Who killed Erin McMenamin, and who is the father of her baby son? It’s the biggest TV mystery since Line of Duty got us all het up about ‘H’s identity.
The final episode of Mare of Easttown, starring Kate Winslet as no bullshit, vape-chugging Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan, is set to air on Monday night and promises to solve the murder case that’s been haunting viewers for the past six weeks.
Put on your parka, grab a Philly cheesesteak and take a look at some of the prime suspects, along with the burning questions we’re asking ahead of the finale (warning! Spoilers for Mare of Easttown episodes one to six ahead)…
Meet the suspects
He’s as good as confessed to the murder, he’s most likely had an unhealthy infatuation with his teenage first cousin once removed (only in Easttown) and his dad saw him skulk into the house covered in blood on the night of the murder. The case against Billy Ross seemed watertight - until Erin’s friend Jess showed a mysterious photo to Mare’s boss Chief Carter, leaving him reeling. A major plot twist is surely imminent.
If Billy’s not the killer, his brother John is surely next in the frame. We know that Erin was most likely involved with someone who attended the family reunion in 2017 (ew), and John has got form for philandering, having previously cheated on his wife (and Mare’s best friend) Lori. In episode six, an angry Billy said he was fed up with cleaning up his sibling’s mess. Could John have been the one sleeping with Erin - and has he made his brother take the fall? The fishing trip the brothers embarked on at the end of the episode (at John’s insistence) is suddenly looking a lot more ominous - not least because he stashed a gun into his bait box. Is he planning to finish off the only person who knows what he did to Erin?
Erin’s ex Dylan no longer has an alibi after his new girlfriend Brianna dropped him in it with the police, revealing that he went AWOL for hours on the night of the murder. The motive is there (he’d learned that he wasn’t the father of Erin’s son DJ after all), plus his insistence on burning her journals - and intimidating Jess - is definitely suspect. But pinning the blame on the ex somehow feels a bit obvious for a show filled with clever twists and turns.
As Mare made her ex-husband take a DNA test earlier in the series, we know Frank was not the father of Erin’s child. However, that doesn’t necessarily rule him out of the investigation, and we know that there was more to their relationship than the usual teacher-pupil dynamic (why was he buying nappies and formula milk for her baby?)
This dodgy deacon moved to Easttown under a cloud, facing accusations of inappropriate behaviour with a teenage girl in his previous parish. He drove Erin to the park on the night of her death - then chucked her bike in the river. He’s since confessed all of this to the police, and has been charged with evidence tampering, but is he holding something back?
There are two central mysteries in Mare of Easttown - who killed Erin and who is DJ’s father? - and there’s no guarantee that there is one culprit. If John is DJ’s dad, could his wife Lori have shot her out of jealousy? It’s a pretty far-fetched theory, we’ll admit, but Lori’s eagerness to adopt DJ might be a twisted way of assuaging her guilt…
Our burning questions
Who is in the photo that Jess salvaged from Erin’s journals?
Before Dylan and his sidekick set fire to Erin’s teenage diaries, her friend Jess managed to squirrel away a photo that fell from the pages. When Jess took it to the police station to show Chief Carter, Mare’s boss looked seriously shaken - and immediately started trying to get in touch with his officer, who’d ignored his advice and headed off in pursuit of the Ross brothers without backup (even after what happened to poor Colin Zabel).
It’s clear that the photo is a crucial piece of evidence which might just turn the case on its head, potentially putting whoever appears in the snap alongside Erin in the frame for her murder. We can safely assume, too, that it’s not a photo of Billy: would the Chief have had such an extreme reaction if it supported the case against him?
Is the case really closed on the abductions?
Ever since Mare rescued missing women Katie Bailey and Missy Sagar from the disused bar in the nerve-shredding final moments of episode five, the hostage case - which has been running in tandem to the murder investigation throughout the series - seemed to get wrapped up suspiciously quickly. We learned that abductor Wayne Potts was out of town visiting his mother on the night Erin was killed, prompting the police to surmise that there was no connection between the kidnappings and the murder.
That conclusion, though, feels a little too tidy - it also ignores a few key details. We know that Erin had a profile on the escorting site used by all three of the women Potts abducted, and as yet we have no idea what happened to Hillary, the captive who disappeared when she became pregnant. Then there’s the fact that the sex worker who Mare interviewed about her near-miss with the kidnapper described her assailant as “a white man with a beard.” Potts was clean-shaven - so was another man involved in the attacks? Could it be John? Or Frank?
Who is the prowler?
Cast your minds all the way back to the opening moments of episode one, when a call from old dear Betty Carrol (RIP) dragged a distinctly unimpressed Mare out of bed after her granddaughter was surprised by a ‘Peeping Tom’ skulking by her bathroom window. According to Betty, the prowler “looked like a ferret,” a description which could, let’s face it, be applied to vast swathes of Easttown’s distinctly weaslish male population, and in the wake of Erin’s death, the case was put on the back burner. Then, in episode five, Mare thought she’d spotted someone lurking in the back alleys late at night. The potential suspect turned out to be a harmless old man with dementia, but the scene served to remind us that the lurker is still at large. Could this suggest that the prowler is somehow linked to Erin’s death, or the abduction of the girls?
What about the murder weapon?
The murder weapon is yet to be recovered, but Mare did manage to find the bullet which most likely killed Erin. The ballistics expert revealed that it came from an old gun commonly used by police officers back in the 80s, pointing out that Mare’s cop dad “probably had one.” Does this mean that someone close to her fired the fatal shot? Mare’s daughter Siobhan might have known where her grandfather’s gun was kept, and Frank is constantly slipping in and out of his ex’s house. Plus, the attic, which no one has apparently entered since Kevin’s death, might be a good place to hide incriminating evidence.
What is going on with Guy Pearce?
When Richard Ryan rocked up to the bar in episode one, it seemed like the one-hit wonder novelist might be tangled up in at least one of the mysteries Mare was tasked with unravelling. After all, why cast Guy Pearce to just drift in and out as an on-off love interest? But as time went on, Richard seemed to become more and more tangential. Is a final act reveal - one that ties him into the ‘A’ plot - looming?
If you’d asked me a few months ago, I’d have answered with a resounding ‘yes,’ but that was before I was burned by Jed Mercurio’s decision to use a digitally de-aged photofit of James Nesbitt as a massive red herring in the sixth series of Line of Duty. Now, I’ve learned the hard way that there’s no point over-investing in a character’s significance just because the actor is a big name. Perhaps the show’s biggest plot twist will be the revelation that Richard is really just the only middle-aged man in Easttown not embroiled in adultery, borderline incestuous relationships or hard drugs.
Mare of Easttown concludes Monday May 31 on Sky Atlantic and Now, 9pm