USA’s The Sinner
Season 2: Part V
Directed by Cherien Dabis
Written by Samir Mehta
* For a recap & review of Part IV, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part VI, click here.
Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) is trying to figure out what happened after Vera Walker (Carrie Coon) hypnotised him up at Mosswood Grove. At the same time, Dt. Heather Novack (Natalie Paul) is going over the video of the barn, the beating during one of those strange therapy sessions. Harry doesn’t fully admit what happened the night before to Heather when she asks, he only says: “I needed to stay in that room.” Even her dad Jack (Tracy Letts) was out looking for him when he didn’t turn up.
At court, Harry confronts Vera about his experience last night. She’s a bit shocked by his lack of memory, saying he was “fine” when he left her. She spews a bit of Freudian shit at him. Then Julian (Elisha Henig) is brought in for his trial for “two counts of murder in the 2nd degree.” The poor boy’s partly frozen in fear while his lawyer Benji (Samrat Chakrabarti) takes care of things. After court, Heather shows Vera a picture of Marin Calhoun (Hannah Gross), pressing about the latter being the boy’s mother. Harry has to break it up, which starts dividing the two detectives.
We get a glimpse of the past, when Vera was under tutelage of Dr. Jeffries. His form of therapy involved a visceral experience. People stood in for the objects of anxiety in the fantasies of others. One man – pretending Vera was his wife – threw her to the floor, screaming and manhandling her. Terrifying. Far too real for a therapeutic method. The experience traumatised Vera, despite pretending to be okay. Others weren’t sure it should be “part of the work.” We further see Vera knew Marin well. She took the girl in when she came looking for help. Was Marin another casualty in the fucked up career of Dr. Jeffries? Doesn’t bode well the man’s got a bed in his office.
Dt. Ambrose and Dt. Novack go talk to local Glen Fisher (Marc Menchaca) about when he was at Mosswood, the night he exerted all that violence. The guy’s reluctant to say much about his experience, passing it off as beating nobody, only pretending. Harry notices one of those heartbeat sound machines in his house, too. Glen sends them off soon, not willing to say any more.
On a bench someplace private, Harry meets with Vera. She’s asking him to testify on behalf of Julian. This would put him in a tough position. All the while he doesn’t trust her one bit, particularly after their recent evening together. She’s grasping at straws. There are dark things in her past that are going to devour her. Vera does admit the fact Marin is Julian’s mother. She claims Marin left after his birth. Through flashback, we see Julian is likewise the son of Dr. Jeffries. Pretty hypocritical of the doc to a) bang his patients, and b) refuse children in the commune(especially when he’s helping to create them).
Dt. Ambrose and Dt. Novack have new information. The fact Marin is the boy’s mother means Vera has been committing fraud re: the birth certificate and so on. Chief Tom Lidell (Jay O. Sanders) is fairly taken aback by the whole ordeal. Heather really doesn’t believe Vera’s story about Marin, considering there hasn’t been any record of Marin anywhere else since her time at Mosswood.
Dr. Jeffries was focusing on “a scapegoat” for the violence in them/their work. He planned to do so by taking in a calf, making it part of their commune, then slaughtering it. Lots of symbolic play. Vera played along with all his whims. She named the calf, she played his part in the nonsense. We’ll witness where it’s all led her. We know half the story already, and something tells me it’ll get much more disturbing.
Dt. Ambrose breaks into Fisher’s place. He confirms the heartbeat machine is the same as at Mosswood. He peeks through the guy’s personal belongings. He comes upon a creepy picture— Howard Fisher, Glen’s grandfather. Turns out, their family’s owned the Mosswood land “since the thirties” and sold it to Dr. Jeffries during the ’90s. This means the cult’s net spreads far and wide.
Older kids at the detention centre are teasing Julian mercilessly about what he did to his victims. They taunt him by putting patches over their eyes and lying on their beds. This sends him into a rage. He attacks one of them. Then he’s taken by a guard to a solitary cell where he’s left to calm down alone.
Well, Dt. Ambrose’s time has come to an end in Keller. Chief Lidell is sending him packing, and Dt. Novack has nothing to say. They act grateful, but he feels it’s mostly a case of being silenced. He sees the case being closed for reasons beyond justice. We also see how Heather can’t let go of the past. She doesn’t want to pretend Marin ran away and never come back, knowing something else happened. Not after their history.
In detention, Julian will only see Harry. The detective goes to speak with the kid, asking if he’s all right. The boy feels confused by his surroundings, unable to adapt. Dt. Ambrose assures him nothing’s wrong with him, only with “this place“— he means the jail, but he could also be talking about Keller interchangeably. Julian talks about the dream again, saying it was real and not a nightmare. He believes somebody was trying to take him. He also might be starting to see the deviousness in Vera.
That evening, Harry questions his pal Jack about Mosswood. He doesn’t get a happy response, just lots of defensiveness. Jack gets his back up about how things are in Keller when Harry hits too close to home. There’s part of me that’s suspicious about Jack for some reason. Meanwhile, there are more looks at Harry’s past. He had to go visit his mother in the psychiatric ward and constantly wondered when they could “go home” together. In current day, Harry’s not home, either. He’s back in the motel again.
Vera thinks about back when it was time to slaughter their sacrificial calf. Everyone in the commune said goodbye to their friend. After which would come the slaughtering. This almost feels like more symbolism, for those who follow Jeffries. Some of them were eventually led to slaughter, one way or another. Soon after the calf, Vera let the doc know Marin was pregnant. He advised not to setup an abortion. In a way, Julian was about to become the next calf, a scapegoat for the cult. Oh, my.
Another fantastic, mysterious episode. We’re slowly unravelling all the excellently weaved, intricate plots that make up The Sinner Season 2’s story. Can’t wait for Part VI!