USA’s The Sinner
Season 3: Part VII
Directed by Rachel Goldberg
Written by Willie Reale
* For a recap & review of Part VI, click here.
* For a recap & review of the finale, Part VIII, click here.
Harry Ambrose is having a dream in which his father’s still alive. He’s sitting down for dinner with his boss and his daughter, but his father stays locked in the bathroom, not willing to come out. He burns his hands on the pan from the oven and when he searches the cupboards there’s nothing in them.
Then, everyone’s gone.
It’s only Harry left with that box of his father’s belongings— blood is now seeping out from its edges and something seems to be trying to push itself out from inside. Harry sees his mother at the table next pouring cereal and milk for breakfast. We see more of the detective’s disturbed past coming out, showing the mental and physical abuse he experienced at the hands of his mentally ill mother. Harry’s mother grabs at his mouth, almost erotically, almost as if she’s trying to climb inside him.
It’s all a hallucinatory nightmare that keeps on repeating while he’s stuck under the ground in that coffin. Harry is still there beneath the earth in that grave where Jamie Burns left him. He next imagines himself naked on the ground, where Sonya Barzel gets a bucket of water from a child and starts to rub Harry down with it. He then hears the shovel. And, against all odds, Jamie’s returned to dig him up. Harry sucks in deep breaths of air and he’s disoriented. He gets a little water from Jamie, explains he “had to pull the pipe” in order to help him experience something existential. Poor Dt. Ambrose. He’s put himself in a bad position, more than once, but he continues to get these sort of impromptu therapy sessions from people he’s investigating since his weird experience(s) with Vera Walker last season.
“You did it, Harry.”
Afterwards, Harry burns the letter Jamie wrote like they agreed to before he went in that hole. The detective is NOT all right, though. He saw things that genuinely disturbed him. He tells Jamie about the nightmare he had down there, and the teacher says it’s time to “process it all.” Jamie says he won’t push Harry the same way Nick did with him. He basically paints Nick as an adrenaline junkie who could never quite get his fix, clearly, from what we’ve seen, becoming an intensely dangerous individual. He tells Ambrose he felt lost recently and that led him back into contact with Nick, which, y’know, didn’t go so well. This is why Jamie says he let Nick die, to prevent things from escalating. But he still went and murdered somebody, didn’t he?
So where does Harry go from here? Weird to see him hugging Jamie. Has his job and morality been fully compromised here? Up until now it was simply a series of poor decisions on the detective’s part. He recorded everything Jamie said to him. It just feels like he’s still in a bad, questionable place.
Harry brings the recording to fellow detective, Vic Soto. They listen to it together and Vic’s impressed they’ve got a confession. Question is, can this evidence pass the smell test at a Huntley Hearing? I mean, even Harry knows what’s going on hasn’t been what you’d call by-the-book. He asks Vic to be the one to take Jamie into custody. Wonder if that’s because he feels he might not be able to do it himself, like he thinks it’d be a betrayal of what they experienced together. The teacher is most definitely surprised when Dt. Soto and a couple police officers show up at school to arrest him. Later, Jamie’s in jail and see his lawyer, along with Leela. While his wife urges to clean out the infectious guilt festering within, his lawyer’s ready to mount a fight.
Meanwhile, Sonya advises Harry: “This is not something to be toughed out.” What the man went through, being buried alive overnight, isn’t a moment to just get up and walk away from, or brush off without thinking about it. Not to mention he saw some pretty vivid, pretty awful things. Harry has a psychological mess of a past that he’s never dealt with in a meaningful way. Part of why The Sinner has been so great is that, apart from the cases themselves, it examines Harry as an individual, specifically in terms of a man in a patriarchal environment like the police force, attempting to cope with trauma while also working to help others with their own.
Sonya comes clean about the night Jamie visited her, showing Harry the painting she did of him after having the man at gunpoint. She isn’t particularly proud of it, though she’s honest. Harry thinks it’s reckless, yet he recently climbed willingly into a grave. Understandable he’s upset professionally. Less so personally. Sonya’s right about how he chooses to “say nothing” about himself while expecting others to tell him everything.
Harry goes to talk with Jamie. Very tense. The teacher feels betrayed, and the detective explains he’s always obligated, first and foremost, to “protect the public.” Dt. Ambrose did try to help Jamie, he tried to get him help and, like Leela, to get him to tell the truth. He likewise does acknowledge their connection “about a lot of things.” He recognises this wasn’t all an undercover operation to get a confession. Jamie spits in Harry’s face.
Next, Dt. Ambrose faces the hearing. His cross-examination doesn’t go well. He’s grilled by Jamie’s lawyer. A photo from that hotel room from the night of the psychic’s murder shows Harry in the background having his sciatic nerve rubbed by a woman and a man snorting cocaine in the foreground. Doesn’t get any better from that point, either. Makes it look like Harry was harassing and stalking a suspect. The judge is pretty blown away by Harry’s admission of being buried “maybe six feet or so” below ground. The detective has to admit burning a written confession, too. Nothing whatsoever paints Ambrose as exhibiting good judgement. The lawyer all but incinerates the case against Jamie, especially when pushing Harry about why he visited Jamie in jail to apologise. This leads to the confession being inadmissible and the teacher goes free.
This doesn’t mean Jamie can go home. He has an order of protection against him and a police officer forces him off the property. Leela comes out to tell him he has to go. She brings him his jacket and they speak briefly. He tries to insist he’d never hurt her, but her feelings about him have changed. How could they not? Jamie confessed to her he killed a man, on top of the fact he obviously let Nick die. Leela can’t feel how she did once upon a time. And Jamie can’t accept that. Neither can Leela keep her secret about her husband’s confession and the blood.
Will Jamie blame Harry for his family situation? He still feels Nick’s eerie presence. He cuts off his hair, then goes to see his student Emma. He’s essentially saying goodbye. That’s how it feels. That’s not good for anybody. Least of all Dt. Ambrose. There’s something terrible happening inside Jamie’s mind. Emma appears to be the only little sliver of light left in the (ex)teacher’s life. Now, Jamie is following Harry’s boss on the golf course. Perhaps he’s fixing to take people away from the detective like he believes the detective’s done to him.
“It was getting in the way”
An intense episode, particularly early on with Ambrose’s hallucinations below ground. Very compelling to dig further, and, dare I say, deeper, into his headspace. His character is always just as interesting as the people he’s investigating/helping.
Part VIII, the finale, is next.