Family Dysfunction is on Full Display in 'MaryLand's Premiere

Eve Best as Rosaline lets Suranne Jones as Becca do the talking in 'Maryland'

Eve Best as Rosaline and Suranne Jones as Becca in 'Maryland'

Monumental Television/Masterpiece

Anyone who has ever experienced the death of a parent knows that the loss can bring all the deep-rooted family dynamics to bear—long-simmering sibling rivalry bubbles to the surface. Decades of hurt and anger have no place to hide. Despite the mysterious opening moments of a man discovering a dead body on the beach, family dysfunction is the true undercurrent of the new PBS series MaryLand.       

In the pilot episode of this three-part series, which aired on ITV last year, the characters are not quite estranged but definitely not chummy sisters. Becca (Suranne Jones) and Rosaline (Eve Best) learn that their mother has died. Becca is in the middle of getting her children breakfast and off to school. She’s dealing with a petulant teen daughter who has been suspended for vaping. Rosaline is in the middle of a post-surgical appointment. She’s got her laptop and is watching a workout video as the nurse checks the dressing and tells her she will get her results in five to seven days.

Rosaline ignores Becca’s phone call from Becca but eventually calls her back. The police have called Becca because they haven’t been able to reach their father, who now needs to be told that his wife has died. “I’m 200 miles away, Becca; I can’t do it over the phone,” Rosaline says. Becca tells her dad, who says he cannot go with them to the Isle of Man to identify the body.

George Costigan as Richard is horrified his wife died in 'MaryLand'

George Costigan as Richard in 'MaryLand'

Monumental Television/Masterpiece

When the sisters see each other for the first time at the airport, their estrangement is on full display. Becca hugs her sister, but Rosaline can’t bring herself to hug her sister back. “You got new hair,” Becca says. “It’s been like this an age,” Rosaline replies. It becomes clear that Becca is entrenched in family life and eldercare. Rosaline, meanwhile, is still taking work calls as they head to the mortuary. Becca breaks down while identifying the body. Rosaline is stone-faced. 

Becca and Rosaline are shocked to discover that their mom wasn’t, as she had told them, in Wales with her best friend Maureen. She was in the Isle of Man. Neither one of them knows why. Their mom was in deep with the deception — sending pictures that she claimed were from Wales, face-timing people, and saying she was in Wales. The sisters identify her body at the coroner’s office. They want answers, but the police inspector tells them the coroner’s role is establishing the how, what, when, and where but not the why. Becca secretly pockets a necklace she found in her mom’s belongings. 

Becca is trying to crack her mom’s cell phone password, while Rosaline is more practical, thinking about organizing her funeral/transporting their mother’s body. Their dad, who has stayed home, is uninterested in discussing it. The sisters head to where their mom had been staying, shocked to see pictures on the walls, clothes in the drawer, and signs everywhere; this wasn’t a home she was visiting. 

Hugh Quarshie as Pete trying not to enter this narrative in 'MaryLand' Season 1

Hugh Quarshie as Pete in 'MaryLand' Season 1

Monumental Televisions/Masterpiece

While at the house, they climb the walls (literally), a game they did when they were younger. They are laughing until the necklace, with two little gold beans on it, falls out of Becca’s pocket. As children, each daughter gave their mom one bean. It was not for Becca to decide who gets it. “You think you and Mum were tight, so you get to take what you want,” Rosaline seethes. It comes out that the sisters’ deep-seated issues trace back to when Becca took care of Rosaline when she was sick. “No one asked you to look after me,” she snaps. So, there is a reason she hasn’t told her sister she might be sick again. 

A lawyer tells them their mom owned the house and has left it to both of them in trust, which means they cannot sell it. The house is to be used for the “betterment of the women of the family.” Becca wants answers. Why was their mother on the Isle of Man? Who was the friend she was walking with? Why does the house where she stayed have pictures of their mom with her hair still brown and not yet gray? “Who are all these people?” Becca wonders. Rosaline would let this all go. “I don’t like picking at scabs,” she tells her sister. 

They finally talk to Pete, the man who discovered their mom’s body, when he went to meet her for a walk. Who was he to their mother? Was their mother having an affair with him? Pete is too upset to talk to them and leaves. 

Stockard Channing as Cathy walking up out of the blue in 'MaryLand' Season 1

Stockard Channing as Cathy in 'MaryLand' Season 1

Monumental Television/Masterpiece

Everything perks up once Stockard Channing arrives as Cathy, “ a dear friend” of their mother. Cathy is a piece of work, but she also lacks tact. “She’ll never be dead while you’re alive,” she tells Becca. You have the exact same nose.”

Cathy also has all the gossip. Their mother came to the Isle of Man eight years ago to find her birth mother, Joan. She never told her daughters about this because she is a people pleaser. She didn’t even look for her birth mom until after her adopted mom had died. Joan has since passed away, and the house Mary left to her daughters was actually Joan’s. Joan fell in love with a German Jewish musician at an internment camp. “It was a whole thing, and they wouldn’t let her keep the baby,” Cathy explains.

Cathy also seems to be the island’s resident drug dealer, providing marijuana to those who are ill. It appears, however, that something in Cathy’s supply is missing. When she goes to talk to Becca and Rosaline, she looks for it in the bathroom but cannot find anything. Are the missing drugs somehow tied to Mary’s death? Perhaps. 

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MaryLand follows two estranged sisters as they unearth the truth about their mother.
MaryLand: show-poster2x3

MaryLand streams with new episodes on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on most PBS stations, the PBS App, and the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel. All three episodes are available for members on PBS Passport as a binge. As always, please check your local listings.

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When Amy Amatangelo was little, her parents limited the amount of TV she could watch. You can see how well that worked out. 

In addition to Telly Visions, her work can currently be found in Paste Magazine, Emmy Magazine, and the LA Times. She also is the Treasurer of the Television Critics Association. Amy liked the ending of Lost and credits the original 90210 for her life-long devotion to teen dramas. She stays up at night wondering what happened between Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi and really thinks Carrie Bradshaw needs to join so she can meet a new guy. Follow her at @AmyTVGal.

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