USA’s The Sinner
Directed by Brad Anderson
Written by Liz W. Garcia
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 5, click here.
Mason (Christopher Abbott) is in the box with Detectives Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood) and Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman). Juxtaposed against the mysterious J.D. in there with them later. We go back and forth between the two men, as well as get a look at more sexual moments between J.D. and Cora (Jessica Biel), years before. Eerie stuff.
Flashback to younger Cora and Phoebe. They talk about boys, the “shameless harlot” across the street. All the while the older sister doesn’t want to even so much as sin in thought, let alone do anything physical in real life. Strange to see the sick little sister be more sexually aware than her big sister. They slowly dip into another world, one that’s been locked away from them a long time. They also discover the other world of their father, sneaking out at night to go sleep with another woman.
With Dt. Ambrose we watch Cora going back through old memories. Fourth of July, leaving with J.D. and going to someone else’s house, having sex, taking drugs. After that’s a blank spot. Two months later, she’s in a detox centre. The mystery is continually whipped into a new whirlwind.
Harry’s trying to figure out how to unlock the memories Cora is holding close, unconsciously. She can’t figure it out, either. So he’s trying anything and everything, including looking into recovered memory therapy in order to draw out the key to her secrets. At the same time, Mason’s watching his wife suffer, trying to be supportive while worrying she’ll do hard time in jail. He doesn’t like her talking to the cops, though Harry in particular might be the only hope she has left.
And of course the cop’s got his own personal shit going on, trying to reconnect with Faye (Kathryn Erbe), out eating together at a restaurant they’ve frequented before, in happier and more tragic times, too. Sort of bittersweet. They lost a child years ago, something which obviously impacted them both hard.
The recovered memory therapy commences. Cora goes into a deep mental state, guided along as she attempts to dive into her mind; this is visually represented as she closes her eyes, stepping into a vast lake. She goes back to a “hopeless” memory of her standing in a forest, disoriented, the night before July 4th. Then she goes through the other moments. She remembers J.D’s ex Maddy, who doesn’t like her. Maybe they planned on doing something to her. Simultaneously, she jumps to a memory of being a little girl, the bus barrelling past her as if she doesn’t even exist.
But she gets back to July 4th weekend. Cora and Maddy have words, the former seeming very unstable. The women hate each other, specifically Cora who has strong hatred for her. Violent hatred. Uh oh. Continually the plot gets thicker. Armed with the new memory, which includes J.D. siphoning gas to get home that night, Dt. Ambrose tries narrowing down the area where the trio went after the bar.
Closer and closer Mason inches towards J.D. He goes to his place to buy coke, pretending to be an acquaintance. When the girlfriend figures out Mason isn’t who he claims, he leaves. I’m worried about him, he’s getting brazen. I know he wants to find out what happened to his wife, naturally. But to the detriment of his own health, maybe his life? Surely there’s more shady things happening behind the scenes we don’t yet know about. At least he’s got Caitlin (Abby Miller). That’s wearing thin, though. We get more of their history, they had sex and then he ignored her. He brings her the drugs he bought, and it pisses her off. “You use people,” she tells him.
Flashback to young Cora. She makes an eager move on a boy across the street, exploring her sexuality out in the shed with him. Later, she goes up to fill Phoebe in about her “two orgasms” and the rest of her sexual encounter. What we’re seeing is how a stuffy religious upbringing, so strict and medieval is a fast way to drive kids towards the things you’re trying to steer them away from.
Present day, Cora heads back into the waters of memory. Dancing with Maddy, stoned. Then later they’re in the woods, terrified. Search lights shine through the trees. A gunshot goes off. “They‘re hunting us,” Cora tells Dt. Ambrose and the doctor. Fragments of memories. Maddy calls her towards a basement. The song from the beach that day plays loud. Naked bodies everywhere. The black wallpaper imagery returns, as Cora goes down a set of stairs. Followed by a shocking moment that looks like Maddy being stabbed in the chest. The masked man from the end of Part 3.
A flashback shows young Cora beg her father not to go next door, knowing he’s heading there to cheat on his wife. Realising the fragility and weakness of men, that sex is all they consider.
On a walk together, Faye and Harry come to a significant place. One he’s been hoping to find. Using the water tower image from Cora’s memories, he likewise finds a school bus. Perhaps those fragmented memories might’ve been pointing to something subconscious. Near the bus is also what looks like a possible grave. Sure enough, below the dirt they find skeletal remains.
Every episode makes the mystery more compelling, it’s hard to ever be sure of what’ll come next. Amazing to watch unfold. Never imagined the series would be playing out the way it is now.
Part 5 will surely give us something else shocking, wild, disturbing. So many elements locked together in one box.