'The Sinner' Season 2: The mystery intensifies as the detective deals with a child killer while sifting through his own past
Cora put her viewers under speculation if a murderer is born or made, and Julian is here to help find out is the murderer's grief should be considered.
When detectives Heather and Ambrose set out to unravel the hidden mystery behind a boy who poisoned and killed his parents, they discover truths which will take them back to their own moments of trauma. Natalie Paul's Heather Novack, the apparent assistant of Bill Pullman's Detective Harry Ambrose, is a woman as damaged as her mentor. When it comes to interpreting clues in order to find out the answer to the question "whydunnit" instead of "whodunnit", the two detectives empathize with their subjects.
Just as season 1 of 'The Sinner' treated Ambrose's story like a foil to Cora's tale of trauma and suspense, Heather's story is yet to be explored in its wholeness in Season 2. When talking about the basic connection between the two characters, Ambrose and Heather, Paul said, "It becomes this unlikely friendship or team that develops between Heather and Ambrose...They actually both have their own demons or sins or whatever that they are carrying. ... That becomes a point of suspicion between the two. We're definitely a team, but I'm like, 'Wait. Who is this guy? What is he hiding? Why did he leave our hometown?'"
Just as Paul points out this story is not just about the 11-year-old boy named Julian (played by Elisha Henig), it is about removing the sheet from all the hidden debris of the past which have accumulated over the years to create the characters who have now taken the central stage in Jessica Biel's 'The Sinner' Season 2. The first episode doesn't do much other than introducing the plot. It picks up with the unknown couple (played by Adam David Thomson and Ellen Adair) who are on their way to the Niagara Falls with their son Julian. They are however unable to complete the journey and eventually pull up at a motel. As the fate of every character goes, nothing possibly good can happen at a motel, right! So, nothing good happens here too.
The couple is eventually poisoned by their son, leaving him in a deeply disturbed state. The sheer genius of the scene where the bodies are arranged around the room in a bizarre way subtly shifted the mood from terror to disgust and immediately coils into a sense of despair as Julian's sunken eyes reflect the guilt of his act. It has been established who the murderer is, just like in Season 1. However, the answers are yet to be pinned down. Although it might sound like Season 2 is inclining more towards what Season 1 has already done, this season is just as alarming as the first one. In fact, it is even more hurtful to watch a young boy indulge in such a criminal act rather than watching a middle-aged mother lose her mind upon a song.
Every psychological thriller has a subplot which reveals the innocence (or sometimes the villainy) of the murderer. 'The Sinner' is no different. Just as Season 1 was successful in establishing the fact that sometimes people do not murder out of will but out of a much deep-rooted cause of anger, Season 2 walks through the similar track only this time the murderer is well aware of what he has done. Julian's character does not ask for empathy, at least not in the first episode. It's more about sympathy for the boy whose parents were apparently the members of a cult led by the overshadowing character of Vera (played by Carrie Coon).
Let's remove all doubts right here, no Vera is not the villain. She is, in fact, the leader of the isolated cult from where Season 2 gets its victims and its murderer. Although Vera does not have much to do in the first episode, she certainly is an odd character- somewhat cringe-worthy, probably. Her backyard is a place for some sort of unique methods of therapy in which Julian would be often involved. She is probably that freaky woman in the neighborhood with mysterious objects inside a barn, and maybe she is someone who has the answers to a lot many things. Maybe that is why she warns the detectives about their ignorance regarding Julian who "is so far beyond anything you can understand. You have no idea.”
As mentioned before, Season 2 is like an act of unwinding past experiences. Of course, Julian is the central character and he is the one that the viewer will mostly look out for, for the rest of the season. However, Heather and Ambrose have their own share of stories to tell. Season 1 gave a glimpse into Ambrose's personal life which had fallen apart after his split from his wife. While he tries to cope with a failing marriage he submits himself to a dominatrix who almost chokes him to death in their intimate moments. Season 2 then sees Ambrose coming back to his home-town where Julian used to reside with his parents.
Along with Heather, the detective who had asked Ambrose to take up the case, he comes across some uncomfortable truths about himself. However, he is not the only one who gets a revelation. Just as Ambrose's story was the point of intrigue in Season 1, Heather's character shines brighter in the otherwise grey plot of 'The Sinner. She is haunted by the memory of her long-lost love, Marin (played by Hannah Gross, the hippie girl from 'Mindhunter'), who had mysteriously disappeared from the town one day. Heather's character is probably something to look out for, she is a woman in a man's profession and a gay in a community with conservative ideas about love and family.
The two protagonists of 'The Sinner' are set apart, and the brilliance of the show lies in the fact that both characters are introduced to the viewer for their unnerving crimes. Yet, the viewer cannot help but feel helpless about these characters. Cora Tannetti won people's hearts with her radical presentation of a girl who had misjudged herself due to the missing memories of her past. Cora was a girl who grew up in a conservative Catholic family along with her younger sister, Phoebe, who had a "cheese for a heart". Cora was never allowed to have a mind of her own, her only will to freedom was through her sister whose undaunting spirit ultimately pushed Cora off the edge.
As things begin to take shape in Cora's memory, it is soon discovered that she was a victim of rape while her sister was murdered. Cora's act of murder can, therefore, be justified. However, Julian- as of the first episode- does not have any such dark memories attached to his life. He is only 11 after all. However, Julian's age makes him vulnerable enough to influences, and that can be dangerous. Probably, this is the part where Vera's character will gain its significance. Julian and his family have been a part of Vera's cult for a long time, and Julian has been a subject of Vera's experimental therapies in her backyard.
That could be the reason that had instigated Julian to indulge in the unnatural act. It is easy for any child to lie or hide things, and so far Julian has been doing that quite well. The only way to actually know what has been going on inside Julian's head is to get him to talk. Julian's innocence is contradicted with demonic sounds on the background that act like a contrast to his piety. Just as Cora's cue was the song 'Huggin and Kissin', the demonic sounds and loud growlings in the background serve as a foil to Julian's act of murder. It is almost an indication of the fact that a "child's sins are never his own".
It can be said that 'The Sinner' took up from where 'Mindhunter' had left, finding the answer to the question "why do it?" as opposed to the usual question "who did it?". As Holden Ford goes around interviewing the murderers and the criminals, who range from a pedophile to a serial killer, he soon finds himself terrified by the minds of these sinners. It is because of the reason that sinners don't think like the way normal people do. Sinners often have the tendency of never letting go of a past which has driven them mad throughout their childhood.
Yet, sinners are also people and this is the exact thing which finds prominence in USA Network's 'The Sinner'. What Ford had set out to do, Ambrose put it to use. He unmasked the sinner to find the grief-stricken child within, and then unravel the mystery which led to one of the most condemned sins of all- execution. It will be interesting to find out how Season 2 justifies a child's crime and what will be the outcome of it. But as of now, the 11-year-old boy is a sinner and it is disturbing to see him sitting with his sullen face as the elders around him try to dig deeper into his memory to discover the reality.