(Warning: this article contains a lot of spoilers)
The season finale of Mare of Easttown has aired, and for all intents and purposes, it feels like we've said goodbye Mare and the Fahy clan. While the events chronicled in this season will surely haunt the town for years afterwards, Mare seems to have exorcised the ghosts that haunt her and learned to forgive herself. Most of the show's loose ends have been tied-up.
While the season finale will be remembered for the acting masterclass put on by Kate Winslet and Juliette Nicholson, viewers were also finally given the identity of the killer of Erin. For internet sleuths with time on their hands after the last season of Line of Duty wrapped up, Mare has definitely filled a void. The showrunners did a brilliant job in building suspense towards the reveal of the killer of Erin in Episode 7, as we managed to get to the season finale with four or five viable suspects.
Some viewers were shocked by the revelation that young Ryan Ross was responsible for the killing of Erin. Ryan's only 13, after all. He's also a secondary character throughout. While his motivation in trying to protect his family is obvious, he was also easy to forget about it as he had only a handful of stand-out scenes unlike his dad John and uncle Billy.
In an interview with Slate, the show's creator Brad Ingelsby pointed to two 'breadcrumbs' scenes which proved that Ryan was guilty. The first, and most obvious, one came when Ryan violently defends his sister from a bully in the school canteen. The second was more subtle: a scene in Episode One where he's doing homework.
I think the moments that we would be able to point to are, first, in that sequence at the cafeteria, where he acts out and you could tell something maybe even deeper is churning inside Ryan when he’s pounding on the kid. We haven’t seen a moment of rage like that. And that seems to be all the misdirected anger. Where’s the real origin of that anger? Yeah, his sister is being picked on, but man, that’s a little bit much, that’s really aggressive. And second, later, when he goes and he’s crying with his mom at the table and she says, “Is it with the same woman?” I wanted that moment to be a moment where he wants to tell her the truth. He’s desperate to get rid of this thing, and yet he knows that the repercussions of him saying, “It’s nothing to do with the affair, Mom, it’s, I killed this girl.” It would even crush the family more so.
I would even point to Episode 1. When Mare comes into the house and he’s doing his homework, our goal in that scene was if you went back and watched that, this is a kid that’s so diligent about doing homework, he doesn’t want to cause any trouble in his parents’ life at all. He’s a guy that has known what’s happened to his parents and he wants to be perfect all the time. He doesn’t want to be a cause of any conflict in his parents’ life. So are those enough breadcrumbs? I don’t know, but I hope that if you went back and watched it that you could at least feel as if we didn’t trick you.
The homework scene is interesting because it's seemingly so benign, but in hindsight, what kind of well-adjusted thirteen year-old is doing homework on a Friday night?
Ingelsby also says that the scene where Ryan's dad John says to him 'I’m going to make this thing right, Ryan. I’m going to fix it' was nearly cut out of fears it had been 'overdone'. That was a moment where we were like: “That’s really toeing the line there. Is that overdone?” We were going to cut that scene, and then we felt, well, we have to have enough of breadcrumbs where you can reasonably say, “Oh, they actually did tee it up.”
Stephen King had Ryan as the killer pegged all along.
Completely agree. A throwaway scene that stays in my mind (no idea why) was Mare going over to Ryan’s house on a Friday and he was sitting silently doing his homework; away from the party and noise. I had my suspicions since then!
— Arch Mart (@MartynArch) May 30, 2021