USA’s The Sinner
Season 2: Part VIII
Directed by John David Coles
Written by Bradford Winters
* For a recap & review of Part VII, click here.
* For a recap & review of Season 3 Part I – click here
In the aftermath of Marin’s (Hannah Gross) murder, things have changed. Detectives Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and Heather Novack (Natalie Paul) are left to try and figure out what could’ve happened, and why young Julian (Elisha Henig) has been present at two different murder scenes. There’s a great image of Heather imagining herself putting both hands right in Marin’s blood, a figurative symbol of the guilt she feels for not being able to help her friend. Harry finds out there was “a struggle” before the gun went off. The crime scene techs believe her death was an accident. At the same time, Andy (David Call) calls with information about Mosswood Grove’s financial records— payments from a company called Dedalus Shipping, LLC. Nice James Joyce reference.
Everyone’s called away after they find Vera’s (Carrie Coon) brown Volvo parked on a quiet road. The cops have the car blocked off on either side, but there’s no contact. This prompts Harry to go find out what’s happening. He approaches the car while the rest of the police nervously wait. He tells Vera to get out, only to find it’s the cultist with the ponytail. No sign of the boy or Vera.
In the city, Julian arrives by cab and finds himself in the big outside world with Vera. They head to one of her friends places looking for refuge. Seems Vera’s friends are few and far between, neither do some of them like the looks of what she’s doing.
Dt. Ambrose’s still getting a cold shoulder from Chief Tom Lidell (Jay O. Sanders). He discovers, through Andy, the LLC records were in the boss’s desk. Could he be connected to the cult in some way? Elsewhere, Heather’s chatting with her dad, and Jack (Tracy Letts) tries mending the bridge between them, apologising for being distant and not great at talking. While doing laundry later, Heather finds a set of keys in her father’s clothes. Just as Father Gore suspected, something’s not quite right about Jack. Worse, he’s got a key belonging to the Five Nations Motel where Marin was murdered. Oh, fuck. The pieces are falling into place.
Julian remembers what happened to his mom. We see a memory of him waiting at the motel, where he witnessed someone struggle with Marin before the gun went off. The person called 911, but left the phone off the hook without saying a word. Then they went about finding the kid. Sounds like Vera, yet we don’t see their face.
Harry confronts Chief Lidell in his office about the Dedalus Shipping evidence pointing to payments regarding the cult. The last payment went through a little while before Marin was murdered. The chief takes offence to the accusations, but Dt. Ambrose knows there are secrets being concealed. And finally Tom comes clean, saying he “had to be sure” before anything else went down.
Both Heather and Harry go to speak with Jack together, who’s initially unwilling to admit to anything. When shown the motel key he says Marin called asking for money. He went to see her. But he can’t say any more with his daughter present. She leaves, and Jack tells his story to Dt. Ambrose. Jack claims Marin “wasn‘t stable” and pulled a gun, resulting in a struggle before the gun went off. After that he brought Julian to Vera, but why?
Flashback to Jack bringing a drunk Heather home. He talked with Marin after to see what’s been going on. She revealed the lesbian struggle of her and Heather’s friendship, telling Mr. Novack how hard it is living in Keller. What followed was Jack raping her, and this means he fathered Julian.
Harry gets a call from Julian. The boy’s scared and the detective lets him know he can “choose which way it goes,” in regards to how the situation ultimately plays out. Julian’s not sure what to do, and Harry says: “It depends on what you can live with.” Is this a casual way of telling him to do whatever’s necessary to escape his fake mother’s clutches? At least now Dt. Ambrose knows they’re in NYC. Simultaneously, Heather confronts her father about what he did to Marin— the act setting all of this in motion. In typical fashion, Jack remains silent as he’s done for so many years.
Vera’s getting a fake ID and getting herself ready to take Julian on the next leg of their fugitive journey. The boy’s uneasy and worried about where she’ll take him. They can’t go back to her friend’s place after seeing the police swarming. Julian works up the courage to tell her he doesn’t want to go away. But he comes to see Vera isn’t willing to hear him, she wants what SHE wants, not what HE wants. He doesn’t want to keep running for the rest of his life, ready to take whatever punishment’s coming. So, she gives in, and they return to Keller.
At the precinct, Dt. Ambrose heads in to talk with Julian. Meanwhile, Vera flashes back to a time in the woods with Julian, which is where he learned about jimsonweed and other plants in the wild. In current day, she also burns a bunch of things on the fire, including tapes from the work sessions, and she burns the barn, too. There’s still a secret hidden and being destroyed. Vera sends the tape of Harry’s session with her to his motel room, where the detective listens and hears himself recounting memories of his mother. During the session, he realises Vera’s solely concerned with control over others, and also accepts his own troubled psyche, to an extent.
In court, Julian’s fate is being decided by the law, and his lawyer is stressing “nurture rather than nature” in regards to his unorthodox upbringing under Vera. Harry offers a more positive view on the boy’s willingness to “face judgement.” This is also part of his own past, never having taken credit for burning down his mother’s house and admiring Julian for being so mature.
We see Vera go back to the burned barn, where the rock still stands. She lays a hand on it, as if feeling its power. We also see Julian finally make it to Niagara Falls with his half-sister Heather, admiring the view and thinking of his real mother. A bittersweet end to a tragic, unnerving saga. Nice to see a smile creeping onto Harry’s face for once. Although his darkness remains. He hasn’t fully dealt with the past and with the relationship he had with his mother.
What a season. This finale paid off in big, ugly ways! Long suspected Jack was hiding some massive secret. Also great to see more of Harry’s personality and past come through, Father Gore could watch another few seasons of Dt. Ambrose, hands down. Not sure if there’ll be another season of The Sinner. If so, sign me up.