That 'Mare of Easttown' Photo Is the Key to Everything

Who's in it?!? Let the speculation begin.

mare of easttown
HBO

This post contains spoilers up through Mare of Easttown Episode 6, "Sore Must Be the Storm."

The sixth episode of Mare of Easttown is basically unfair. Sure, creator Brad Ingelsby has warned us that the final two episodes were going to feel like "one long movie," but this cliffhanger is just rude.

Mare (Kate Winslet) has been told by Lori that Billy Ross (Robbie Tann) is Erin McMenamin's killer as well as the father of her son, DJ. She learns that he is on a fishing trip with his brother, John (Joe Tippett)—one last getaway before he turns himself in. Before they leave, Billy discovers a gun stowed in John's tackle box. Meanwhile, Jess (Ruby Cruz) appears at the police station holding a key piece of evidence: The photo she kept from Erin's journals after burning the rest. Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson) looks at the image closely and says to get Mare on the phone immediately. 

If Billy has already confessed to John about having killed Erin and fathered her child, why would the photo be so important that it's worthy of keeping the reveal for the finale? Will it change everything we think we know about the case?

One thing we think we can discern in the photo: a small child. If you look closely—very closely, possibly even freeze-framing—when the photo is in Chief Carter's hand you can make out the image on the other side slightly. Doesn't that look like there's a baby, presumably DJ, Erin's child, in there? Your eyes may see something else. But the entire episode leading up to this implies that Billy may well be DJ's dad and Lori even tells Mare that John had told her that Billy had confessed to being the father via an incestuous relationship that either started or was consummated at the Ross family reunion. But when John coaxes a confession out of Billy, he admits he killed Erin but not, however, that he's DJ's father.

So the photograph Jess gives to the chief must reveal a piece of information that changes Mare's perspective and is different than what we've been told so far. So we're going to guess Billy is not present in it. Who is? Here are some theories to tide you over until we learn the truth next week.

mare of easttown photo
HBO

John Ross 

John, Billy's brother, is incredibly suspicious. Under the guise of protecting his own family, he wrings a confession out of his brother; probably lies to his wife, Lori (Julianne Nicholson), and tells her to keep the truth from Mare; and then, you're led to believe, plot to kill Billy on a fishing trip before he can confess to the police. What the hell is his deal? Maybe he's the member of the Ross family that is actually DJ's father. Maybe he too was involved in her murder even though Billy's the one their father saw in bloody clothes. Or maybe he's just naturally suspicious-seeming, but actually wasn't involved at all. Still, even if he's not in the image, John Ross is suspicious as hell. 

One of Mare's children 

One theory that has been floating around is that Mare's deceased son Kevin is the father of DJ. The first episode links Kevin and Erin (Cailee Spaeny) in Mare's mind. Just before getting the call alerting her to Erin's death, Mare has a vision of Kevin, staring her down in his child Drew's bedroom. However, Kevin committed suicide in February 2018; DJ was born in November 2018. Therefore it's unlikely that Kevin himself is visible in the photo, unless DJ himself is not actually present in it. So what if the person visible is Siobhan, Mare's daughter, who is irreparably angry at her mother for making her go check in on Kevin the day of his death? Siobhan did see Erin the night of her death, after all, offering her help, which Erin refused. She then neglected to tell her mother anything regarding her involvement. If Kevin is DJ's father, does Siobhan know that? Was there a period when she and Erin were sharing that secret? Admittedly, it would be a big curveball, and not necessarily a good one, if Siobhan were in the photo. 

Lori Ross

Has Mare's best friend been telling the whole truth to Mare? She's swears that she didn't know anything about Billy and Erin before eventually spilling everything to Mare, but what is she doing to protect her fucked-up family? Could she be in the photo? Did she introduce the part about Billy being DJ's father to make him seem even more guilty?

Frank Sheehan 

The idea that Mare's ex, school teacher Frank Sheehan (David Denman), was DJ's father was dismissed via a DNA test earlier in the season, but could there be a possibility that he's still connected to Erin in some way? He did buy diapers for her, after all. Was that because he knew that his son was the baby's father?

Richard Ryan

I've been beating this drum for a while but Guy Pearce seems too famous for his character just to be a nice novelist who likes Mare. Could he be DJ's dad? Probably not, especially since there's a photo available on HBO's press site with him and Mare dancing nicely at a wedding that may or may not be Frank and Faye's wedding. But you never know with this show, at least until the finale next week.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.