn Carroll (Patrick McDade), the man whose wife, Betty, called Mare way back in Episode 1 to complain about a peeper that looked like a ferret, was always lurking in the background of the show's plot. After a follow-up house call established in a subsequent episode that Mr. Carroll had indeed installed the security camera that would later provide Mare with crucial evidence, he resurfaced in the pivotal Episode 5 to confess at his wife's wake (she died in a heart-attack-induced car-crash) that he'd had an affair with Mare's mother, Helen (Jean Smart), a goofy disclosure that was overshadowed by the shocking death of Colin Zabel (Evan Peters). Now a lonely, addled widower, good old Glenn emerged in the last episode to facilitate the show's final twist, telling Mare that his Colt Detective Special, the gun that had been identified as the murder weapon through ballistics tests, had gone missing on the night of Erin's murder but he'd noticed that it had been returned at some point since then, and with two fewer bullets at that. The scene was both sad, with Mr. Carroll obviously still grieving the loss of his wife, and thrilling—run, Mare! check that security footage! go to that school!—but the timeline surrounding the gun's absence and return is more than a little confusing. Glenn tells Mare that he'd retrieved the gun from the storage shed the morning his granddaughter saw the mysterious "ferret man" prowler, and that he'd gone to the shed to grab it again that night upon hearing noises, only to discover that it wasn't where it was supposed to be. That noise he heard was definitely Ryan Ross taking the gun from the shed, but why was he, a retired cop, not more concerned when he learned that it was missing? Why did he wait so long—months!—to check if the gun was back and report it to the authorities? Oof, that Glenn! As is often the case with a big, complicated mystery, some pieces fit together more elegantly than others.—Dan Jackson
Why did Dylan and Jess burn Erin's journals?
As we suspected, Dylan and Jess had different incentives to burn Erin's journals. As she explains to Chief Carter, Jess says she agreed to burn them to protect the memory of her best friend, while Dylan's motive was to prevent any secrets about DJ's parentage that Erin may have written down from leaking so that he and his parents would have a better chance of retaining custody. Was that really the only reason Dylan burned them? We never actually hear him say that directly. Might he also have been worried about any damaging information about him that might be in there, since he was the prime suspect at the time? Why did he get so angry with Jess after Mare questioned him in Episode 6—angry enough to pull a gun on her and threaten to shoot her in the face? To warn her from making an admission that might get him arrested for tampering with evidence? Probably! Still, Dylan is still very suspicious in a bunch of very different and very real ways, despite that scene at Lori's door in Episode 7 that almost made us feel bad for him.—EZ
Where did Dylan go in the middle of the night of Erin's murder?
Thanks to Episode 5, we knew that very suspicious Dylan had absolutely zero alibi. When Brianna finally confronted him about why he was nowhere to be found in the middle of the night around the time that Erin was murdered, he gave a lot of answers that turned out to be completely untrue. First he tells her that he was probably somewhere else in the house feeding DJ, and then he says he was probably on the porch smoking. When Brianna doesn't believe him, he tells her to leave. Great work, Dylan! In Episode 6, he then admits to Mare and Chief Carter that he'd been driving around smoking weed to help him fall asleep, a statement that was hard to accept as factual given that nearly everything that had come out of Dylan's mouth up until then felt like a lie. Frustratingly, this thread remains dangling after the finale, since we never learn definitively what he was doing that night. We're left to assume the impossible: that he was actually being truthful about his off-hours weed-smoking drive.—Emma Stefansky
No, really—what is Richard's deal?
Everyone calm down. It turns out that Richard is just a nice, handsome guy offering Mare the potential of love. Sure, he's almost suspiciously easygoing and lacking in judgement, but it turns out he wasn't actually a secret killer or sex pest, just a weary novelist-slash-professor who really, really likes Mare. And that's OK. It's important to remember that while Guy Pearce's presence indicated that Richard might have a larger role, Pearce, Winslet's former costar in Mildred Pierce, dropped in at the last minute as a favor when actor Ben Miles had scheduling conflicts. There is a fun little easter egg for Pearce fans: When he leaves town for his next teaching gig at Bates College ("sounds fake," Mare said), he heads out in the same model of car he drove in Memento. Maybe that implies that Richard Ryan is actually an amnesiac??? Or, far more likely, it's just a fun little bit of trivia.—EZ
Why didn't Erin use a crowdfunding site for DJs ear surgery?
"Will DJ get his much-needed ear surgery?" was one of the big questions nagging at our minds every week while watching Mare of Easttown, and in the finale, that question, at least, was answered when Lori finally made it happen. But we're still stuck on why Erin found it so difficult to find the money to finance the surgery that she'd consider turning to sex work or blackmail before even attempting to crowdfund the cost. Erin's a high school student, definitely tech savvy (remember C@@L?) and is up to date on the latest trends. It wouldn't have been hugely difficult to set up some sort of donation site for her kid. Clearly the show wanted the audience to get how small, insular, and isolating Easttown really is, using a single teen mom's unfixable personal baggage as an indicator of that.—ES
Who's in prison for what?
The criminal justice system in Easttown remains frustratingly opaque. For one thing, Mare should not be a cop anymore because she planted drugs on the mother of her son's child and then lied about it to her superiors. And she essentially got away with it! She's free to play skee-ball and make amends with her mother and attend a Catholic mass while other characters have to go to prison. According to how things shake out in the finale, Deacon Mark has been set free by John's admission, while Kenny, Billy, John, and Ryan are all doing time for their various assorted crimes. But what specific charges did they each face?—DJ
When will they get out?
It's especially unclear how long each of their sentences are for and what charges they've been rung up on. Kenny's is the most cut-and-dried: He was likely convicted of the attempted murder of Dylan, a crime that carries a sentence maximum of 20 years, but he'd likely be out much sooner depending on his sentence and for fully cooperating and good behavior. Ryan would likely have been brought up on involuntary murder charges, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years, since 13-year-olds are tried as adults in Pennsylvania. Given his age and the circumstances, he'd most likely be spared the most severe sentencing but would face at least five years in prison and possibly as many as 20 years, not counting any other associated crimes he might be charged with. Before the big Ryan-did-it reveal rendered John's confession moot, Chief Carter had told Mare that Billy was set to be released in a year or so because he'd cooperated fully, but would that change after Mare solves the murder? How much did Billy know when he helped moved Erin's body? Did John tell him that he'd killed her, or did Billy know that Ryan had done it? The scenes between John and Billy, particularly the tense confrontations in the last couple episodes and the discussions about the bloody clothing, could potentially take on new meanings with a rewatch. As for John, well, he deserves to rot in prison, although his conviction on murder charges would have to be thrown out. Still, he's guilty of many other crimes, including statuatory sexual assault of Erin, a first-degree felony carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years. Added together, it's very likely that John would be in prison for many decades, and maybe even the rest of his life.—John Sellers
What about the others who obstructed the investigation?
It's kind of nuts how many citizens of Easttown, at the end of all of this, impeded a police investigation in multiple ways, each more shocking than the next—from Jess burning evidence to "honor" her dead best friend, to Lori abetting her husband and son's plot in covering up the truth of the murder. Illegal! These things are illegal! Why didn't any of these people get any kind of slap on the wrist? Do people in Easttown obstruct justice so often that the local PD is just used to this behavior? Was Mare just so emotionally drained by the prospect of putting a child behind bars she let everyone else off the hook?—ES
How did Lori get custody of DJ so quickly?
Before we know who the true killer is, John Ross asks Lori to take care of baby DJ. She does so reluctantly but willingly, and maintains custody even when it's revealed that her son Ryan is Erin's actual killer. But how does that work? Dylan's parents had been taking care of DJ and apparently wanted to fight to keep him in their household. Would they have just willingly handed over the kid to the wife of a murderer? If Lori got into a custody battle, how would that have played out? Before we knew that John was the baby's father, Lori and John were technically related to him, given that John is Erin's father Kenny's cousin. According to Julianne Nicholson, there was an unfilmed scene where Kenny asks the couple to take care of DJ. Still, that doesn't explain why Lori is taking care of this baby when almost everyone else in her family has been implicated in his mother's murder.—EZ
Why did HBO Max crash right before the finale?
In the days of Game of Thrones, HBO Go was often able to withstand a wild number of people logging on to catch up with their favorite program. And yet, Mare of Easttown, a crime drama with an Oscar-winner and slow-burn buzz, was able to bring the new HBO Max interface to its knees. On Sunday night, Twitter was filled with people complaining that they couldn't get the service to work. I can report that my own HBO Max interface played an episode of The Big Bang Theory every time I would press play on the last Mare episode. (In a glitch on the platform earlier this year, some users who were trying to watch Tom & Jerry saw leaked footage of Zack Snyder's Justice League 10 days ahead of its premiere.) Who was responsible for this technological mishap? Let's get Mare on the case for Season 2.—DJ
Will Siobhan ever get to see boygenius?
Sadly, it seems that Siobhan got dumped by her DJ girlfriend Anne before they could ever go see the indie rock supergroup boygenius, made up of sad-girl icons Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. Did Anne take someone else? Did the tickets go to waste?? We'll never know. Luckily for Siobhan, though, she'll be going to college at the University of California-Berkeley, which is just across the bay from San Francisco, a West Coast music hub. Indie rock has been a huge part of the soundtrack of Mare; if the show ends up going ahead with a second season (more on that in a second), we'd love to see Siobhan kicking around the Bay Area music scene, starting up a new band, and playing at the iconic DIY venue 924 Gilman.—Leanne Butkovic
Will there be a Season 2?
Mare's ending tied up mostly everything quite nicely: We know who killed Erin, we know who took the missing girls, and Mare is making real headway on facing her trauma. The show, pushed as a limited series, could easily end there and leave a legacy of being an excellent small-town matriarchal murder mystery. That said, there could just as easily be more seasons in the future, introducing new characters and convoluted mysteries to Delco. Though it hasn't been renewed for a second season (yet), Kate Winslet told TVLine that she'd also be thrilled to play Mare again, and series creator Brad Ingelsby told us that he'd love to keep writing the show, if the interest was there. Considering how it has taken off, essentially becoming the 2021 version of a water-cooler show, we'd guess that the Season 2 greenlight isn't terribly far off.—LB