USA’s The Sinner
Season 2: Part II
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Ellen Fairey
* For a recap & review of Part I, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part III, click here.
Young Julian (Elisha Henig) is stuck in a group foster home. At the same time, Vera (Carrie Coon) is at the police station. She tells the cops Adam (Adam David Thompson) and Bess (Ellen Adair) live on her property, they take care of her son at times, and they were taking him to Niagara Falls. Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and Heather Novack (Natalie Paul) run down the details of the crime with Vera, who’s disturbed by it all. They let her know Julia “confessed.” This distresses the mother deeply.
The cops take Vera to see Julian at the group home. The two embrace, as the boy cries in her arms. Vera whispers into the boy’s ear while they hug, which makes Ambrose curious. Afterwards, they all sit and talk. Suddenly we see Julian’s denying making the “jimsonweed” tea. He claims not to remember. At the same time, Vera claims her son is beyond the understanding of people like the cops. A strange comment.
Things at the local police department aren’t easy. Chief Tom Lidell (Jay O. Sanders) doesn’t want Ambrose or Heather poking around too much in an area of town, Mosswood Grove— a community within a community, a cult-like group who’ve been regarded by everyone else as off, odd, or even dangerous. Clearly Heather has a connection to the place, at least indirectly, through her partner Marin (Hannah Gross). They were once very interested in the Mosswood commune.
Ambrose sits with Julian again, by himself. They talk of the commune at Mosswood, Vera, and anything else. “Outsiders are all the same,” the kid tells him. He’s been indoctrinated into cult thinking at such a young age. The conversation doesn’t go on too long before Julian is finished talking. Interesting how he switches off the light, going upstairs, and leaves Harry in the dark.
We see Julian has what could be sleep paralysis. He sees the hooded figure again, coming into his room and standing next to his bed. The figure put a hand on his bare stomach, pushing, until the fingers disappear into the flesh. Then, the boy wakes up from his nightmare. Could this be more than sleep paralysis? Could it be repressed memory?
A court proceeding is held about the boy. Vera provides documents, though she doesn’t have enough for the judge. There’s no proof of residency, no proof of his homeschooling, or anything of the sort. This leaves Julian in the group home, and Vera’s getting angrier. The judge would rather keep the boy in foster care than send him back to a possibly unhealthy commune in the hands of an eerie woman.
Together again, Harry offers Julian a chance to ask him questions instead of the other way around. Julian asks a few simple things, about the detective’s beard, where he’s from, and why he’s back in Keller. The detective mentions his own past— an invalid mother, suffering from serious mental illness, and a bad accident at home that sent young Harry to live elsewhere. The boy and Ambrose bond over having nightmares about their respective traumas. Hearing the kid’s nightmare, Harry starts believing Julian has “psychological or physical abuse” in his history. This further leads Harry and Heather to wonder if Mosswood is harbouring some awful people.
That evening, Harry gets a call from Vera. She is unhappy he’s had more contact with her son without her consent. There’s a terribly unsettling quality about this woman. She either knows something more than she lets on, or she’s wilfully blind to whatever’s occurred within that little community.
Dt. Ambrose and Heather head into Mosswood territory the next morning. We see intercut moments of Marin and Heather a while ago, when they sneaked inside the commune. They were caught, but invited to join the group by the fire. There, people were burning personal, material belongings. This is when Marin decided on burning a necklace of her own, belonging to her mother. Obviously this caused a divide between the two lovers, as Heather was more sceptical about everything. Marin later went off with a Mosswood man, inside a barn.
At Mosswood, the people are all uneasy to have police on their grounds. Part of Heather’s curiosity seems to be searching to see if she can find Marin’s face in the crowd— no such luck. The cops look through Julian’s room, where the kid co-existed with his mother. They’re told there are no other children on the commune, which is incredibly weird. In addition, one of the commune members is listed as a sex offender, and Vera’s relatively unconcerned. Creepy.
Harry notices a woman wearing a necklace similar to the one Bess wore and he begins asking more questions. He starts to wonder if Bess and Adam were never meant to return to the commune. Were they attempting an escape? In the meantime, Heather notices a few suspicious things herself, recognising a man from Mosswood as someone they saw at the motel where the couple died. Many, many secrets are buried here.
On her own, Heather goes to check out the barn. It’s mostly empty, save a few drapes and lights put up in the middle. She finds a stage-like setup. On it is a large stone, as if a rough obelisk, a monument of some kind. It also looks like it could be stained with blood in spots. Jesus.
What a fascinating turn of events this episode brought us! Never expected a cult group to be involved. Definitely didn’t see the whole rock thing cropping up, either. Love the writing on this series. Part III is next time.