In her first TV role since 2011’s Emmy-winning Mildred Pierce, Kate Winslet takes the lead in HBO’s latest dark crime drama Mare of Easttown.

Winslet is the titular Mare, a detective with a crumbling personal life in the small Pennsylvanian community of Easttown.

Despite the Hollywood casting, it is the community of Easttown rather than Winslet that is the star in the opening episodes as we’re introduced to a weary and recognisable collection of characters who are all fragile, suffering and connected only by life in the small town they’re unlikely ever to leave.

A classic HBO series in the making, here are three reasons Mare of Easttown is a must-watch.

1. Kate Winslet's low-key lead

Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown shouldn’t work. It’s Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet playing a young grandma, with a Pennsylvania accent, chugging down beers and drowning in her own misery.

But Winslet doesn’t just pull it off by making Mare an intriguing and believable lead, she actually goes beyond that by giving the role a low-key subtlety that elevates the whole series.

It takes barely a few moments to completely forget this is a Kate Winslet TV series and find yourself utterly absorbed in her character’s woes as she teeters on the edge of falling apart.

Her previous HBO series Mildred Pierce won her an Emmy in 2011, and she should be in line for at least another nomination in 2021.

2. The brilliantly cast Easttown community

Guy Pearce in Mare of Easttown © 2021 Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The opening episode of the series does a remarkable job of building a community of characters you love, hate and feel something for. It’s not until the closing moments of the episode that the central mystery of the series is revealed, but although this is a crime drama, the crime very much plays second fiddle to the drama.

Jean Smart (Watchmen) as Mare’s straight-talking mother Helen, Guy Pearce’s (Mildred Pierce) mysterious out-of-town creative writer Richard Ryan, David Denman (The Office) as Mare’s ex-husband Mark and Evan Peters (WandaVision) as Mare’s new detective partner Colin Zabel are among the many stand-outs in the rich world created by writer Brad Ingelsby.

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3. A sprinkling of classic HBO magic

Kate Winslet as Mare in Mare of Easttown © 2021 Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, Amy Adams in Sharp Objects, Ben Mendelsohn in The Outsider. When it comes to A-list actors and seriously dark crime dramas, HBO has pretty much nailed the formula in recent years,

We can now add Kate Winslet and Mare of Easttown to that list of award-worthy shows.

Like all these other series, Mare of Easttown isn’t afraid of diving headfirst into the misery, grief and the sourness of small-town life. The entire first episode is built around the pain and weariness of living in a one-horse town and the connections between the people who live there regardless of age or beliefs.

It creates a slowburn build of intrigue and intensity that will be a must-watch for the next seven weeks.

Watch this if you liked…

True Detective, Sharp Objects, Happy Valley, The Outsider.

Watch Mare of Easttown on Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic with NOW.

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