Ahead of the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards later this month, HBO's smash hit seven-part limited series Mare of Easttown is making its way to DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday alongside a plethora of extras for fans of the Kate Winslet-led murder mystery. With a brilliant ensemble cast steered by Winslet in what is one of her richest performances thus far, the suspenseful murder mystery praised by both audiences and critics has received multiple nominations including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for Winslet and won the award for Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour or More) this past weekend at the Creative Arts Emmys.
The Brad Ingelsby-created series directed by Craig Zobel premiered in April on HBO and earned critical praise, fan fervor, and impressive records for its atmospheric drama led by a tough, worn-down detective (Winslet) investigating the murder of a Pennsylvania teenager as life crumbles around her. Divorced while attempting to raise her daughter and late son's son with the help of her mother played by Jean Smart in what is perhaps her career-best, Mare is "confronted with her own demons" and past more often than she would like when out and about in the Philadelphia suburb of Easttown, including living near her ex-husband.
Arguably one of the most satisfying series this year, Mare of Easttown is a true masterclass in storytelling. There's no doubt this show is one of the absolute best of 2021, thanks to Winslet and a flawless ensemble cast providing some very deeply affecting character drama that is most deserving of all the critical, award-worthy acclaim. While Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has given this series a stunning A/V presentation with a couple of special features, it's a show that should not be missed and one that should easily be picked up for one's personal collection.
While Mare of Easttown naturally focuses on Mare and how she copes alongside a star-studded cast, including Smart, Julianne Nicholson, and Evan Peters, the crime drama is strong with atmosphere and exchanges the usual cop action with a more nuanced approach outlined in the two-disc Warner Bros. Home Entertainment DVD and Blu-ray's bonus features, starting with "Invitation to the Set" on Disc 2, interspersed with clips from the show and interviews with the cast and showrunners. Zobel admits that while the show is tonally serious as it deals with murder and kidnappings, people are for the most part "funny," pointing to the show's more "naturalistic" approach in the reasoning behind some of the series' more lighthearted moments that follow.
The featurette "Mare of Easttown: Welcome to Easttown" takes a more in-depth approach to the show's ambient setting inspired by Ingelsby's own childhood. As summarized by Winslet, that element works to elevate the show's "united history," as Nicholson discloses the importance of wardrobe and makeup to create a look that is "lived in," adding to the significance of Easttown's tight-knit community. The featurette that follows, "Mare of Easttown: A Closer Look," finds Winslet openly delving into her character's backstory and the coping mechanisms while carrying immense personal grief. With how seasoned Winslet is across a filmography that has audiences continually in awe, it's great hearing from her point of view when tackling a role as dark and layered as Mare.
The last featurette is the longest of the four, coming in close to nine minutes compared to its previous bonus looks ranging between two to three minutes. In the featurette complemented by behind-the-scenes B-roll and confessionals from the cast and crew offering audiences a longer look at how they brought the series to life with dialect, costumes and setting, Winslet reveals her reason for taking on the role and how she too was at the edge of her seat after initially reading every episode's script before diving deeper. She also addresses the Delaware County accent with the cast and the show's dialect coach to "honor the local culture." In terms of costumes and the vibe as an authentic one that is "lived in," Smart reveals she asked the costume designer if she could wear "hip pads" and "butt pads" for her character to fully craft a local appearance." Aside from costumes and dialect, Zobel adds a "thing that becomes clear to [him] while making the show was that [they] were really talking to people who'd been affected by trauma, trying to learn to move on from their trauma." It's those moments that the showrunner adds helped achieve a "real moment" that translated onscreen to an unprecedented depth not previously seen on TV.
One moment fans might want to know more about is the moment that shook social media when a major death takes place in Episode 5's "Illusions." Zobel states the situation was a particularly "fun sequence to design" as it was placed upon a real location that Peters says looked "so real and scary," adding to the tension felt by audiences. Winslet shares a nugget that audiences might be surprised to learn of how she "never held a gun" before playing this part. Zobel states that that element of her onscreen life played perfectly in constructing Mare's emotions at that moment. "We didn't want her to come off as an action star," he said. "We wanted to make sure that it read as an unusual event in the life of Mare."
While the features are appreciated and provide a great, tangible offering for die-hard fans of the series, they are a bit underwhelming compared to the show's depth and range — especially since all four of the featurettes are available on HBO's official YouTube pages. A DVD and Blu-ray release for a show this brilliantly gripping and groundbreaking with a megastar like Winslet earning numerous accolades deserves some never-before-seen, kind of first looks and perhaps even longer character profiles or insight with the writers. Not to mention, the disc menu is quite basic in its appearance but does the job by including all seven episodes in their entirety across two discs in a 16x9 widescreen aspect ratio over the span of 420 minutes.
Featurettes aside, Mare of Easttown is a definite murder mystery series to own thanks to its thematically satisfying twists and turns, and a surprising amount of humor that plays immaculately to its characters. Winslet is the legit best and most intriguing performer of our generation, and her portrayal of Mare will keep you invested from the very start. Like her previous roles, Winslet can deeply sink into all of them, but it's Mare that hits on intriguing levels unseen in her previous work. While so many crime dramas can lose their steam across episodes, Mare of Easttown is one of the rarer types you can enjoy again and again without its storytelling superiority falling behind for a series that helped defined the best of TV in 2021.
Mare of Easttown: An HBO Original Limited Series is available to own on 2-Disc DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at all in-store and online retailers, including Amazon. The series is now available to own on digital and stream on HBO Max.