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'MaryLand' Recap: Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
Rosaline holds a cup of coffee and smiles in front of the ocean
Rosaline is thrown together with her sister when their mother dies in an unexpected location. Credit: Monumental Television and Masterpiece

MaryLand airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the following episode.
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“Who the hell was she?” Becca asks her sister Rosaline after their mother Mary dies. Becca lives in the same town as Mary and her father Richard, and saw or spoke to Mary frequently. Her mother was supposed to be traveling around Wales and nearby environs with her friend, but when she dies, she is on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. Her body is found on the beach there; the police send photos of her ID, keys, and other personal items to Becca and ask her to come identify the body.

Becca reaches Rosaline with the news before she gets in touch with her father, even though Rosaline lives far away in London. Rosaline gets the call while in a medical appointment, during which she is also on a video call for work – she seems to be quite used to being in a hospital.

Becca and Rosaline’s relationship is not the friendliest, but Rosaline agrees to go with Becca to the Isle of Man to identify the body. Richard doesn’t want to go, he tells Becca when she stops by his house to inform him of his wife’s death. He’s devastated by the news.

Becca arranges the flights and packs quickly, leaving her husband Jim to take care of their two daughters. Molly, the younger, is also broken up by Mary’s death – and she’s already having problems in school, having been disciplined for vaping.

Becca is leaving behind not a family but a coworker with whom she shares certain benefits. He comes over while she is packing and she bluntly sends him away while he tries to kiss her by telling him that her mom died.

She’s similarly no-nonsense with the Manx taxi driver who picks up her and Becca from the airport. She continues to work during the ride, and refuses to indulge him as he shares a local legend about a “fairy bridge.” She tries to cut off any small talk by mentioning that they are going to the mortuary.

Once there, Becca sobs over Mary’s body. Rosaline moves to touch her sister but Becca pushes her away. A full postmortem has yet to be conducted, but Mary has a cut on the back of her head consistent with a fall that matches how she was found.

Becca is frustrated that the coroner isn’t interested in why her mother was on the Isle of Man when her family thought she was elsewhere. There are at least a few leads: the address where Mary was staying and the name and number of the friend, Pete, who found Mary on the beach. He and she were meeting for a walk, as they did most days.

Becca is shocked: her mother had been sending her photos from her travels in Wales and Manchester in the past few days, so how was she meeting Pete on the Isle of Man? Turns out the photos are actually from the Isle of Man.

In the hotel room she’s sharing with Rosaline, Becca tries to unlock her mother’s phone for clues, to no avail. She also has no luck asking her father over the phone what her mother might have been doing on the Isle of Man; he doesn’t want to talk about it right now. He’s closed off; he Jim away with few words when Jim drops off groceries after Becca asks him to check in. Becca tells Rosaline that their parents never argued.

The sisters can’t reach Pete, the friend who found Mary, so they decide to check out the place at which Mary was staying. The same taxi driver that picked them up from the airport drives them, and Rosaline is rude to him. He only accepts cash, which she doesn’t have, so he tells her she owes him a pint.

The address is not an inn but a home, and no one is there. Rosaline looks under flower pots to find a key and lets herself in. She and Becca are stunned to see photos of them and their mother on the walls. There are photos of Mary with people on the island, including one where her now-gray hair is brown. She must have been here for years.

Pete still is not picking up the phone, but Rosaline finds his address in the house. He has visited a woman named Cathy to ask what to tell Mary’s daughters, but Cathy is blasé and tells him to do what he thinks is right – although she holds her head in her hands after he leaves.

Pete finds Rosaline and Becca waiting for him at his house. He has heard about them, he tells them, explaining that he met Mary at the writing group she ran – another new piece of information for the sisters. He’s initially amenable, but when Rosaline bluntly asks if he was having an affair with Mary, he says he can’t do this right now and goes inside.

Rosaline and Becca return to Mary’s house, where Rosaline offers to put things in order if Becca wants to return home. Becca refuses. They search the house and Rosaline finds men’s clothes folded in a bureau. She quickly closes it and doesn’t tell Becca. Becca suddenly takes off her shoes and begins climbing the walls in a hallway, as Rosaline taught her when they were young. Rosaline joins in and they collapse to the floor, laughing. A gold necklace with two coffee bean charms tumbles out of Becca’s pocket, and Rosaline gets upset. It was Mary’s; she never took it off. Rosaline gifted Mary the first charm one Mother’s Day, then took Becca to get the second another year. She’s upset Becca took the necklace for herself without asking, and the sisters fight. There’s some lingering bad blood from a time when Rosaline was sick and Becca took care of her because Mary found it too difficult.

When the sisters go through Mary’s will, they learn that she did in fact own the house – and left it to them, in a trust so that they can’t sell it, for the “betterance of the women of the family.” It’s worth almost a million pounds.

The sisters find Cathy waiting for them at the house. She tells them she was a friend of Mary’s, and apologizes that Mary didn’t tell them about her life on the Isle of Man – Cathy disagreed with that decision. She explains that Mary first came to the Isle of Man some eight years ago to look for her mother – not the one Becca and Rosaline knew, who was already dead, but her birth mother. She was adopted, not that her daughters knew. (Rosaline ruefully notes later that such information would have been helpful in her medical travails.)

Mary found her birth mother, Joan; Cathy retrieves a photo from the hallway of the two of them together. This is Joan’s house, which she left to Mary when she died. Joan had gotten pregnant from a German-Jewish musician in an internment camp at the end of World War II, and wasn’t allowed to keep the baby – Mary.

Mary seems to have shied from conflict, which may be why she didn’t tell her daughters all of this – she waited until her adoptive mother died to go searching for her birth mother.

Cathy gives Becca and Rosaline her phone number then leaves to give them time to process. But first she stops in the bathroom to look for some pills, with no luck. She sells drugs, and something seems to have gone missing.

After Cathy departs, Rosaline shows Becca the men’s clothes she found in the house. Becca later tells her sister that she has missed her, but Rosaline dismisses her. Nevertheless, they decide to stay the night at the house that they now own and share their late mother’s bed, “top to tail.” Becca cries as they fall asleep.