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“Mare of Easttown” is over.
With its finale released this week, HBO’s seven-episode prestige drama starring Kate Winslet gave the Philadelphia region a rare chance to view its reflection in the Hollywood mirror.
While critiques are plenty, the show stoked a national conversation about Philly and its suburbs, with what many view as a net positive effect.
One thing is certain: there were so many takes.
Slate, Los Angeles Times, Vulture, the Ringer, Page Six — no outlet was too big to dive into the show’s varied themes or ogle the Delco accent with near-zoological interest. Opinionators couldn’t stay away. On the day after the last episode, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd added another 3,000 words to the growing body of Mare literature, making sure all the Philadelphia cliches were covered.
Locally, the conversations were often more pointed. Was “Mare of Easttown” a great detective noir? Was it enhanced by the authenticity? Neither? Both?
In the end, evidenced by the social media freakout on Sunday when HBO’s new streaming service crashed, “Mare of Easttown” appeared to have won over audiences in its home region.
Here’s a look at how the national media decided to cover the phenomenon.
A frenzy over the Philly (Delco) accent
Winslet’s commitment to the accent — which she called one of the “top two hardest dialects” she’s ever had to learn for a role — earned both praise and criticism from locals. Thanks in part to Saturday Night Live, it became one of the most talked about aspects of the show nationally, too, and spurned droves of linguistic autopsies.
Some national publications were borderline gleeful in their description of the regional tongue. Entertainment reporters flexed their writing skills to describe “the distinctive patois of southeastern Pennsylvania,” where the “O’s stretch longer than the Delaware Water Gap” and “people drink ‘wooder’ by the glass.”
Local and national critics alike attempted to explain the nuances of the Delco accent on the show, and to note the distinct but related dialects you’ll catch from Northeast to South Philly and South Jersey to Delaware.
As many referenced, the voice of Philadelphia and the collar counties does not often make it to the big time. Rocky, the town’s most famous on-screen protagonist, wasn’t ever bothered to shift his New York brogue.
Did all “Mare” characters nail the accent? No, not by a long shot. Show creator Brad Ingelsby, a Berwyn native who wanted to portray his native region through the accent, told Slate that some actors “leaned in more than others.”
The Ringer wondered whether the national response would lead to more appearances for the accent in Hollywood. (This might be terrible news, given some of the disastrously bad attempts prior to Winslet.)
All quibbling aside, it was a rare showing for the Delaware Valley — and many locals respected it.
Love for the genre — and the local flavor
“Mare of Easttown” is a detective series! It’s a family drama about messy relationships! It’s a meditation on grief and trauma! As local gun violence educator Scott Charles noted on Twitter, the season finale was also an object lesson on safe firearm storage.
Viewers and critics have generally applauded the show’s ability to blend genres and produce something more nuanced and memorable than your average grisled murder mystery. As helped by the accent, the show was amplified by its sense of place — and how the fictional but all-too-familiar Easttown took on a life of its own.
While real-life township of Easttown is in Chester County — where much of the show was filmed — showrunner Ingelsby said Mare’s hometown is meant to be an amalgam of Delaware County locales where he spent time growing up.
Where most shows and movies filmed in Philly tend to pan out to the recognizable skyline shots and downtown buildings, Easttown showed the everyday world of life in the collar county town. There’s something exciting about seeing your regular bench on an HBO show.
That attention to detail is everywhere. Winslet said she visited Wawa to research her role. “Mythical,” she called the regional convenience store, after reading story after story about the place in the Delco Times. The social settings are shot-and-beer bars and gas station eateries.
The comforting sight of food in Easttown
Vulture devoted some 2,400 words to the show’s culinary quirks, from the obvious homages to hoagies and cheesesteaks to the awkward encounters with high-end cuisine.
The show’s relationship to food won accolades for good reason. Its most cited food moments have a universal appeal rooted in local taste — think Mare scarfing down Herr’s potato chips while she lectures her injured mother Helen, or eating Cheese Whiz on meatballs (this isn’t exactly a common local thing, but sounds good).
So central is food to the show that local fans proudly posted their viewing meals on social media, replete with Wawa hoagies and Rolling Rocks.
Some of the more memorable moments were those when characters broke out of their comfort zones.
Early on, Mare attends a swanky book party for the improbable literati character played by Guy Pierce. There, she tries a duck liver hors d’oeuvre and ends up stuffing the rest of it into the couch cushions, wincing at the taste.
Similarly, Detective Colin Zabel suffers a minor panic attack when confronted with the prospect of zucchini at a fancy restaurant. (The show’s directors later said they just went to Olive Garden to get all the food for that scene.)
Bonus: Finding out you knew people on the show
“Mare of Easttown” was shot in Roxborough and other areas around Philly and Chester County from 2019 into 2020. Watching the show for locals was as much about looking for someone you knew — and some people did. Probably.
The camera crews could potentially return. Viewership for the series grew steadily over the course of the series, with millions tuning in each week.
Both HBO and director Craig Zobel declined to give an answer about Season 2 when asked by TV Line, but Winslet was all in. Said the star: “I would absolutely love to play Mare again.”