12 Burning 'Mare of Easttown' Questions the Finale Needs to Answer
Grab a cup of Wawa coffee and read about everything we hope the HBO series' last episode resolves.
This article contains major spoilers up through Episode 6 of Mare of Easttown. If you've seen the finale, here's our round-up of 12 lingering questions the show didn't explicitly answer. You can also read our Episode 7 review and a spoiler-filled interview with Julianne Nicholson, who plays Lori Ross.
Going into the last episode of HBO's hit mystery drama Mare of Easttown, one thing is certain: We know a lot less than we expected to about the murder of Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny). Seriously, this show is a puzzle.
The fifth episode ended in a bloody climax that left Kate Winslet's Mare wounded and her partner detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) dead at the bar belonging to Wayne Potts, the man responsible for the disappearance of Katie Bailey and, more recently, Missy Sayers. Only, he is seemingly not involved in Erin's death; it's just a grim coincidence that Easttown is a place where many bad things happen to young women. In Episode 6, we get a confession from Billy Ross (Robbie Tann), but there are still a lot of holes in his story, and there's the whole matter of the mysterious photo from Erin's journal.
As the investigation comes to a close, we're analyzing all the suspects, and thinking hard about some of the series' unanswered questions, at least some of which will probably have to do with Erin's death. (One just has to do with indie rock, but allow us this.) Come with us down this rabbit hole into the outstanding issues we'd like to see Mare of Easttown resolve in its final installment.
Is Billy Ross really the killer?
Billy Ross (Robbie Tann) confesses to killing Erin in Episode 6, but is he actually the killer? Possibly! Possibly not! Here's what we know: Billy came home the night of Erin's death covered in blood. We have been told by Lori that he and Erin had an incestuous relationship that started the weekend of the Ross family reunion, but we learn that second-hand. Billy does tearfully admit to the murder but only upon the pleading of his brother, John. So while it would seem that everything points to Billy being the killer, there are details missing here. Mare assumes that Billy is the one who bought Erin her heart necklace, but it could have been purchased by his brother. And John is acting very, very strange. He ostensibly is trying to protect his family, but he also seems to have himself in mind.—Esther Zuckerman
Is one of the Ross brothers planning to kill the other?
John suggests that he and Billy take a fishing trip before Billy turns himself in. That's weird to begin with. Also weird? The gun stored in the tackle box. Did John place it there with the idea of murdering Billy? Or is the gun a red herring? It's all a bit unclear, but it's clear we've got a Chekov's gun situation on our hands as Mare approaches the guys to confront them.—EZ
Who is in the photo Jess puts in her pocket?
The photo Jess (Ruby Cruz) pocketed from Erin's journals is presumably the key to this whole thing. Episode 6 ends on a major cliffhanger as Jess shows the photo to Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson), who wants to get Mare on the phone immediately. We've already gone in depth on the theories as to just who might be in this photo. One thing (we think) is for certain: It likely contains an image of Erin's baby DJ with someone else. Does it imply his parentage? Or something else? Is it another member of the Ross family, who we know are fishy as hell? Or is it someone close to Mare? We are hyperventilating waiting to get the reveal on this one.—EZ
Who is DJ’s father?
You've gotta feel for baby DJ. Presumably, he still needs the ear surgery that Erin and her ex-boyfriend Dylan argued over way back in episode one, and his life will probably not get any easier after that's wrapped up. Right now it sure seems like Billy Ross is DJ's father, but it hasn't been confirmed. The Ross family in their entirety is suspicious. Maybe Billy is covering for John? Earlier in the series, it was established that Dylan and Mare's ex-husband Frank are definitely not the father. So, who is it? Unless it was a total red herring, the fact that Erin's friend Jess thought Frank was DJ's father should probably still have a payoff within the larger narrative. Erin kept the identity of DJ's father a secret for a reason, and there could be another family connection. Toward the end of episode one, Mare has a vision of her troubled son Kevin, who died in February of 2018, and you could say Kevin resembles DJ, who was born in November of 2018. Could Kevin be the father? That feels unlikely—there's a theory floating around that Siobhan killed Erin to keep her brother's secret—but stranger things have happened in Easttown.—Dan Jackson
Why did Dylan and Jess burn Erin's journals?
Though it seems like it would be too obvious to make the murderer Dylan—Erin's ex, who is not actually the father of her baby—his behavior has been HIGHLY suspicious. Even if he didn't actually murder Erin, he is certainly suppressing important information about her death. Case in point: That little journal burning party he had with his friend and Erin's bestie. What information is contained within Erin's private writings that all these people, one, know about and, two, want gone? Presumably, the reasons that Dylan and Jess are both determined to conceal these facts are different. Jess, at least until now, has seemed to act in Erin's best interest. Or has she? She went to Lori, not Mare, with the information that Dylan isn't the baby's father, dropping the rumor that it's Frank. She lied to Mare about the true location of Erin's journals. Does she think she's protecting her dead friend or is she letting a killer go free? Whereas Dylan is all for burning the evidence without much sentimentality, Jess spends some time thumbing through Erin's words. And they are clearly at odds given that Dylan THREATENS JESS WITH A GUN to prevent her from revealing anything.—EZ
Where did Dylan go in the middle of the night of Erin's murder?
Thanks to Episode 5, we know that Dylan has, uh, absolutely zero alibi. When Brianna finally confronted him about where he was the night Erin was murdered, he gave a lot of answers that turned out to be completely untrue. First he says he was feeding DJ, then he says he was smoking, and then he tells her to leave him alone. Great work, Dylan! Was he the person a hysterical Erin was going to meet when the Deacon said he picked her up and drove her to the woods? It's likely, but why would he kill her? He obviously wasn't jazzed about being a father (though he's since softened up on that after his hospital stay), and he may have suspected that the baby wasn't his anyway. Killing Erin would only make parenting more his problem. But he's also not helping out the investigation very much at all, using his manipulative relationship with Jess to burn Erin's journals. Obviously, there's something in there about him he doesn't want the cops to find out.—Emma Stefansky
Who is Lori's husband, John, having an affair with? Or, what is the real secret John is asking Ryan to keep?
When Lori walks by her son Ryan's room and sees her husband whispering to a sullen-looking Ryan, it's not clear what exactly is happening. Did Ryan witness something he wasn't supposed to see? Lori confronts Ryan, who beat up the school bully for being cruel to his sister, about what's going on, finally asking if his dad, John Ross, asked him to keep a secret, followed by the vague question, "Is it happening again?" Ryan nods, but what is the "it" that he's confirming? Turns out it's an affair with someone named Sandra but... who is Sandra? It seemed like we knew everyone in Easttown. It's also possible that Ryan stumbled upon a piece of evidence that connects John directly to Erin that has somehow happened before. Whatever the answer is, this seems like a question that will definitely be addressed in the show's final episode —LB
Who the hell is Richard and what is his deal?
Seriously, what is Richard's whole role in this? Here's what we know about Richard: He's in town guest lecturing at a local college, but hasn't really integrated with most of Easttown. He wrote one bestselling National Book Award winner that was turned into a TV movie in the '90s starring Jill Eikenberry. He has a son named Luke that his ex took away after he philandered following the release of his book. He's portrayed by Guy Pearce, who, aside from Winslet and Jean Smart, is probably the most famous person in this show. Is he really just there as a love interest for Mare? It seems hard to believe, but at this point he seems so disconnected from the case and the world that I can't see how he fits in unless there's some crazy twist.—EZ
What was the point of Jess having told Lori that Erin asked her to keep a secret about Dylan not being DJ's father?
In what is perhaps the show's weirdest about-face, Jess "comes clean" in the second episode and confides to Lori that Erin told her that Dylan is DJ's not father, and Erin suspects that it's Frank Sheehan. Both Frank, who when confronted by Mare vehemently denies it, and Dylan submit DNA for paternity testing, and we learn that neither of them is the father, throwing Jess's confession into question. Did Erin think that Frank really was the father? Did she lie to Jess for some reason, or lie to Frank so she could get help with the baby? (Frank, a teacher at the high school, does say that he brought Erin diapers at least once.) Was Jess lying to throw Mare off the scent temporarily to buy time so she could hide some evidence (those journals, perhaps)? Does Jess have any reason to drive a wedge further between Mare and Frank? Who is in the photo she gives to the chief? We'll see if she has more to divulge as Mare closes in on what really happened that night.—ES
Who is the ferret man?
The entire show opens up with an incident that initially seems like a way to indicate just how boring Mare's job can be and how tight a community Easttown is. Betty Carroll calls her early in the morning to come investigate a creepy dude her granddaughter saw in their yard. Mare is frustrated because this is below her pay grade. Betty describes the guy as wearing a hoodie and looking like a "ferret." Mare can't talk to the granddaughter because she has already left town, and the security camera isn't working. Later on, it is back up and running when a neighbor kid vandalizes Betty's property, but Mare deletes that evidence, assuming it isn't worth the hassle. What else could those cameras have captured, and is it something related to Erin's death? (Or Betty's, for that matter; Betty has a heart attack while driving to get cereal, but maybe that's not the full story.) Anyway, Mare has clearly been focusing on the ferret guy. She drew a picture of him in her notebook, which is visible in Episode 5. Maybe this ferret man had something to do with Erin's death. Or maybe he's just a random creep. You know who sort of looks like a ferret, though? Billy Ross, who is high on our suspects list.—EZ
What was the deal with the car crash that opened Episode 5?
It's OK if you don't even remember this happening. The ending of episode five was so shocking and immediately inspired so much discussion—RIP Colin—that it's easy to forget that the episode kicked off with the death of town-gossip Betty Carroll, who died of a heart attack while behind the wheel and knocked the town's power out. She'll never see the peeper of Easttown be brought to justice. At the same time, she didn't have to live to see her husband confess his affair with Helen to a whole crowded room of people at her own funeral gathering. The Carrolls feel like one of the more comedic plotlines in Mare of Easttown's web of intrigue, so it would be surprising if they ended up tying into the larger mystery of Erin's death. Still, the heart attack and car crash felt a little suspicious, and it's only natural for a show like this to make you a little paranoid about bits of narrative contrivance and coincidence.—DJ
Did Siobhan ever go see boygenius?
Indie rock, occasionally by Philadelphia-based artists, has been a huge part of the soundtrack of Mare: Clairo and Grouper have closed out episodes, Mannequin Pussy has been name-dropped several times, Emmy-nominated Big Thief had a track squeezed in and so has Julien Baker. Speaking of Baker, after Siobhan's band plays a set live on the radio, the DJ Anne hits on Siobhan by inviting her to see indie rock supergroup boygenius, made up of sad-girl icons Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. Did they ever go to the show? Did it rule? Who is Siobhan's favorite member? The fact that she wallows to Bridgers in episode 6 would seem to imply it's the Punisher musician. What was her opinion about Bridgers smashing her guitar on SNL? We here at Thrillist would love a spinoff of Mare that was just about Siobhan's band and the eastern Pennsylvania music scene.—EZ