Wednesday, August 30, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Sinner' - A New Detective Complicates the Investigation for Cora and Ambrose in 'Part V'

USA's The Sinner - Episode 1.05 "Part V"

The discovery of a body in the woods leads to more questions for everyone.

At its core, The Sinner is a mystery show. It's a different type of mystery show than the norm. But it's still fundamentally about a detective investigating a crime. In this case, Ambrose is delving into Cora's past in order to unravel the mysterious missing time that could explain all of her actions in the present. He's putting in more effort on this case than a detective usually would. Most would have been absolutely fine with her wanting to plead guilty and begin her sentence in jail. Instead, Ambrose has been drawn to Cora. He's intrigued by her story and wants to bring some peace to her life. He may not be able to keep her out of jail. But he can bring her answers to mysteries she didn't even know she was traumatized by. This season is just eight episodes. And yet, the narrative needs to be utilizing plot complications in order to hinder this investigation from making too much progress too quickly. Last week's episode closed with the bombshell reveal of a dead body in the woods. Ambrose was able to find it out there because of the little clues from Cora's memory therapy. They didn't make sense to her. But they did build up to an overwhelming picture for Ambrose on where to look. He was open to the environment around him and discovered the body. But now, the show is impeding the progress of this investigation by bringing a new detective onto the case. This is now a completely separate murder investigation that Ambrose doesn't have complete control over. As such, it's a complication because the new detective is basically the type who doesn't want to look too closely into the psyche of the woman at the center of this case.

Of course, that's completely Ambrose's own failing as well. He doesn't know how to communicate with the rest of the world. That may be attributed to his own upbringing where he was an only child who enjoyed spending hours alone in the woods listening to nature. That's a detail about his life that he's only comfortable sharing with Cora at this point. Their connection is getting stronger and more genuine. He's telling her to hold strong for a couple more days and she's willing to listen to him. She has trust in him now. But Ambrose isn't able to articulate his thought process to the rest of the world. He's an excellent detective. He's already pursuing a new lead that is clearly going to pay off in a big way in the future. But he doesn't seem to be doing things the right way either. It's perfectly fine for him to wander around the woods and want the information of everyone who could have access to the private property where the body was discovered near. He believes that could produce a suitable lead for this investigation. But he also takes it upon himself to look around this private club without permission. He discovers the wallpaper that has been haunting Cora for all of this time. He just doesn't realize it yet. More importantly though, he finds masks in the basement that the audience knows are the ones the masked man is wearing in Cora's memories. So, this is clearly the place where Cora was taken and traumatized. There just isn't a clear motive for it yet. Plus, Ambrose's actions will have consequences because he's becoming a lone wolf who isn't letting anyone else in on his investigation.

Sure, Ambrose is able to convince the new detective on the case not to bring in J.D. for questioning because they are still just forming a case. But that just means Detective Farmer will spend her time looking elsewhere. She is fully brought up to speed on what has been happening on the record regarding this case. Of course, there has been a lot going on off the record as well. It's enough to make her suspicious about why Ambrose cares so much about Cora. The audience is aware that there is nothing romantic going on in their dynamic. But this new woman isn't wrong to suspect that especially because of the profession she works in. She is always inherently skeptically and suspicious of people. She has experienced enough on the job to know better. And yet, those experiences are also clouding her judgment on this case. She believes the police were led to this body because Cora was angling for a better deal. That's not the case at all. Cora didn't even know that that's what she was doing. She was just looking for the answers within her own mind about what happened to her. Ambrose created this complicated situation for everyone. He did so without telling Cora. And now, Farmer is looking at Cora as a murder suspect. She already sees her as a killer because she plead guilty to killing Frankie. As such, she's forceful in her handling of this case.

The show is also very aware that Cora is a very susceptible person. She has a hidden strength to her. It's believable that she could kill a person. But it's also believable that her actions and motivations can be affected by anyone she is with for a long period of time. That's a consequence of her upbringing as well. She was raised to believe that every horrible decision she made would have grave consequences for Phoebe. The sisterly bond goes much deeper than that. They are planning to escape this household. It's Phoebe's dream because she wants to get as far away from this horrifying situation as possible. The only good thing about her life is Cora. That makes it so tragic that Phoebe dies when Cora was missing. Cora was taken from her and that loss ultimately killed her. Cora is only now starting to realize that. She feels guilty because of it. But in the moment, it was easy to see J.D. as her knight in shining armor. He saved her from the creepy guy she was suppose to be meeting. But the manipulations of J.D. are present in this situation as well. All he has to do is empower her with words that make her feel different and beautiful. It's him being a complete player. But she has no experience or way to deal with that. Instead, she fully falls in love with him while completely ignoring what staying out all night will do to her sister. She then feels guilty about that as well. The burden of the entire world is on her. She can't experience anything for herself. She always has to do what's right for her family. The only escape was her tragic kidnapping. It provided her with a clear break but damaged her in other ways.

All of this makes it seem incredibly likely that Detective Farmer will succeed in her coercion of Cora. She is pushing for her to plead guilty to this new murder. She's working her hard. She's telling Cora that it's possibly that she killed this person and doesn't even remember doing it. That's very possible because that missing time is still such a mystery to Cora. She gets another flash of memory that shows her under the bed with her head bandaged up when the man with the mask walks in and finds her. It still doesn't reveal anything new. It's this strange and mysterious puzzle that she has yet to solve. She feels she can confide in Ambrose. She trusts him. She can talk with him for as long as the prison will allow on the phone. But Cora is incredibly tired and defeated as well. She's ready for all of this to be over. She's wondering if she can ever have God in her life again in a healthy way. Her fellow prisoners say it's possible and she's opening up to the idea. But that's also setting up the expectation that she is about to confess to this crime even though she has no idea if she did it. That coupled with Farmer's coercion makes a powerful case that that is where the story is heading. And then, the show completely surprises the audience in revealing Cora's strength once more. She has the resolve to not make any deals because that's what Ambrose told her to do. She may not be able to hang on for much longer. But right now, she still has the strength to explore what truly happened to her and what it means for her future. Of course, her blood is revealed to be on the body. So maybe Cora did kill this person after all.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Part V" was written by Jesse McKeown and directed by Cherien Dabis.
  • It's not surprising in the slightest that Faye decides that she no longer wants to try working on her marriage with Ambrose. She still feels all alone with him. He took her out on a hike but didn't tell her that he was looking for clues regarding Cora's case. If he did, then maybe things would have been different. Because he didn't, it made her feel inconsequential to his life once more.
  • Faye deciding to end the marriage sends Ambrose right back to his dominatrix friend. That's still such a strange subplot this season. It's meant to make him feel powerless while also being alive. But there's only so much of the torture that he can take this week. Instead, he ends up curled up in a ball on the floor not knowing what to feel.
  • Mason's mother isn't wrong to suggest that the family should get out of town for a little while. The discovery of the new body brings the murder case back to their doorsteps. They are losing business because no one wants to be associated with them. And yet, Mason doesn't want to move. He is adamant about staying here for Cora even though it's clear he's on the verge of doing something horrible and stupid.
  • And then, Mason's father gets attacked. It's J.D. who beats him up. It's a surprising moment. It's one that further traumatizes this family. They've already been through so much. It's an action that pushes Mason over the edge. He knows J.D. did it. And now, he's going to get his revenge by killing him. That's a dark twist that proves the impact Cora's traumatized mind has had on all of the people around her and not just her.
  • Detective Farmer arrests J.D.'s new girlfriend who is selling drugs. It's her strategy for sending a message to J.D. while not actually bringing him in for questioning. But it's a move that more than likely gets Mason's dad in the hospital and pushes Mason to do what he's about to do. So, it's clear that this detective's ignorance of the situation can be quite destructive as well.