The series finale of Mare of Easttown wrapped up the sad mystery of who killed Erin McMenamin with about 20 more minutes of show left to go. In the closing shot of the episode, after she tied up the loose ends of her various relationships, Kate Winslet’s Mare climbed a ladder up the attic. This, series creator Brad Ingelsby says, wasn’t the final moment he originally had planned for Mare of Easttown. A consulting grief specialist on the show gave him the inspiration. Speaking with Vanity Fair’s Still Watching podcast, Ingelsby and Lori Ross actress Julianne Nicholson dive into what the emotionally cathartic ending of the Mare means. You can listen to their conversation in its entirety here or read some excerpts pertaining to that final shot below.
Initially, Ingelsby says, the series was meant to end with Mare and Lori in the kitchen clinging to each other. Mare and Lori’s relationship, he says, was the most important in the series. “Julianne was the second person we cast in the show because we knew exactly what the ending episode was going to be,” Ingelsby said. Winslet, who was not only the star of the series but also the executive producer, called in her real-world, long-time friend Julianne Nicholson to take on the role.
The kitchen scene comes after Lori has repeatedly pushed Mare away for what Nicholson calls the “betrayal” of Ryan’s arrest. In a moment mirroring their earlier discussion about how Lori wouldn’t let Mare push her away after Kevin’s suicide, Mare plows through Lori’s rejection in order to offer her support. “Now it’s Mare’s turn,” Ingelsby says, “to not ever push her away.”
The episode is titled “Sacrament” promising an allusion to the Christian rite of imparting grace. “I loved that idea of grace and forgiveness,” Nicholson said. “Trying to do the best we can and seeing that, mostly, it’s what we’re all trying to do.”
But the kitchen scene also contained a callback to Mare’s therapy session from episode 6 where she describes finding her son Kevin hanging in the attic, cutting him down, and trying to hold him.
At the time, Mare’s therapist asked her if anyone in the house had gone up to the attic where Kevin took his life. That answer was a resounding no.
Mare’s journey through the case in the series runs parallel to her journey through the emotional block she has around Kevin’s death.
And so, in the end, the Mare finale sets off a chain reaction. The community forgives Deacon Mark who, in turn, inspires Mare to reach out to Lori. By extending grace and mercy to Lori, Mare is finally able to forgive herself for what happened to Kevin.
“We met a therapist who dealt with grief on the set and I had a number of conversations with her about what the sessions would look like, ” Ingelsby says. “I remember asking her one time, ‘What would you tell someone who’s lost a child to suicide? Where would you tell them to go?’ She said: ‘I would tell them to go where it happened.’” Ingelsby’s initial reaction? “I was taken aback.”