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'Mare of Easttown' review: Kate Winslet stars in this same-old, same-old police procedural

Kate Winslet in HBO's "Mare of Easttown."

Kate Winslet in HBO's "Mare of Easttown."  Credit: HBO/Michele K. Short

LIMITED SERIES "Mare of Easttown"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Sunday at 10:05 p.m. on HBO

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is a career cop in a small Pennsylvania town who has suffered a personal family tragedy, now a divorce from Frank ("The Office's" David Denman). Meanwhile, there's political heat on her to close out a cold case involving the murder of a young woman. A county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters), is brought in for an assist. Meanwhile, Mare's home life is also complicated. She's caring for her son's young child, with help from daughter, Siobhan (Angourie Rice) and mother Helen (Jean Smart). Mare then meets a handsome newcomer to town (Guy Pearce). Could he help take the edge off?

This review is based on the first three of seven episodes.

MY SAY "Mare of Easttown" has been done so many times that it's now just come down to a matter of viewer preference. Which brooding cop investigating a gruesome murder (young female, typically) does the best slow burn? Which geographic locale most accurately mirrors her (or his) existential angst? Which father who just learned his precious brood has been murdered does the most convincing job of crying? Which local punk cleverly deflects his own guilt?

In fact, which of any of the obvious suspects does the best job of that?

The priest? The boyfriend? The ex? The handsome, mysterious stranger new to town? There is no shortage of them in Easttown.

"Mare" has thrown a curveball into the mix by casting Evan Peters ("American Horror Story") as Mare's wholesome Boy Scout of a partner, Colin. Peters is always the heavy so could he be the monster we'll all be meeting in the last minute of the last act seven episodes from Sunday? Probably not. Too obvious.

Sure, "Mare" has been done before. Lots of times.``The Killing '' will come immediately to mind, but the statute of limitations has apparently run out (it launched in 2012) so that may be why "The Killing '' is being done again. There is nothing wrong with this. Television subsists on formula and always has. Plus, there's a certain comfort in watching the middle-aged, end-of-career detective chasing down one last lead while battling personal demons and staring into the lonely abyss of a beer bottle. A few of those bottles — mostly Rolling Rock — are stared into here.

What matters are the details, the twists, the curveballs and regrettably, "Mare" hasn't done all that much original with those either. "Mare's" Rust Belt Pennsylvania setting is various shades of dark — a study in misery, filled with malcontents. Everyone is grumpy in Easttown and you soon start to see why: There's nowhere good to eat and even the bars are places where you can peel the nicotine off the walls. Nowhere good to drink your troubles away either.

The cast is certainly a good one, and Winslet is too much of a pro not to make Mare worth watching, at least most of her time on screen. It's all the time in between that's the problem.

BOTTOM LINE Winslet is good in this "Broadchurch''-meets-"The Killing"-meets-"True Detective"-meets-"Top of the Lake." Otherwise, same-old-same-old.

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