Wednesday, August 29, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Sinner' - Ambrose and Heather's Obsession with the Case Becomes Damaging in 'Part V'

USA's The Sinner - Episode 2.05 "Part V"

As Ambrose zeroes in on a new suspect, a rift develops between him and Heather.

"Part V" confirms that Marin is Julian's biological mother. Vera is the woman who has always raised him though. She's the one he believes to be his mother. And yet, Heather is willing to confront Vera about this lie because she believes it's important to her case. It could further expose the scope of deception that is currently swirling around Mosswood. She is desperately looking for her friend. She is yearning for answers regarding the person she loved more than anyone else. This episode also starts to provide more of those answers regarding Marin. Sure, she is still mostly treated as a mystery instead of a well-rounded character whose development is important for the audience. She represents a new way into Mosswood. So far, the show has only explored this community from the outside perspective. Ambrose and Heather have always been the entries into that world for the audience. As such, we were suppose to see Mosswood skeptically because that's the way that they viewed it. They were seeing a community of people that were clearly hiding something that could be so prevalent to why Julian killed two people. With Marin and Vera though, they see Mosswood as the place where they could do meaningful work on themselves. Sure, it's unclear if the purpose of Mosswood is to build a perfect utopia of individuals who have perfect clarity on their lives or if they are simply helping people with the intention of sending them back to the real world. And yet, that uncertainty is also a huge component of this place. The leaders are welcoming to all. But it's also vital to see that they each have their own agendas as well. It's a place full of conflicting interests. Sure, the community is united with a specific mission and that mindset has altered the way Julian sees the world. But it's also clear that the lack of focus can be really damaging too. Vera believes she has all of the answers. She may indeed have them but is unable to really express the value that they have to the community around her.

In the past, Mosswood was operating more distinctly as cult. When Lionel Jefferies was the man in charge, he prided himself on being the leader. He was the trained therapist who actually had the skills and knowledge to help people. His methods caused scandal in the rest of the world. And so, he created this community so that he could continue practicing in his own way. It's so traumatic and violent though. This hour really highlights the violence that comes out of the people who spend time in Mosswood. The mission statement seems to be to dig deep to one's true self. And yet, Lionel's tactics seem to be encouraging a lot of repulsive behavior. He completely justifies it all too by saying that it's an emotional burden shared by the entire group. There is no longer any individual pain. The path to true enlightenment comes from helping others on their journey towards clarity. That's a mission that has clearly seeped in for Vera. She is willing to embrace everything that Lionel says even though it leads to her being physically assaulted. When it's pointed out that this behavior is wrong, Vera just sees it as the cost of the work. She is a true believer in these practices. It's still clear that she's made uneasy by a number of the practices. Lionel wants the community to get attached to a goat just so it can release the pain of humanity when it's slaughtered. Meanwhile, he doesn't want any children in this community because he sees it as an impure distraction. People can't be good parents if they are still completing the work on themselves. It doesn't matter that Marin is pregnant with his baby. Julian is a product of rape. Those aren't the words the characters use to describe the situation. But it's exactly what happened. Lionel would only let Marin stay if she slept with him. So, this guy really is just a depraved individual using his superiority complex in order to trick people into believing the importance of this work.

Of course, it's still working. People are still believing the teachings of Mosswood. Julian is struggling in the real world because he doesn't understand prison or court. He simply does what he is told. He answers yes to the judge after being prompted by his attorney. He is punished no matter what he does while in prison. It's so disorientating to him. He believes he must be the problem. He has to be doing something wrong. He doesn't have the clarity to know that the system is corrupt and broken. He doesn't know how inhumane it is to lock children in solitary confinement. He still has a friend in Ambrose who is willing to always tell him the truth. That is a huge component of their growing attachment to one another. Whenever Ambrose isn't staying with Jack, he is renting out the hotel room where Julian killed Adam and Bess. He is once again becoming obsessed with this case. But the narrative is also playing tricks with his mind. It's making a big deal out of this missing time from his head. He and Vera were together but Ambrose has no recall. He only remembers waking up in the hotel room with his belongings. The hotel manager is able to explain that he checked in alone at 4am. Ambrose is immediately confrontational with Vera. He believes she did something to him. He doesn't understand what went on. He doesn't trust her. She has presented no reason for him to trust her. She only begins to establish that connection by confirming that Marin is Julian's biological mother. She still views herself as the parent who has always been there for Julian. She is trying to protect him now even though she's also shielding him from some of the more unfortunate details about the case. All of this feels important. Vera probably understands the depths of Ambrose and his trauma in this community. But the show is also withholding those answers from Ambrose and the audience until closer to the end of the season when he may start to unravel.

And yet, Ambrose and Heather are both finding themselves becoming too emotionally invested with this investigation. Ambrose wants to prove that Julian isn't responsible for his actions. Julian's lawyer worries that the self-defense argument won't be enough. There are still too many mysteries lingering about what Adam and Bess were planning. It's clear that they were getting help from the outside world. This storage locker was already stocked and ready to accept Julian. Everything there was for him. The only piece of evidence that Heather could use to further pursue the case was the old video. That does produce a new lead with Glenn Fisher being pointed out as another secret Mosswood acolyte in town. He did show a keen interest in Ambrose's investigation earlier this season. But Ambrose is also conducting himself inappropriately as the investigation continues. He literally breaks into Glenn's house. He immediately thinks it's damaging information upon learning that the Fisher family owns the land that Mosswood occupies. He sees Glenn as being complicit in this whole operation. There is even video proof that he was associated with the group and became violent because of the teachings there. It's still illegal for Ambrose to be breaking into Glenn's house though. That continues to prove just how erratic and untrustworthy Ambrose is becoming in this investigation. He is upset when Heather goes to her chief saying that Ambrose should go back to his old precinct. She no longer needs his help with this case. The Mosswood investigation will still be ongoing but things already seem wrapped up with Julian. She is doing so in order to protect her career. Ambrose sees it as a betrayal from a town that is unable to ever tell the truth about what's actually going on. Of course, Ambrose is a byproduct of that as well. He confronts Jack about this without being able to really express how he is feeling either about what has been going on here. It's further proof that Ambrose has always been a horrible friend.

But again, Heather is invested in the outcome of this case too. She is also becoming obsessed with getting an answer. She presents her theory to her chief about Marin possibly being killed and thrown into a lake on the Mosswood property. There is simply no record of her existing in the outside world even though Vera claims Marin left shortly after Julian was born. That further highlights how Mosswood isn't really capable of handling real psychological problems. They pride themselves on opening communication and honesty. And yet, it doesn't seem like Marin was able to get the help she needed when showing the symptoms of postpartum depression. Julian wasn't just her baby either. He was the baby for the entire community. Lionel had grand plans for him. Sure, it also seems like he wishes to sacrifice the children just like he did with the goat. That could possibly explain why he is no longer the leader of Mosswood. No update is given as to what happened to him. Vera still has respect for him. She still keeps his picture around. But he is no longer the beacon who makes all of the decisions. Vera is now in charge and she prides herself on being more welcoming. She is still keeping the truth hidden because she believes outsiders simply couldn't understand the way things are done at Mosswood. Heather sees them as killers. But again, it's difficult to make sense of the shifting motives because the acolytes in Mosswood could be different from those in the neighboring town. It's enough to make anyone grow paranoid. Glenn is revealed as a potential agent in town. Jack claims he has never been to Mosswood. But it's also so difficult to trust anyone at their word. It's only certain that everyone is keeping their own secrets - some that they know and some that they have heavily repressed because of some trauma.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Part V" was written by Samir Mehta and directed by Cherien Dabis.
  • Heather really is emotionally stunted in a lot of ways because of the death of her mother and the disappearance of Marin. She lost these important relationships back-to-back. Sure, she came out to her father and became a detective in the local police. But she is also so unsure about a lot of her actions. Her instincts have been right for a lot of the case. She just doesn't have the confidence to stand firm with her decisions and face whatever the repercussions may be.
  • Heather is also never really sure what to call her relationship with Marin. Them being friends doesn't really encapsulate everything that they were. Heather was pining after Marin in a way that wasn't always reciprocated. Marin grew out of those feelings while they only intensified for Heather. And yet, are the people in the case able to deduce that Marin was more than just a friend? Or are they just taking things at face value which would allow Heather to keep working the case?
  • The sound design is really important for Lionel's therapy at Mosswood. It's the technique that has been passed down to Vera as well now that she's the one performing the work. That specific beat is apparently able to help people reach their inner selves. It helps them get to the truth. As such, it's ominous whenever someone in town is seen with one of those machines. It proves that they are still practicing those teachings.
  • Julian reveals to Ambrose that his scary dream actually happened. It wasn't just his fear of being unable to move when someone terrifying was coming to hurt him. A few weeks ago someone really did sneak into his room trying to take him away. Vera is trying to get him to accept that it was only a nightmare. But he knows it was real. He just doesn't know who the person was or where he was going to take him.
  • There's a really random scene late in the hour that shows what happened when a young Ambrose went to visit his mother at the psychiatric facility. It happens after the fire that occurred at their home. He is wondering when they will be able to go back home as a family. Instead, she is just trying to help him cope with the weird smell that seems to define his new foster home. It'll be important later on I'm suspecting. It's just a random inclusion here.