USA’s The Sinner
Season 2: Part VI
Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Nina Braddock
* For a recap & review of Part V, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part VII, click here.
We see Vera Walker (Carrie Coon) looking at a wall of pictures. At the very same time Julian (Elisha Henig) is scratching his arm bloody, the dark figure of his nightmares looming over his shoulder in the lonely jail cell where he’s left to rot on his own. When Vera visits and finds Julian with his bloody arm in a “medicated” state, she nearly goes off the handle. She’s not impressed with the system.
Elsewhere, Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) is remaining in Keller. He keeps an eye on a strip club, Stiletto. There he sees Glen Fisher (Marc Menchaca) get into a vehicle with one of the dancers— in the backseat, too. After Dt. Ambrose sees the guy leave he asks the dancer if Glen can “get a little rough.” Apparently the guy “doesn‘t even like to have sex,” made more suspect by what looks like cigarette burns on the lady’s foot. The mysteries are getting more disturbing.
At a diner, Dt. Heather Novack (Natalie Paul) isn’t feeling so great. She and her dad Jack (Tracy Letts) eat, as he digs into her about her personal life, though trying to gently rib rather than actually be a dick. But she’s bothered, by so many things, not the least of which is Marin’s (Hannah Gross) involvement with the Mosswood Grove cult, being Julian’s birth mother, not to mention likely being dead someplace.
At the psychiatric hospital, Dt. Ambrose looks for Carmen Bell (Jamie Neumann), hearing she was tranquillised after the last visit with him and Dt. Novack. More than that, an older patient mentions Carmen got a call, then went wild. Supposedly, the woman said “it was Satan” who phoned. Harry’s tracking down the call, which came from one of the trailer lots in town, and then he goes for a little stakeout. Wild guess, but, could the disgraced Doctor Lionel Jeffries (Brennan Brown) be the one who lives there? Just a hunch, considering Carmen freaked out after a call from the devil.
After the owner of the trailer leaves it gives Harry a chance to sneak inside for a look. He goes through the place, finding a camera, rolls of film, as well as a bunch of photographs including a set of him. There’s also lots of information about Ambrose: his driver’s license, printouts on the Cora Tannetti case, even stuff about the fire at his mom’s home when he was a boy. That’s eerie. He also comes across a tape from the Alder Country Court: Carmen’s deposition.
He’s soon called to see Vera, who’s in hysteria over what’s happening to Julian in jail. He brings her the video of Carmen. He also sent it to Heather, so she can watch, too. The tape shows Carmen talking about Vera, Mosswood, the trauma play sessions, and what Dr. Jeffries discovered at “the Purple Lake” which led them into physical and sexual violence. Carmen had burns on her foot, exactly like the dancer from the club. Did Glen burn her, as well? Horrific stuff. I also wonder how many abortions Vera arranged for the mad psychiatrist (I’m not against abortion at all, though clearly Lionel was abusing women’s rights in more ways than one). This all leads her to offer to tell Dt. Ambrose the truth.
Flashback to Vera and Bess (Ellen Adair). The latter’s hurt, revealing a nasty laceration up her thigh from a recent session. She passes it off, like all abused women and abused cultists do when the man controlling their lives hurt them. Vera goes to see the doc, concerned about the level of “literal” violence entering their ‘work.’ As expected, Lionel gaslights her, just like he does to the rest of their cult. Leaders like him pose as trying to help rid others of their trauma, only to throw said trauma back in their faces to ultimately manipulate them.
Eventually little Julian was born into the Mosswood Grove family. Only there were complications. Marin gave birth at the commune, and she began bleeding excessively after Julian was delivered. This left Vera with the baby while the others carried the mother off someplace else. Marin survived, but things got no better. She couldn’t produce enough milk, the baby responded better to Vera, and everything felt like it was going downhill instead. Vera began lactating somehow, producing milk because she was letting the boy latch on occasionally. What a fucked up place.
When Lionel went to the cabin one evening, Vera was left dealing with an angry Glen turning up for a session— Dr. Jeffries ordered her to make Marin do “the work” with Mr. Fisher. Everything up at Mosswood was deteriorating in some shape. The doc was getting more dangerous and reckless. Marin also discovered Vera was nursing the baby, not making things any easier. When the doc turned up, angry for being disobeyed, he pulled the baby from Vera, seeing “too much attachment.” He began taking care of the child more. So, she made him an interesting cup of tea— jimsonweed?
Dt. Ambrose tracks down donations to a local district attorney, believing those from Fisher and the dead Dr. Poole (Richard Bekins) went towards squashing cases needing to be squashed. Like the one Carmen was bringing up, that never made it past the hospital boards. Ah, the small town web of lies and deceit! On top of that, there’s a find at the lake where they’ve been diving. A car’s located, in which they discover the corpse of a young “Jane Doe” in the driver’s seat.
This leaves poor Heather wondering about the macabre possibilities. Her father urges to forget Marin, only pissing his daughter off. She’s mad he’s trying to sweep things under the rug. She laments being in Keller without her mother there, which cuts Jack to the core.
That night, Julian’s charges are reduced and he’s sent to temporary foster care. He gets a visit from Dt. Ambrose. They talk about the case, and death, too. Harry has become the only person who tells this kid the truth. The boy wishes he were dead because he feels the guilt of having killed. The detective urges it’s “more complicated” than mere guilt for him, knowing something else pushed Julian to murder. We see more Harry’s past as he tells the kid about his mother, who might’ve had bipolar disorder or something similar. To stop the awful home situation, young Harry set the fire in his childhood home and watched as the flames began eating everything. He admits this to Julian, all these years later. He further tries to give him advice, then reaches out to hold the boy’s hand and try instilling even a modicum of hope.
When Julian sees the hooded figure of his nightmares later he tries to do as Harry told him, refusing to believe it’s real, only the spectre of his guilt. He tells it: “You aren‘t real.” This doesn’t stop the figure from creeping up into his bed after him. Afterwards, there’s no sign of him— Julian is gone.
The Sinner continuously delivers. Always some aspect surprising me! Gotta love a series that can always do that. Season 2’s better than the already stellar Season 1. I’d love to see them keep going. Just the way they do their storytelling, their attention to good cinematography, as well as the mystery and the character development, I could go for more stories within the same style/universe, Dt. Ambrose or not.