TV TV Recaps

“The Sinner” Ep.2.02: “Part II”

 One of the best things about “The Sinner” is that it’s not afraid to take its time. I do love shows that barrel through plot, as evidenced by my love of all things related to “The Vampire Diaries,” but it is also great to watch shows that really know exactly where they’re going and what they’re doing and really let you live in the moments they create.

The Sinner - Season 2
(l-r) Carrie Coon as Vera Walker, Elisha Henig as Julian Walker |Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network
THE SINNER — “Part II” Episode 202 — Pictured: (l-r) Carrie Coon as Vera Walker, Bill Pullman as Detective Lt. Harry Ambrose — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

“The Sinner” is absolutely that show and I think it’s all the better for it. These are only eight-episode seasons but they really spend time building up to every reveal in a way that feels so realistic. “Part II” accomplishes this task by very carefully unfolding the present mystery of Julian and Vera’s origin along with the current status of Mosswood Grove, the commune where they live. In addition, we’re taken into the recent past to find out Heather has a deeper connection with Mosswood than she’s willing to let on to those around her.

The second episode opens with Julian alone in his room listening to the sounds of the foster home around him before we cut to Vera in the precinct. Harry and Heather decide not to tell her that Julian has confessed to the murders of Adam and Bess, though that doesn’t last for long. I do want to say that Carrie Coon is doing such a subtle but brilliant accent. I can’t really explain it but it’s just odd enough to be unsettling. She insists Adam and Bess forgot Julian’s bag and they’d agreed to pick him up some things on their trip to Niagara Falls. She’s also really upset at the idea of Julian being in a foster home despite it being absolutely the nicest foster home I’ve ever seen depicted onscreen.

It’s during this same conversation where we find out Heather is not being completely open about her relationship to the “utopian community.” When Vera says where she lives Heather visibly tightens her body language in a way that Harry recognizes but doesn’t bring up until they’re alone. When she explains what she knows about Mosswood Grove she still leaves out the most salient point – that she intimately knew a woman who joined up and was then never seen again. We’re given this information in flashbacks throughout the episode. Heather and her friend Marin see the residents of Mosswood from a mountain overlook and decide to go investigate.

In the present day scenes, we get some more mystery surrounding what the actual deal is with Vera. It looks like she kind of hypnotizes Julian when she finally gets to see him again. The fact that he takes back his confession of the murders seems to back this up. Fortunately for the investigation, Vera has to prove her guardianship before the court will release Julian to her, so Harry is given a while longer to interview Julian and try to figure out what’s actually going on with him. He’s granted even more of a reprieve when Vera has only his birth certificate and no other proof of residence or a home school license. One thing that struck me about many of the scenes with Vera this week is that she seems to have a lot of legal knowledge – probably so she can defend her cult-y commune when necessary.

Harry and Heather really want to go out to Mosswood Grove to see if they can find any clues about Adam and Bess and, just as importantly, Vera and Julian. The police chief is very against the idea. Evidently, the police department had earlier run-ins with Mosswood Grove and the chief is not anxious to deal with them again. When the chief says they can’t get a warrant for the compound until Julian is charged, I reached the conclusion that Harry and Heather have not been communicating properly. It’s clear that Harry has some insights on Julian and Heather has insights on Mosswood Grove, but neither of them are telling each other anything of consequence and it makes them both look incompetent which they are absolutely not.

Harry manages to speak to Julian a few more times and the mystery around the child and Mosswood thickens. Julian talks a lot about “outsiders,” the fact that he doesn’t sleep in, and that Vera can read minds. Coupled with Vera’s comment that Julian is “so far beyond anything you can understand, you have no idea,” it paints a picture that gets gradually more supernatural feeling that I can’t decide whether or not they’ll lean into.

Adding to the mysterious and slightly supernatural feel are the flashbacks Heather has of the night she spent at Mosswood with her friend Marin. Heather is very suspicious and uncomfortable the whole time but Marin is almost too willing to burn the things that are important to her and join up with the cult-y behavior. Towards the end of the experience, Marin follows a man into a barn with one last look back at Heather. It’s implied this is the last time Heather ever saw Marin.

Back in the present day Harry is still trying to get some information out of Julian, so he talks about how he was once in foster care as well because there was “an accident” and his mother couldn’t care for him anymore. It’s clear he’s talking about whatever memories we keep getting glimpses of this season where his house burned down. In turn, Julian opens up about his nightmares where the hooded figure I assume is “Shadow Julian” approaches him and sticks his hand through his chest! It is hellish and implied that it’s a recurring nightmare for Julian.

Based on the content of Julian’s nightmares Harry is able to convince the police chief there’s cause to investigate Mosswood, especially after they discover a convicted sex offender is living on the compound as well. They get the go-ahead to go up there the next day, but not before Vera calls Harry smack in the middle of the night to be vaguely threatening.

I’ve got a couple things to say about both Harry and Heather at this point. Given what we know about Harry from season one and these first two episodes, he seems extremely overqualified to work as a detective in a small town. Heather also seems very competent, just with less experience. Both of these statements do kind of go out the window during this episode. It is baffling to me that Harry has no idea how emotionally compromised Heather is about this case. And Heather seems deliberately misleading about her potential knowledge of what’s going on in the compound. I definitely understand it for narrative purposes but it’s inconsistent from a character standpoint.

In any event, Harry, Heather and the other deputy Brick wind up at Mosswood which is in a very architecturally cool building. They get a short tour before they see Julian’s room, which he shares with Vera, and the areas where Bess and Adam slept. It’s pretty much your basic cult stuff including tons of hand-dyed clothes and communal sleeping spaces. Heather looks around expecting to see Marin but doesn’t find her. She does notice there are zero other children on the compound which is alarming. When asked about the sex offender who lives in the compound Vera defends him by saying that he’s completely changed since he’s been doing “The Work.” Every time she says something about the work it sounds capitalized and we don’t really find out too much about it despite a rather lengthy description from Vera about “shining a light on the shadow parts of yourself.”

The strangest part of this episode is the very end, as usual. Heather breaks away from the group and heads over to the barn where she last saw Marin. She sneaks inside and sees lots of fabric hanging to dry from the ceiling. As she walks through the sheets she notices something in the center of the barn. When she gets closer she sees that it’s a huge rock that looks almost like a piece of a henge or something. It’s very odd and she can’t bring herself to touch it. And that’s pretty much how the episode ends. It’s very odd and super unsettling and that’s where we leave off for the week.

I’m so interested to find out what’s going on with that rock. Is it an “Outlander” situation? Is it some kind of sacrificial altar? Is Marin inside it somehow? Who knows? What we do know is that we’ll be getting answers at the exact pace the show wants us to have them and no sooner!

I’ll be live-tweeting “The Sinner” every Wednesday on Shuffle Online at 10/9c. You can follow me at So…I’m Watching This Show

Featured image credit: Peter Kramer/USA Network

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