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.

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The Sinner – Part 2

USA’s The Sinner
Part 2
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Pic 1After the surprising, devastating first episode, The Sinner continues as Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) faces the court after committing a brutal and spontaneous murder on the beach. She pleads “guilty” and prepares on facing the consequences of her actions. Detectives Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood) watch on, as does the terrified husband Mason (Christopher Abbott). Now, Cora’s ordered to psychological testing, to see if she’s fit to stand trial.
After the court adjourns, Mason comes across a police officer he knows from back in the day in school, Caitlin Sullivan (Abby Miller). He tries getting info out of her, but she’s too professional for that. Inside, his wife gets a visit from Dt. Ambrose, who knows that she knows the man she killed, Frankie Belmont. Although she denies it. However, it’s like she’s resigned herself to being guilty. As if she believes she’s guilty, knowing something more than she lets on.
Flashback to her life as a girl. Her father rants and raves about not being able to sleep in his own bed. Clearly, their love life has suffered because of their sick child. Meanwhile, dad looks to be sleeping in bed with one of the other daughters, young Cora (Jordana Rose), only eight. And there’s something not quite right about it, either. Christ. So much ugliness in her past that’s yet to be uncovered.
Pic 1ADt. Ambrose keeps on trying to suss out the truth. He talks to Frankie’s wife, Leah (Teri Wyble). Apparently the husband once told his friends about a girl with whom he had a relationship, something tragic happened. They had an “intense connection” but the girl was damaged. Later, an accident nearly ruined his whole life. Hmm, all about five years prior. This is interesting, ramps up the mystery to a serious degree. The intrigue’s already high, but now my Spidey senses are TINGLING!
Flashback to Mason first meeting Cora, the latter waiting tables in a nice little place. They talk a bit, he chats her up. After she’s off they go for a stroll together, getting to know one another, the usual first meet/date type of thing. It’s cute. Very sharp juxtaposition against where we are now. What this does is show us their connection, particularly we see why Mason’s so torn up. It isn’t like she wound up a serial killer. This sudden outburst of violence in her life is totally inexplicable to him, so to see their beginnings as a couple is kind of poignant.
We get a look at some of Dt. Ambrose’s rocky relationship with his wife (Kathryn Erbe). They go to therapy, but the separation between them is shocking. Not entirely surprising, still shocking. He’s not exactly the doting husband, having left her in the hospital once to go spray his plants at home. Even when she calls him out on it he’s poised to argue rather than admit he fucked up. Typical man blinded by his own bullshit.
Another flashback to young Cora, her aunt Margaret (Rebecca Wisocky) leaving a treat with her before leaving. They’re all together in vigil for her little sister Phoebe, sick, frail. We see the first semblance of a second life for Cora. Aunt Peg gives her a Delicieux chocolate bar, a little treat she takes to a secret hiding place. Where she’s got other items most likely from her aunt. She stashes them, so nobody will find her special items. Sort of how she’s stashed away all the secrets of her previous live, so deep down and in the dark that even her husband has no idea what’s gone on.
Those closest to her, then and now, they don’t truly know Cora.
Pic 2In the interrogation room, Harry gets Cora to start talking. She met Frankie in a bar five years ago on the “Fourth of July,” though he went by a different name, J.D. They took some pills, drank, dance. The song she heard on the beach that day is the one he used to play endlessly. They had sex, of course. A couple weeks later? Pregnant. She panicked, not even having Frankie’s phone number. So then she finds out he gave her a fake name.
And she stepped in front of a car on the road. No longer pregnant, banged the fuck up in the hospital, she was still clinging – for a while – her religious upbringing. Before realising God’s shit. Cut to five years later, she stabs Frankie to death on the beach. All good, right? Well, Harry doesn’t seem convinced. Not yet.
Flashback to Cora and her mom Elizabeth (Enid Graham). The little girl kneels in the yard in the middle of the night, praying to God for her sister. The recurring theme is religious fanaticism. Mom found the stash, the chocolate bar. She says “one bite” could mean God will decide to let Phoebe die. Holy fuck. It’s like everything wrong with Cora’s sister is blamed on her, in some way. A life of having sin heaped upon her, sin that isn’t her own.
Another flash to Mason and Cora in bed together, what looks like their first time. Or at least the first time Mason is about to go down on her and she almost cracks his neck in half, squeezing her thighs around his throat. When he asks what happened, she replies: “I dont know.” Although we know, at least in part. There’s a terrifying trauma in there somewhere.
Caitlin, talking to Mason, lets slip bits of the story concerning his wife and Frankie, the secret history. Naturally, it rocks him. All the while Dt. Ambrose continues combing through evidence, to find a better answer. He goes to Carl’s Taproom, where Cora met Frankie. The bartender remembers her, though confirms a different man than Frankie being with her, also mentioning she was extremely drunk. Might be possible something non-consensual happened that night. Cora is absolutely not telling the whole truth.
The big news? Harry gets over to Frankie’s parents place. Turns out, their boy wasn’t even on the same coast as Cora that Fourth of July. Oh, shit. Moreover, the cops are coming up with more lies she’s told. They have to dig much, much deeper.
Pic 3Another flashback to young Cora, her mom, sick little Phoebe. “Youre not doing your part,” the hideous mother says. She makes Cora tell her sister she isn’t better because she’s “a sinner” and took the chocolate bar. This poor little girl grew up having to bear the brunt of all the supposed sins her parents blamed on her. That could really fuck a girl up.
Ambrose: “The truth is my job
In the interrogation room Harry presses Cora harder than before. He’s getting pissed off about her lying. He even puts on the song she heard that day. You can see by the look in her eyes it dredges up horrible memories. Finally, she jumps on top of the detective, pounding him and screaming: “Im gonna kill you!” WHOA.
Mason comes to see his wife. He mentions J.D. and knowing him before they met. He’s also getting pissed. The person he pledged to love in sickness and in health won’t tell him the truth. This sends him off looking for J.D. in any place he can think, old buddies from his younger days. Uh oh. I feel something bad coming.
There’s also a tenderness we see in Harry, after he and his wife start their reconciliation. While they eat dinner a bird flies into their patio door. He picks it up, nurturing the bird and helping it fly once more. Not long later he also has an epiphany about Cora. She smashed him on the chest in specific places. Right where she stabbed Frankie. And she hit Harry the same amount of times she stabbed him, too. A pattern. She’s subconsciously repeating that pattern. I assume it’s got something to do with what happened to her as a girl.
But there’s really no telling. Cora is an enigma, wrapped in a mindfuck. Who knows what the key will be to unlock all her mysteries.
Pic 4Pic 4AHonestly, the first episode was good! Enough to get me into the whole concept. This episode blew me out of the water. I never expected the twists that came here, nor the final little revelation Harry has about the wounds. Interested for Part 3. So much dark, dangerous stuff to explore.

The Sinner – Part 1

USA’s The Sinner
Part 1
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Derek Simonds

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
Pic 1Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) works in a warehouse, looking after business for a heat and air specialist company at which her husband Mason (Christopher Abbot) works. They’re a simple family, they have dinner with his parents a couple times a week and the grandparents look after the kids. Cora calls her husband a “mamas boy” for all the time they spend with them. Not to mention they work with pops at the company, too. A nice, quaint life.
At the same time it’s predictable. Friday nights are for fucking, just like everything seems to have its place, every aspect of their lives is plotted out. She has to take a pill before they get in bed. Doesn’t bode well for their relationship as we see it from the omnipotent angle. Something about Cora’s vacant eyes when they have sex is chilling. This is not a happy woman.
Bowing to the more patriarchal aspects of marriage and motherhood, she looks like a woman stuck. Not that she doesn’t love her husband or their child. She loves them so much that she appears to have forced herself into a life that isn’t what she wants. All this is without words, as well. All by way of Biel’s expressions, the way she looks at others. You can see her existing in her own head while the world goes on around her.
There’s a great metaphor in how, when they go swimming Cora goes out past the rope on her own, past where people are meant to swim. Like it’s something she has to do, compelled to. She puts herself under the water and holds her breath awhile, long as she can.
She returns to her husband freaking out a bit. “I wanted some quiet,” she tells him.
On the beach, a young couple groping catches her attention, making her feel strange. Out of nowhere Cora attacks the man, stabbing him in the neck with a steak knife, stabbing his chest, over and over telling him to “get off her.” Before Mason can pull her away, it’s over. He’s bleeding out. People are screaming. Nobody knows why it happened.
Problem is, neither does Cora. Naturally she’s carted off by the cops.
Pic 1ALooks like this is a case for Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), a bit of a grizzled dude with rough fingernails, possibly liver troubles from drinking, or could be something else. Either way, he’s out on the beach faced with the murder of the poor young dude at the hands of a stranger. Along with Detective Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood). Plenty of witnesses. But if they want to find a motive, this one’s like a needle in a massive stack of identical-looking needles.
There’s something in Cora’s past. We see glimpses of her upbringing, her praying. Only brief. It’s clear that we’ll find at least partial answers there. I don’t think this is going to be as simple as some exploitative abuse angle, though there’s no telling just yet. It simply feels bigger, more complex than that.
The detectives are meeting with Cora, laying out the next steps in what will happen from here on. They advise her to call a lawyer. She refuses. Knowing what she did, yet not sure why. She can’t produce any reason for doing so. Also, what are the shots of the black wallpaper in her head? Or is it the pattern of curtains, a duvet? Is it a key to unlocking her past? We’ve seen it a couple times now, directly linked with her. Visions. Puzzle pieces to some kind of trauma in her childhood.
Cora: “I just did it. And I dont know why.”
Pic 2Nice audio touch, as Cora suffers in her cell for the night without her medication and the sound that played on the beach before she killed the man pounds in her ears, like it’s coming through speakers. She sees images of her crime flash through her mind. So, she drops to the floor. On her knees, in prayer.
Dt. Ambrose is a troubled dude. The black fingernails aren’t liver damage. They’re bloodied, bruised fingernails from having them stepped on by a lady friend of his he goes to see now and then. Lord, Harry. Bit of S&M, baby! Dude does enjoy his drink, though.
Everyone’s life is torn apart. Mason is having a hard time, he hasn’t gone to see his wife since she’s been in jail. It’s tough. He was there, having witnessed the murder. Not understanding from where this bout of rage exploded. He mentions to Dt. Ambrose what she said after the attack to the girlfriend of the man: “Youre okay. Youre safe. Hes gone now.” As if she were saving the woman from something.
Pic 3We’re offered a glimpse of Cora as a girl. She’s meeting her sister for the first time. Her mother, essentially, blames her for the sick new baby they have. That after her, there was no more strength left in the mother for another child. All this under the guise of being a test from God. Already we can see there’s a religious angle to whatever trauma Cora experienced when she was young.
Finally, Mason goes to visit her in jail. He’s struggling to understand it all. The cruel irony is that she is in the same boat. She’s willing to admit maybe there’s “something wrong” with her. He’d rather believe it was a momentary lapse, a psychotic break out of nowhere. So obvious there’s far more to the story lurking below. On top of everything, they’re going to have to figure out where to go from here, in their relationship. She accepts what’s coming, from jail to her husband maybe having to move on. That’s not something he’s ready to hear.
Dt. Ambrose goes to see the others present when the victim was killed. The girlfriend, specifically, though she’s sedated. One of the guy’s present doesn’t have much to say, until the cop starts poking at him for not having tried to save his friend. This prompts what he’s looking for: the guy mentions his friend grabbed her by the elbow, that he was a strong guy, and it’s strange because he didn’t do anything. Ambrose susses out it was like “he let her kill him.” As if he knew her, recognised her after the first stab in his neck, then let what happened happen.
Could it possibly be? Will Ambrose pursuit it even if Cora doesn’t know it herself?
Pic 4Man, I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much. Then I realised Antonio Campos was directing this episode, and I’m willing to watch anything he does or is involved with, full stop. Biel impressed me, big time. Look forward to Part 2.