There are no TV shows that are exactly like the thrilling Mare of Easttown. HBO hit it out of the park with this mystery-drama. It left fans guessing up until the very end at the identity of the killer, but this wasn’t the only element that made its finale the most-watched episode of any HBO original series on HBO Max. Kate Winslet’s portrayal as Mare, a troubled detective of Easttown, helped carry the drama and action segments in equal fashion.
If it’s mystery, drama, dark comedy, or thrills you’re after, these shows might fill the gap until series creator Brad Ingelsby caves to fans’ collective begging for a second season of Mare of Easttown. If you want to binge great movies instead, make sure to watch these five movies based on real-life serial killers.
Top of the Lake (Season 1)
This dark tale is so well constructed that even if the mystery isn’t too hard to solve, viewers will be sure to stick around for the crazy sub-plots and stunning cinematography. The first season stars Elizabeth Moss as detective Robin Griffin. After returning to her hometown in New Zealand, Griffin is tasked with investigating a strange event involving a 12-year-old girl.
Fans of Mare of Easttown’s dark tone will find lots to love about Top of the Lake. While it doesn’t contain the dark humour present in the former, Elizabeth Moss is just as much the driving force as Kate Winslet is. Moss plays a more subdued character, but this fits perfectly with the tone of the series. Holly Hunter and Peter Mullan provide their own powerhouse performances on two very intriguing characters.
However, the real star of the show is the stunning landscape of New Zealand. Writers and directors Jane Campion and Gerard Lee clearly had an appreciation for its lakes and tree-spattered hills. Contrasted with the run-down feel of some of Laketop’s locations, it sums up what the show has to say about darkness in beautiful places.
It may incorporate teen elements found in popular shows of the mid-2000s, like The O.C. and One Tree Hill, but make no mistake, Veronica Mars is a mystery first, teen drama second—and those mysteries are tantalisingly constructed by series creator Rob Thomas. Its first season follows social outcast Veronica (Kristen Bell) and her private detective father (Enrico Colantoni). They try to navigate life after Veronica’s best friend has died and her father is ousted as the town Sheriff.
What makes Veronica Mars such a great show is its mix of overarching plot, smaller mysteries, and the wonderful humor liberally sprinkled throughout its four seasons and movie. Even though there is a new mystery every week, the series rarely feels formulaic. Plot and character development are given the same weight of importance. The overall mystery of a season is cleverly woven into each episode. It gives the show a “one more episode” feel that’s hard to resist.
Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni have excellent father-daughter chemistry. The show also boasts guest stars from relatively unknown actors at the time, like Tessa Thompson, Jessica Chastain, and Adam Scott. Kevin Smith even makes a cameo in season two. There’s a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera in Veronica Mars. If humor, great acting, and tantalising mysteries sound even a little bit appealing, give this cult classic a chance.
Harper’s Island is what you would get if you put Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and Halloween in a blender. Twelve-years ago CBS tried out this slasher-smoothie and created the short-lived Harper’s Island.
The limited series stars Elaine Cassidy as Abby Mills, whose mother was murdered on the titular island seven years before she returns to attend her best friend’s wedding. Things then start to take a turn into “Who’s going to get murdered next?” territory. Viewers will be guessing up until the very end at who the killer is, and what their motivations are.
It only got one thirteen-episode season, but each episode ramps up the thrills and mystery in excellent slasher-fashion. It’s got none of the dark character mysteries, or sublime acting, found in Mare of Easttown, but it’s a borderline campy experiment into transferring the slasher genre to the small screen. Nowadays, Scream, Slasher, and Pretty Little Liars have carved out a unique horror movie-inspired niche on television, but Harper’s Island was one of the first to try.
Line of Duty
One of the UK’s biggest TV shows is all about investigating and exposing police corruption. The show consistently tricks viewers into thinking they’ve solved the series’ overarching mystery, only to throw another twist into the mix. It focuses on the trio of Steve (Martin Compston), Kate (Vicky McClure), and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), and their quest to unearth the identity of “H”. The criminal mastermind is working within the police force somewhere, pulling strings and leaving red herrings everywhere.
Just like Mare of Easttown, Line of Duty smartly works character development (flaws included) into the main plot, leaving viewers wondering if even anti-corruption might itself be corrupted. While it veers off into melodramatic territory at times, especially in the last few seasons, the show is never boring. It takes great writing to turn entire episodes focused on interviewing suspects into exciting entertainment. Series creator Jed Mercurio somehow manages to gift viewers just that in nearly every episode.
Line of Duty is the very definition of event TV, drawing 12.8 million viewers for its recent Season 6 finale. The police procedural also has fantastic casting. It stars big British and Irish names such as Thandie Newton, Keeley Hawes, Neil Morrissey, and Lennie James. International viewers shouldn’t sleep on this great example of British TV.
Another HBO drama powerhouse, The Affair takes the fairly played out concept of a family-man getting involved with another woman by making it the central concept of the show—aided by the mystery of an upcoming murder. A general roadmap of the show was created from the start. This creates a consistent tone, and keeps the story beats interesting. It rarely feels like showrunners Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi are creating content just to fill the time.
The show stars Dominic West and Ruth Wilson as the two cheaters. Maura Tierney, and Joshua Jackson support as the wronged spouses. However, the morality isn’t that simple, which the series loves to explore. Episodes consist of two parts, usually told from the perspective of two different characters. The same scenes are repeated with alternative dialogue and tones, showing just how different the same incident can be kept in two people’s memory.
The Affair also explores the ramifications of how trauma can deeply affect mental health, causing issues for characters and their families years after incidents occur. Even with the behind-the-scenes drama, it’s hard not to recommend The Affair to anybody who rooted for the imperfect Detective Mare Sheeham in Mare of Easttown.
The Flight Attendant
HBO strikes yet again with the darkly funny, and always riveting, The Flight Attendant. The show stars The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco as Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up next to a dead body in her bed. Season one takes viewers through a twisty-turny adventure that is as much about exploring Cassie’s mental state as it is solving the murder-mystery.
This sounds like a heavy concept, but the show is just as much a comedy as it is a character exploration. Cuoco already has great comedic chops, and she’s joined by Michiel Huisman, Zosia Mamet, and Michelle Gomez, amongst other great performers. Cuoco and Gomez give particularly fantastic comedic turns, and their chemistry really pops onscreen.
The Flight Attendant was only supposed to be a one-season limited series, but it was so popular that a second season is now in the works. The dark comedy is up for five Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Cuoco. Drama and comedy fans are sure to find something to love during Cassie’s journey through grand conspiracies, weird subplots, and dark twists.
Nowhere near as dark as Mare of Easttown, but every bit as compelling, Jonathan Creek is a British mystery that offers a healthy scoop of comedy to compliment its oftentimes brilliant puzzles. Jonathan (Alan Davies) always has a Watson to his Sherlock, but it’s his will-they-won’t-they relationship with Maddy (Caroline Quentin) that brings the best humour to this classic British offering.
Davies and Quentin help elevate the series, even when the mystery-of-the-week doesn’t quite have a satisfactory conclusion. However, when the answers are good, they are good. Mysteries range from the classic “door locked from the inside”, to disproving the existence of an alien lifeform, to figuring out how someone can be in two places at the same time. The series also offers a unique protagonist. He doesn’t look like the traditional sexy-stylish hero found in detective shows, and that’s because he’s not.
Jonathan lives in a windmill, creates magic tricks for his demanding boss, and has a mop of curly hair and a sensible attitude. His brilliance comes from his ability to solve these complex mysteries (and deliver stinging one-liners to Maddy). The series does a great job of making him cool, and a dork, with neither becoming his dominant character trait.
Do you agree with the list? What else do you think Mare of Easttown fans would enjoy watching? Let me know in the comments below!