'The Sinner' season 2: The story so far
So far season 2 has established its characters under a grey palette and each has a story attached to themselves.
'The Sinner' Season 2 started off on an eerie note where the story took us through the mysterious corner of Keller, which just like any small town in the West has a secret it is sitting upon. Treating that secret as a part of the whole, the show concentrates on the murder of two people who are killed by a 13-year-old boy called Julian(Elisha Hening). However, when Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) arrives to help out Detective Heather Novack (Natalie Paul) with the case, it is soon revealed that the town's secret is its commune led by an enigmatic woman named Vera (Carrie Coon).
While Episodes 1 and 2 have left behind several clues to determine what could be the actual reason behind the murders, they have also revealed several stories surrounding the characters. In Season 2, as every character finds a story attached to themselves, the first two episodes have given us enough material to fathom what could possibly happen in the story next.
Watch the promo to Episode 3 below:
As we wait for Episode 3 to take us further into the journey of mind hunting, let's have a look at the story so far and where it has left us.
1. The Mother of All
Vera has been a disagreeable presence in the show. Although Episode 1 only played around with the idea of Vera, Episode 2 revealed who Vera really was. As the head of the Mosswood commune, Vera might be a very important key in unlocking the "whydunnit" question of this season. As she claims that Julian is actually her son, she also throws in a hint at Ambrose "My son is far beyond anything you can understand. You have no idea" clearly stating that Vera, who is the mother of all those residing in the commune, is well aware of the entire situation that took place.
On the other hand, Julian, too, refers to her as his mother stating, "My mother can read minds" which clearly indicates that Vera already knew what was going on inside Julian's head. But if that is true, then why didn't she stop her son from committing the grave deed? Also, when Vera arrived at the foster home to meet Julian, in her tear-ridden state she appears to be whispering something to Julian following which he immediately changes his statement to not guilty. As the showrunner, Derek Simonds puts it, "She has all of the influence and authority of a parent in Julian’s life, but she’s also the leader of this community, and she’s the practitioner of this particular psychological work that she’s very invested in and that she’s raised Julian in the midst of and done the work on him and with him. I think she is much more than a parent."
2. The cursed child
Season 2 follows Julian's story, the 13-year-old boy who poisons his parents to death. While Episode 1 shows Julian under a criminal light, Episode 2 places him as a creature from a different world altogether. As a character, Julian seems to be more exposed now as he is in the middle of a murder case probably because the motel was the first thing that he had seen in ages.
Julian's story takes an interesting turn in Episode 2 where it is revealed that he is often concerned by a particular dream of a dark figure who hurts him in the stomach when he is asleep. Who could that be? Does the dream have anything to do with what Julian has indulged in? Probably yes, probably no. But it is certainly known that while residing in the commune, Julian has had some very bad memories which he is hesitant to talk about. While Julian seems to be constantly under the influence of Vera, there are moments when he- left alone with Ambrose- almost breaks down. It was also revealed that Vera kept her (apparently) son along with a sexual abuser in the commune and she didn't bother about it much.
Probably that is the reason why Julian finds comfort in Ambrose who in his turn assures Julian that he not the only one with a bad past. Probably the dark, hooded figure that Julian saw is a representation of the abuser who might have done something to the boy to drive him to commit such an act.
3. Marin's Narrative
Episode 2 has brought out many secrets, revealing a few and concealing some more. However, the most striking narrative was Marin's. As Heather's love interest with whom she explores her sexuality, Marin is probably the first character to have entered the commune out of sheer intrigue. She is portrayed as a girl who is looking for something desperately but doesn't really know what. As Hannah Gross, who plays the part of Marin, has described, "She is feeling trapped in the town that she is in...She is someone who yearns for more but is not able to put a finger on what exactly this more would be.
Probably that is why she and Heather sneak into the commune almost 10 years before the present incidents took place, she is immediately attracted to the lifestyle as it is very different than what she has known for so long. Although Episode 2 does not show Marin joining the commune, it certainly reveals that things take a very different turn for her in the upcoming episodes that compel her to leave (or disappear). Marin's story acts as a foil to Julian's, where both of them are subjected to the commune's rules and then things turn horribly wrong for them.
Marin could be a significant piece in the puzzle, and probably once it's known why she had left then Julian's own reason behind the killings will gain momentum. The promo to Episode 3 ends with Heather gasping out an "Oh no", which might indicate the fact that she has come across some dire truth about Marin's disappearance.
4. Imposter Parents
With Vera stating that she is Julian's real mother, the story of Episode 1 is overturned where Mr. and Mrs. Lowry were depicted as his parents. If Vera is truly her son then who are these people?
As Vera states in the second episode, the couple was taking care of Julian in her absence. But when Ambrose mentions that the two of them did not pack anything for Julian ("What kind of parents don't pack for their kids on a vacation?") Vera immediately assures him saying that they had simply forgotten his bag back at home. Mr. and Mrs. Lowry presence not only accelerated the plot's pace but has left some grave questions regarding Vera and the commune.
If they were truly escaping with Julian, then why were they doing so?
5. The Great Escape
The Lowry's apparent attempt to escape the commune along with Julian reveals quite a lot about the life at the commune. While it appears to be an absolutely peaceful place where people live with the bare minimum they have, it certainly holds some dark secrets to itself.
Mr. and Mrs. Lowry appeared to be two perfectly happy individuals who are very much in love with each other. However, it is unnerving to realize that they could have been the ones to kill Julian if he had not killed them first. As Julian has already mentioned that Vera could read minds, maybe she already knew what was going in their minds. She is probably the one who instigated Julian to poison the two when they were on their great escape because she was already aware of the mind's plans.
6. The Edenic Mosswood
Episode 2 reveals the isolated camp of Mosswood Commune where people live as ordinarily as possible, and as Vera explains to Ambrose, the members of the commune do "the work" in order to "shine a light on inner shadow […] and encounter parts inside you.” It is interesting to note that the word "cult" has not been used to refer to Mosswood, instead, it has been called a "commune".
When Heather and Marin pave their way through the woods into the commune, they meet a group of people who invite them to join them. Marin is immediately attracted to this hypothetical Garden of Eden and lets one of the people lead her to a barn where Heather discovers a mysterious stone structure years later. Mosswood has been presented as a community that evolved for therapeutic reasons but in an odd way. As Simonds explains it, "There’s no God or figurehead in Mosswood. There’s no belief system. It’s about deep self-exploration, so it has a very therapeutic, psychological aspect to it."
What could actually give Mosswood's presence in the season its real character trait is Ambrose's entry into the commune. Most people residing in the commune are either sexual offenders, outcasts, thieves and so on. If Ambrose is in anyway introduced to the commune it might help him know secrets about his mother with whom he doesn't share the conventional relationship. As much as Mosswood depicts a utopian community, it wouldn't be a surprise if the upcoming episodes reveal it as a hunting ground for menacing characters like Vera.
7. Harry Ambrose's troubled mind
Harry Ambrose is probably the only one who Julian can speak to without the fear of being misunderstood. In Episode 2, Ambrose manages to gain Julian's confidence by telling a story of his own childhood, thus revealing that Keller has its own share of trauma in store for Ambrose.
Ambrose is the closest that Julian could get to the outer world, other than Mosswood. Hence, he tells about his dream to Ambrose who realizes that there is much more to the commune than what meets the eye. Ambrose also revealed it to Julian that he was himself a foster child and was not taken care of. In order to win over the boy's confidence, he lets Julian ask him anything he wants to. Julian chooses an innocent question about his beard to which Ambrose replies, "I think I have a weak chin, and with the beard, it feels more imposing. I can get people to respect me more."
This brief encounter reveals two things: firstly, Julian's mind does not work as a criminal's. When left alone with Ambrose he would probably have a rather stainless conversation with him than speak more about his fears. On the other hand, it also reveals that Ambrose plays almost a father-figure to Julian who has not known anything beyond his life in the commune. Stuck between his own memories and Julian's dreams, Ambrose might find himself in some uncomfortable situations in the upcoming episodes. As Simonds rightly puts it, "Ambrose was never designed to be the kind of character like Sherlock Holmes who’s so much smarter than everyone else, has everything figured out. He’s a real human being in the world, but I think his superpower is his empathy, and his openness because of his own pain, his openness to understanding other people’s pain.”
8. The Dream
Probably the most significant aspect of Episode 2 was Julian's dream, where he is seen lying on the bed and a dark hooded figure approaches him and presses him in the stomach. While there are theories which suggest the figure to be Vera, there is a possibility that the hooded figure is actually the sexual offender who resides in the commune.
The dream speaks volumes about Julian's character. At first, he is immediately recognized to be of his real age that is an absolute contrast to the crime he has committed. He fears danger, he is scared when left alone, and his memory is sharp enough (like any teenager's) to produce dreams out if his real-life nightmares. Secondly, the dream serves as a push for the plot. It can be speculated that a lot of the upcoming episodes will refer to the dream since it holds a key role in defining Julian. Also, Julian spoke about the dream only to Ambrose but is Vera aware of it?
Probably Julian has kept the dream from Vera since it might reveal some secret which he does not want to give out. While the hooded figure almost resonates the masked vision that Cora used to have in Season 1, it again proves that Julian might have had a sinister upbringing.