When you get past the idea that the main character is not a female horse, there really is quite a lot to love about Brad Ingelsby's creation Mare, played by Kate Winslet. The HBO/Sky Atlantic series has got viewers on the edge of their seats and this is largely due to the fact Mare is the sort of three-dimensional and intriguing female character viewers like to watch (much like Carrie was in Homeland). It has been a pleasure to behold Mare subverting expectations through the series and she is a great example of an authentic and modern female protagonist.
So without further ado, here are five reasons why I think Mare is such a stand-out filly:
1. Gotta love a cold, hard mum
Whether it is the fabulous Evelyn Harper in Two and A Half Men or the constantly frazzled Julia Johnson in Motherland, I cannot get enough of dysfunctional mums on TV. Seeing women behave badly, or mother badly, is still the exception to the rule, and therefore, programmes featuring these kinds of women always feel fresh. Although it is uncertain just how bad a mum Mare is, she certainly has sired offspring who have major issues with her. Usually women on screen are at least trying to be good mothers, but in Easttown Mare comes across rather unapologetic and indifferent about putting work before her family. Her passion, her ambition, her driving force is her work (and justice) – and this is likely true about far more women than we see represented on screen. It certainly ain't no man, and that leads us to number...
2. Take it or leave it...
It is currently unclear what exactly happened in her relationship breakdown with ex-husband Frank Sheehan. What we do know is Mare is not really in the market for another love of her life (if she ever had a love of her life). Her attitude towards professor Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) is nonchalant to the point that he disappears at one stage with us wondering 'where the heck did he go'? I would say this is an accurate portrayal of modern dating for you, but because TV hasn't evolved that much, I'm sure he'll be back. Worse than being nonchalant is her behaviour towards fellow detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters), who she uses to access information about the case. There is something delightfully refreshing about Mare's level of apathy to romantic partners, and it's all the sweeter when you've read too many scripts where the female's duty is to gawp over the leading man.
3. Munch away Mare
Forget the hay, Mare is more likely to be seen munching a bumper packet of cheesy puffs or guzzling down another beer. There is nothing ladylike about her eating habits which seem to consist of ramming fast food down her throat and dribbling a bit. I don't know if it is the nature of how she eats, or the fact she eats at all, which is the most surprising thing. Do women eat on screen? It probably happened once. As a woman who could improve her dining etiquette, I feel comforted that I am not alone in letting the joy of eating get in the way of doing it in a pleasant way. She don't care, that Mare. Chomp chomp chomping away. And let us not forget the food package she stuffs down the back of a sofa at a book event – it was a small act of defiance – and yet the slovenliness of the behaviour still felt unusual coming from a woman. Yes, we women are gross too.
4. What does Mare even wear?
Traditional sex symbol Mare is not, even to the point where I can't remember what she wears in the show. Is it jeans and a sports jacket? She once gets dressed up for a date and maybe she's wearing black. That's about as much as I can remember, because the thing is this programme is so good it doesn't need to throw in a flash of leg to get you interested. From the script, to the direction, acting and production – Mare of Easttown is a fabulous series full of twists, drama and a touch of humour. Winslet looking made-up sexy wouldn't add anything – and even though this series features a lot of teenage girls, they are always looking more edgy and cool, than booby and provocative. This is an every day town, full of every day women who dress the way you would expect them to dress – and this level of reality only adds to the tension that at any point one of them may turn up dead.
5. F*** you! No F*** YOU!
Families swearing at each other is another thing I can't get enough of at the moment. The more trivial the reason for the swear word the better, in my book. The delicious swearword fuelled rucks between Mare and her mother Helen Fahey (Jean Smart) are exquisite to behold. They shock because female family members who chuck f-bombs around the home like they are cushions are still relatively rare on TV and yet I can't picture this lot speaking to each other in any other way. Whilst using swear words can be considered lazy by some writers, I think they are used extremely f***ing well in Mare of Easttown as this language hints at both the damage, and the love, present in this family. In the words of philosopher and poet Eminem, there's nothing so scary as a house that allows no swearing. Damn right Mathers, this one would have totally imploded without it.
And thus, these are the reasons why Mare is my mane woman and why I think Winslet and writer Ingelsby should gallop off into the sunset with a gong or two come awards season. And if you think I've used one too many horse pun in this piece, perhaps that's because, you're a bit of an a**.
Joanna Tilley runs a script consultancy which focuses on the development of female characters and storylines. Click here to find out more.