The Sinner – Part 8

USA’s The Sinner
Part 8
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Jesse McKeown & Tom Pabst

* For a recap & review of Part 7, click here.
Pic 1Cora (Jessica Biel), with the help of Dt. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), has finally remembered what happened that night, up in the cabin near the Beverwyck Club. Or at least she remembers Phoebe (Nadia Alexander) dying, Frankie (Eric Todd) trying to save her life with CPR. She still doesn’t recall the truth about the man in the mask, the syringe scars. So Harry’s digging further into the story, the club, those involved.
And still, Cora is in jail. Trying to remember what happened. She sees that masked man. Hears him: “Tell me.” When she responds with not remembering, he soothes her with a syringe and a “good girl.” Terrifying.
So, who was trying to get her to forget what happened that night? Somebody involved with J.D. surely. But who, exactly?
Pic 1AWell, when Harry tracks down a private medical clinic looking for a guy named Duffy, Daniel Burroughs, a white guy and a black there both make a run for it. Things go haywire. Duffy pulls a gun, then Officer Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller) puts a few shots in him. Is there more to Caitlin than we’ve been led to believe? Maybe I’m thinking too much. Either way the cops are left with half answers, seeing as how one of the men’s dead.
Who shows up at jail to see Cora? Her mother, Elizabeth (Enid Graham). Her daughter tells her about the night Phoebe died, how she met a boy, fell in love. Of course mom doesn’t want to hear any of that. Although the parents never called the police that night. Elizabeth says she heard them whisper “about Florida” and running away. But with a sick girl out there? Part of me thinks Elizabeth was happy. She’s an awful, awful woman.
In court, Cora decides to say her piece. She speaks to Frankie’s parents directly, apologising. “That is not who I am,” she weeps before telling the court about the people still out there, who held her hostage, buried her sister in the woods. However, it’s all done, anyways. She gets a minimum of 30 years in jail. Looking on, Mason (Christopher Abbott) is devastated, and Dt. Ambrose is, too.
So with our girl facing 30+ years in prison, what’s next?
One thing finally strikes me is that Harry isn’t just a masochist sexually. His job, in part, is masochism. Police work, the real stuff – not dealing with stolen BBQs like he is again, after the big case is finished – is like being in a masochistic relationship, where nothing feels good, it’s all pain. And now, returning to that regular, droning work, Harry’s truly tortured. Likewise knowing that out there are the answers to a dark puzzle, the last remaining pieces.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.24.07 PMMeanwhile, Cora wants Mason, her little boy to move on. He won’t have any of that, he insists they’re coming back next week, and every week after that. I love the character development in Mason, as well. He’s been amazing. Abbott really brought out the emotions of this guy, and also we see how Mason went from a sort of jealous man to a wholly devoted, understanding husband.
Harry just won’t let up, though. He goes back to that clinic, seeking more clues. This leads him to find Maddie (Danielle Burgess). She’s got a little kid now, a girl named Winter. She changed her named, all of it. A “toxic relationship” with J.D. prompted the 180-degree turn in her life. She was there at the Beverwyck that night, but claims to have left before everybody else. But this also gets the detective aiming closer in the right direction, concerning J.D’s pill business.
Suddenly Cora’s been taken somewhere. To meet Harry. In fact, it’s the Belmont home, Frankie’s parents. She goes upstairs, but nothing seems familiar. Until she’s in a room where the wall’s paint is cracking; underneath is that wallpaper, reminiscent of the dollar bill. Hiding in plain sight. The key to her trauma.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.34.05 PMFlashback to that infamous night. Frankie calls his father to come out to the Beverwyck. He rushes there and finds a dead Phoebe, Cora unconscious on the floor. His son explains what happened, wants to go to the hospital. Yet J.D. claims he’ll tell everyone about Frankie having sex with a sick girl, high on pills. This leaves dad and the drug dealer to deal with the body, and a very much alive Cora. They even cart the two into the woods in a trunk together. They dig a hole; in goes Phoebe. That’s exactly when Cora wakes up, seeing the abandoned bus in the trees. Frankie’s dad almost kills her before deciding on a different course of action.
So he brings her home, bloody and beat up. Mom’s involved at this point, Frankie is highly disturbed to see what’s going on. After that, Cora is kept in that room, tended to by the masked man in scrubs – dear ole dad – who dresses her wounds regularly, filling her veins with drugs to send her into oblivion. He and Mr. Lambert are still tied together by their nasty deeds, leading them deeper into business together; well, by blackmail.
When it’s time, Mr. Belmont digs into her arm with a needle, making her look like an addict. He brushes her hair, washes her, buys new clothes. A pretty good cover-up. Only now Dt. Ambrose and Cora, together, have completed the puzzle. So the truth is revealed, in that the Belmonts effectively killed their own son. When Cora confronts the father, she explains “I remember your eyes” and that she understands he did it for his son. Doesn’t make it any better.
Later in the car, Harry talks about understanding Cora, about blaming himself; just as she does. We get a bit of insight into his life, his past. “We didnt do anything,” he tells her in comfort. And finally, we take a look, briefly, at why Dt. Ambrose is who he is, a masochist, a man always trying to put himself back together. A beautiful bit of backstory in a subtle moment of dialogue.
Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 1.40.50 PMBack in court, things are different. “Extreme emotional disturbance” takes a murder charge down to manslaughter. Cora is ordered to a psychiatric facility, rather than prison. She’ll get therapy, some genuine counselling; she’ll get help. And her family will be able to see her more, plus now they know the truth, the devastating events which led her to that day on the beach. Only two years, then she’s free. In some ways, this has helped Harry free himself, though ultimately he’s freedom is up to him. He has to find a way of dealing with the past: either his masochism, or emotional catharsis.
My favourite part of this series is that it helps us look into the lives of women accused of murder. Sure, there are legitimate cases. But there are far too many out there, most of which are likely unknown, where women have been brutalised by men, in so many terrible ways, leading to them committing a violent, or seemingly crazy act. Only to bear the brunt of the law where previously those men against which they acted were given leniency. The Sinner‘s examination of the case of Cora Tannetti is a great template for that whole idea, representing a microcosm of a harsher reality in this 8-part series.

Advertisements

The Night Of – Season 1, Episode 1: “The Beach”

HBO’s The Night Of
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Beach”
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Teleplay by Richard Price (The WireThe Color of MoneySea of LoveRansom)

* For a review of the next episode, “Subtle Beast” – click here
IMG_3893
As usual, HBO opens us on a nicely produced title sequence, accompanied with music by composer Jeff Russo who many will know from his work on the series Fargo as of late, plus plenty more. Always good to open up on a title sequence that grabs you.
The episode begins with a young man, Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (Riz Ahmed), as he frequents the various locations at college many do: classrooms, gymnasiums, locker rooms, so on. He’s a real hard worker, studying while everybody around him is mostly disaffected. Then he gets an offer to party with some of the basketball players, clearly not a life he’s used to, but it seems to excite him anyway.
Naz is a Pakistani-American living in Queens, New York. He’s as much connected to his family and their culture as he is to the American world of basketball and night clubs. Or at least he wants to be connected to the latter. Waiting to go out we see Naz practise meeting people, fixing his hair and making sure everything is right.
The night starts out normally. Well, for the most part – Naz has to steal his dad’s cab in order to get to the party. What’s most interesting is the fact he can’t find his way. We see both his inexperience with the city, as well as his general immaturity, not knowing even how to operate the car other than drive it forward. Soon, he ends up with a woman in his cab despite insisting he can’t take any fares. But she talks him into it. Her name is Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-D’Elia), though we don’t know that, nor does Naz. Not for a while yet.
She’s going far uptown somewhere, looking as if she’d prefer to go anywhere at all. Naz makes a stop when she needs a drink. Outside the gas station, Andrea has a run-in with a hearse driver at whom she inadvertently tosses a cigarette. All these little events pass and Naz wouldn’t once begin to think any of them matter. Why would he?
Off he and Andrea go. They talk; about the cab, about the party. Neither of them get where they were headed originally. Naz stops off near the water where they sit and talk some more. We really get a good insight into Naz’s character as a person in these moments. He seems normal, quiet, laid back and subdued, almost shy even. When Andrea puts a pill in his palm, he refuses. You can tell he’s straight laced. Andrea appears to have a deep seated pain inside her: “I cant be alone tonight,” she tells him. And that begins their evening together, as Naz decides then to take the pills, and dive in, head first.
At one point, Naz hears a guy make a comment about him and bombs, as he walks to Andrea’s place. The two men stop when he questions what was said. An eerie look from one of them after they leave speaks volumes. Inside, Naz and Andrea relax, they drink tequila with limes. They still don’t exchange names. They just drink, and talk, and flirt. Most of all we’re privy to Naz stepping outside his comfort zone and following along, as he says he does, listening to everyone but himself. Perhaps a bit too much this time. They play a game with a knife that ultimately ends with Andrea getting stabbed in the hand. Although that almost turns her on. They embrace, taking off their clothes and falling into bed. We can already see how so much of this is going to add up, if anything bad were to happen.


Naz wakes in the early morning, still dark, and finds Andrea dead in her bed. Murdered viciously. Blood everywhere. He rushes out of her place and takes off down the street to his father’s cab. Only no keys, so back in he goes, and the door’s locked. He has to break a window. Christ, this only gets worse and worse with each passing moment. A nearby neighbour sees Naz go inside. He also takes the bloody knife from their previous night’s foolishness. Oh, man. This is shaping up to be nightmarish in scope. And here we are, in the shoes of Naz, knowing his innocence. When he pulls out with the cab he even cuts someone off. So many events that are adding up to fuck him legally. At a red light, a biker looks over and possibly sees the bloody knife on the cab dashboard.
Tragic, and a slice of real life, as well as how something so innocent on his part could become something so nasty. Naz winds up pulled over by two police officers, which gets worse when they smell the booze off him. The downward spiral now begins to twist. When they get a call, the cops take him with them, and before they do Naz leaves a nice little bloody smear on the door. I love the writing here. It is brilliant and takes us to the heart of what can constitute a false accusation like the one for which Naz is headed.


So the cops find Andrea, bloody and dead. The big American legal machine gears up to start ploughing poor Naz, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, though it would’ve done a world of good for him to call the police right away. Still, it’s understandable when someone innocent and naive comes up against a dead, savaged corpse, especially belonging to someone he’s just been with sexually. How would you react? Hopefully you’ll never have to know.
Now we’re watching the process move. Detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) is called in on the stabbing murder. He’s a bit time worn. He enjoys classical music. Generally, he appears to be the man for this type of case. Andrea’s brownstone apartment is now a spectacle with neighbours out looking around, police tape everywhere, cameras trying to poke their heads in. Naz, still not found to have been in the apartment, is being brought to the station in regards to his run-in with the two officers. “Is she dead?” asks Naz to the uniforms transporting him. Probably not a great question to ask at the moment, as he technically shouldn’t know anything about the scene. Uh oh.
Box and the others process the crime scene in all its horrific messiness. Meanwhile, Naz is at the station. He calls home, but hangs up quickly. A million things racing in his head. He’s just waiting for things to come down on his head. Something that plays well is seeing an unruly prisoner blow through, and Naz recoils. We understand so well he’s not used to this world, whatsoever. It frightens him. You can just feel his innocence oozing, and as the audience we’re right in his perspective; unable to prove anything at all, having to wait for the situation to pop. At the brownstone, Box gets more information from the Medical Examiner about time of death, the weapon, and outside the men that ran into Naz previous in the night, making racist statements, they show up talking. The gravity of all these elements coming into play, all poised to make life hellish for Naz, is again some fascinating writing. Hats off to Richard Price and his teleplay.


With no idea where his son is, Salim Khan (Peyman Moaadi) calls around to find him, obviously getting no answer on his boy’s cell. In the meantime, all the pieces are falling together against Naz, as he sits and waits in the station. One thing that’s been passed over is a breathalyzer, so that could be good or bad for him. Depending. Then Box and the two officers with him put it all in place. They eventually find the bloody knife in Naz’s inside jacket pocket. It’s incredibly poignant, this moment. They find the knife right as Box describes what they’re looking for, like the tragic twist of fate curls right onscreen in front of us. At least Box acts friendly. Until Naz flips out and tries to run, yelling that he didn’t do it. Doesn’t help the black guy from the scene, the one who possibly had a hand in actually killing Andrea, is right there to finger Naz as the suspect.
Now the young man is in the box, ready for interrogation. The cop that brought him down recounts what Naz asked about the girl being dead. Everything’s thickening to the point it could choke you. Box sits in for a talk with Naz, about how he met Andrea and the events which led up to those fatal moments. It’s so awful to hear Naz asked the questions necessary, but that’s all part of the process. He tells Box what he can manage. Nothing he says can convince anybody right now. Nothing he says helps him, in any sense. But how can a man be remorseful, be filled with regret if he didn’t commit the murder? For now the interrogation is over. Thus begin the DNA tests and so on. The legal system is pumped up, ready to roll. Naz has to give over his clothes, revealing scratches on his back. Further than that Box, I believe, sees the very timid, shy nature of the guy. Not that he can see the truth, but there’s a glimmer of understanding somewhere within everything for the detective. Likewise, Naz appreciates the slight kindness he’s shown.
IMG_3910


Naz finally decides he wants a lawyer. He locks eyes with Jack Stone (John Turturro), who’s around the station serving a bunch of his low class clients. He looks weary, beaten down, but when he sees Naz, the big doe eyes, and hears the apparent crime which he’s committed, something in Jack lights up, deep inside. One thing we see inside is a break in the chain of evidence, involving the knife and Naz’s clothes. Ahhh, not only are the elements to break down Nazi present, there are those hovering around which Stone, if he’s a good lawyer, will use to their advantage. More instances of solid writing that hopefully will continue as the series does, too.
Jack and Naz meet together. They do a bit of initial talk, re: citizenship and all that good stuff. We see the laid back nature of Jack along with all the lawyer-client introductions. Jack asks about politics, every last thing of which he can think. We start seeing how the American legal system could work against a young Pakistani Muslim such as Naz.
Simultaneously, Box is putting all his bits and pieces together, including the possibly faulty witness Trevor Williams (J.D. Williams) trying to make Naz go down for something he, or his friend, or both of them did. Box begins to wonder if Trevor is credible, seeing as how the guy uses the word “towelhead” and doesn’t exactly have a good view of Muslims.
The pieces are all there, for everyone. It’s just a matter of how and where they’ll fall. As for Naz’s family, his father wants to run to his son, though begins to see the first slippery spot, as his cab isn’t where it ought to be. Just the beginning.
IMG_3915IMG_3916
This first episode sets up a ton of amazing stuff. The writing is beyond impressive and it really caught me off-guard, though I’m always sure HBO is going to put out quality work. Patiently awaiting the next episode named “Subtle Beast” and all it promises. Another hit, to my mind. And there’s a heavy load of emotion winding up to let loose on us.

Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a review of the pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.50.17 AM
After a wild pilot, things continue on for the Cody Gang.
Well they’re certainly a good lot for hedonism. Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) hangs poolside with her boys, Andrew a.k.a Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), the new addition Josh (Finn Cole), and their close man Baz (Scott Speedman). Pope gets a bit too heavy, not playing nice with their nephew Josh. At the same time, he’s not exactly playing nice with anyone else either. Inside Smurf asks J’s girl Nicky (Molly Gordon) if she were shipwrecked and could only pick one Cody, aside from Josh, who would it be? She replies Baz is “pretty cool” and it’s easy to see that Mama Smurf is testing this young woman to see if she’s got what it takes to hang with the rough crew. Even Josh is finding it hard keeping up with his uncles and big Baz.
Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.50.25 AM
Speaking of Baz, his significant other Catherine (Daniella Alonso) is pissed. Rightfully so. There’s a casualty from the job the Cody Gang pulled recently. Furthermore, we see how Baz considers Smurf’s place “home” as opposed to their own place. I can see all types of trouble from a mile away.
When Smurf gets wind of the death due to the robbery you can be sure nothing’s going to go too smooth. In other news, Craig’s wound is festering and he is getting pretty hooked on painkillers. He says it’s because he’s a big dude, but you can clearly tell he is falling down the rabbit hole. Not a good thing with the dead cop on their hands.
Smurf lets Josh know there’s a bit of serious business about to come up. He’s being slowly brought into the fold. “There are no secrets in this family. Not from one another. Especially not from me,” says Grandma Smurf. We also see the strange, quasi-incestuous relationship she has with her men, making Josh strip down his dirty clothes right in front of her. Awkward, and telling.
Then Josh witnesses an incredible moment that nobody can know about – his uncle Deran is getting a blowjob from another man. When he sees his nephew, Deran beats the man down claiming he was trying to steal a wallet. Whoa. Just… whoa. No family secrets? Yeah, okay, Smurf. Deran has his nephew join in on the beating, though you can see the young guy is apprehensive. Poor Josh, he just gets deeper and deeper in every way. And worst of all it’s as if there’s danger from some of his uncles at every corner. First Pope and his machismo, now Deran and his closeted secret. There’s a lot of danger being a Cody.


Smurf and the boys are having a meeting about what to do next. Of course Pope is not happy with any of them. Baz tries to quell Smurf’s worries about any witnesses. Then she finds out the boys took off their masks when dealing with the tweakers for the robbery. Uh oh. Well, that’s not too big of a deal, seeing as how those were addicts and they probably don’t remember much. Not well enough to rat. Meanwhile, everything else is going to shit – their vehicle is still out there, cop’s bullets in it along with Craig’s blood. Moreover, there’s dissent between Smurf and her boys. She doesn’t blame Baz, but rather her own blood, and they don’t like that. Also you have the fact Deran is now quietly pissed with nephew J for finding out his secret, so he tries to pile the grunt work on him. Afterwards, J reveals to Baz what Pope lied to Smurf about, and they start forming a subtle bond. Because let’s face it, the uncles are aggressive with their nephew, whereas Baz is more welcoming and gentle despite being a hardened criminal himself. Still, Baz lies about what “kind of family” the Cody Gang is truly.
We see how everybody is weary of Pope and exactly how his mental health is doing. Particularly Baz and Smurf, as they have a little conference together on his well-being. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out further.
Deran and Craig start tearing apart the vehicle from their robbery. The former rages against his mother and how the split goes for them economically. Craig agrees, mostly. Neither of them are too happy with Baz or Pope, either. But what’s most intriguing is seeing how Craig hides his pill intake from even Deran, as he doesn’t want anybody questioning his state of mind. None of these guys are open in the family. Secrets are everywhere.


When Josh finds his room torn apart he also finds Pope. Looking for the watch he gave his nephew. They’ve got to clean up loose ends. The uncle is convinced his nephew is hiding things; secrets, who knows what else. Then he goes on a brief nostalgia train about his days, hiding things from Smurf. Not much has changed. I like the relationship between Pope and Josh in the series. In the film, it was great, as well. Here, we’re able to get more of a look at the antagonistic behaviour of Pope towards his nephew and that is more fleshed out with an extended series, as opposed to a film under two hours.
Even worse, there’s Pope influencing Nicky. I’m afraid for her. Those who’ve seen the movie know there’s danger for her involved with the family. So it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious threat to her safety. The more we see of Pope, the more I worry about what he’ll soon do.
Baz and Smurf are so much like actual mother and son. We hear more talk about Pope, that he’s off medication and that it might be worth trying to get him back on some soon. Although neither of them are too optimistic about that. And then they burn up the watches, so that’s a loose end cauterised, literally in fire. More worry about Pope when he shows up suddenly at Catherine’s, playing with her daughter, and no sign of Baz. Yikes. He’s a creepy bastard.
Now we start to hear about Pope sending letters to Catherine. There’s a love for her that Pope has held since they were young. She apparently got drunk and something happened between them. Baz knows nothing of it, and Pope wonders if maybe he should tell him about it. Oh, man. There are so many nasty things going on within the walls of the Cody Gang and the family itself. Only so much can build up before it breaks. Is Catherine’s little girl of Baz, or of Pope? That’s one to think about.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.23.26 AM
Mama Smurf is up to a few tricks. She smashes a heel of her shoes, scratches up her hand until it’s bloody. She lies to a guy so she can get into an apartment, then into a bathroom. She steals pills. Are those for Pope? We get a quick flash of what looks like Smurf as a little girl, doing the same thing with her own mother. A very great moment. In the meantime, Craig is strung out on pills and not getting any work done. Deran notices. He notices the wound in Craig’s shoulder is getting hideous. Then they decide just to burn the rest of the vehicle. Bad move? Sure is, at least for the fact Smurf won’t be too happy about it. Josh arrives just as they’re doing the dirty. More secrets for him to keep.
Baz is cleaning up after someone, an older man. Likely his father. For a moment, he contemplates shooting him in the head. There’s lots more to why Baz is a member of the Cody Gang, and the family as it stands. I want to see more about that, so I look forward to exploring his backstory throughout the series. I was always curious about that in the film, as he seemed like such an integral part of the gang. He is even more so here. Later we see Mama Smurf is crushing up pills to sneak into Pope’s food. Real good idea there. Also, we hear more about Baz being taken into the house. Smurf talks about when he first came to them. He hid food, not sure he’d be fed there. Terrible parents at home. “I dont how you survived,” Smurf laments.


When Baz goes home he finds Catherine not herself. She worries about the dead cop, all the commotion on television. Baz assures her nothing will come of it for them. Everything’s taken care of, as he says. Don’t be so sure of that. Mostly, Catherine worries for her daughter, and what could happen if the SWAT team bursts in. He promises to lay himself down if that’s the case. Then he discovers the doll Pope brought her and Catherine lies, saying it came from a store somewhere. Ah, the lies are EVERYWHERE!
And Craig, he keeps chopping lines and pushing back the pain. That’s because he’s preparing to do some homemade surgery. Smurf, she’s upstairs watching her insane son Pope outside, naked, staring into the moon. When she hears a bunch of noise downstairs she finds Craig, mutilating himself. So it’s off to Mexico for a bit of low-key surgery. But what else? Baz has a woman down south of the border. Jesus. The lies are seeping out from every crack.
Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.34.58 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.36.55 AM
A great follow-up of a second episode. Next up is “Stay Close, Stick Together” and it promises plenty. This is an excellent series in addition to the film. I know many, like myself, were wary. But this is proving, with each chapter, that Animal Kingdom has power as a television show. All the acting is so spectacular, loving Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, and Scott Speedman, but everyone else is just as good, too.