Wednesday, September 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Sinner' - Vera Shares More of Mosswood's Tragic Past While Heather Makes a Gruesome Discovery in 'Part VI'

USA's The Sinner - Episode 2.06 "Part VI"

Vera reveals Mosswood's past to Ambrose, leading to a turn in Julian's case.

Vera is fundamentally a character who keeps things very close to the vest. She only tells people the truth to an extent. She will only be forthcoming with answers to the point that it serves her own interests. She is trying to protect Julian and Mosswood right now. She is doing her best to keep her way of life operational. She knows there are travesties in the past that could be unearthed. She's been doing her best to keep everything hidden because it would serve no purpose in being exposed now. And yet, the official investigation is looking into the violent past of Mosswood and all the harm that has come out of this community. It was most prominent when it came to Julian killing two people. That's the moment that made everyone stand up and notice the horrors. It became clear that there was more going on in this community than anyone wanted to admit. It may be functioning as a cult that has cultivated some really dangerous people. It's not a safe environment for a child to endure that kind of psychological trauma. But there's also that overwhelming sense of empathy to this story as well. It's easy to feel like Vera and Julian have been victims of this crazy tale too. As such, loyalties and an understanding of the situation keep shifting. Last week it was such a big deal that Julian pleaded not guilty while Ambrose was forced off of the case by Heather. But now, both of those things are no longer relevant. Ambrose and Heather keep each other informed about the various progress they have made while Julian's case is kicked down to family court on reduced charges because of what Ambrose uncovers over the course of this hour. As such, it makes that plot point from last week a little underwhelming and unnecessary. But it also highlights the fragile way many of these characters are trying to keep their lives together. And yet, the world only keeps breaking them apart because the truth is exposing so much of the depressing danger of this community.

Once again, Ambrose isn't acting as a police officer in an official capacity. In fact, he is being very morally corrupt because he is breaking into houses and intimidating people with the use of his badge. Those are serious abuses of power. And yet, the show is using them as plot points in order to advance the story forward. It shows that Ambrose is spiraling once more because he needs to make a difference in Julian's life. He can't simply walk away knowing the fate that he is facing. He sees himself in Julian and knows that he deserves a second chance in his life. Julian has grown up with beliefs that have warped his sense of self. He's comforted by Ambrose continually telling him the truth. Ambrose is always trying to do and say the right thing with Julian. But he's the only person he genuinely cares about at this point. He has no problem stalking Glenn Fisher around town and harassing the escort he has just met with in his car. That leads to the revelation that Glenn enjoys putting out cigarettes on women's feet. That is so specific and yet so horrifying as well. It's repulsive and abusive. It's also behavior that has been encouraged because of the work that he did at Mosswood. This hour shows that he has always welcomed in the violence that was encouraged by Lionel. As such, it's easy to see him as a monster in this community as well. The scope of the corruption and abuse doesn't just stop on the Mosswood grounds. This is an entire system that has been manipulated for personal gain. Ambrose isn't even working to expose all of it. He is simply using it in order to help the one case that he happens to be investigating here.

And so, Ambrose gets his hands on the deposition tape from 2002 that talks about the criminal and violent acts that took place at Mosswood. That escalation of assault has been a core theme throughout the season so far. It's clear that Lionel has taken things to a new and unhealthy level when it comes to his therapy. He believes in not only acting out past traumas but also inflicting that pain on someone else in the group. As such, he is only continuing the cycle of abuse. It means that even more people will be damaged by the experiences and emotions felt by someone in distress. They have the coping mechanism that the pain and injuries are all necessary in order to help the person who was initially destroyed by this trauma. Vera was fine with it for a long time. She never questioned it. She was blindly loyal to everything that Lionel did. He was the leader of this community. His word was law. And yet, it's clear that he has no vision. He just wants to continue manipulating the people who feed into his superiority complex. He believes he has all of the answers. And yet, that has only led to more damaged individuals. People don't get better from this work. They are just tricked into believing that they need to keep working until they find that enlightenment. As such, minds change over the years. However, Julian's birth is enough to kick in the maternal instincts for Vera. She is having a physical reaction to Julian much more than Marin is. It feels like Vera is her actual mother. That only alienates Marin more while making Lionel enraged that everyone is becoming too distracted and suddenly questioning his methods. Of course, Vera is absolutely right to put a stop to the violence. It's wrong but she still believes in the core message of helping people get to their true selves.

Even though she wants Lionel out of the leadership position, Vera still believes in the work and continuing it forward. This hour doesn't explain how she took over Mosswood and what came of Lionel. The show is very deliberate in showing the audience the story as it actually happened. And yet, it cuts back to Vera and Ambrose in the present day for the final details. Vera explains that Lionel just mysteriously left one day because he could no longer be in this society. That's the same explanation that she gave the investigation when talking about Marin. She claims that Marin couldn't handle being a mother and left Mosswood after a couple of years. But here, it's clear that she felt replaced by Vera as a mother. She wasn't needed by Julian anymore. She was simply the body that made him. Afterwards, she couldn't even feed him. Instead, Vera was miraculously able to do that. Her body was somehow able to produce milk even though it wasn't going through the changes resulting from motherhood. As such, Julian has always felt this attachment to Vera. But that also caused Marin to spiral even further into this depression. She's angry that she can't be of any service to this new life. Instead, she is simply treated as a punching bag for the work of someone else in the program. Vera is still a staunch defender of Marin and Julian. She wants mother and son to bond. She knows that Marin isn't right to go back to the work. That's what gets her to stand up and make a change. That moment suggests that Vera poisoned Lionel with tea the same way that Julian did to Adam and Bess. And yet, the show cuts back to the present before confirming that to be true. Again, it's her telling Ambrose just enough to give him the idea that she is being forthcoming while still protecting herself as well. She simply can't tell him that she is also a killer. That would only further lead to Mosswood's destruction.

But this hour is so powerful because it highlights the lengths people will go to in order to avoid telling the truth. It plays as this very revelatory episode where so many answers are given. Vera explains more of Mosswood's tragic past. Heather discovers Marin's body at the bottom of the Purple Lake. The District Attorney received campaign donations from Mosswood in exchange for dropping some cases. And Ambrose confesses to starting the fire that took him away from his mother and into the foster system. These are all big moments. But they are all punctuated by the stress and fear the characters have talking about them. They don't want these fundamental truths exposed. And yet, they feel compelled to share them because they can no longer live in the reality of being blissfully ignorant to the truth and the pain. It's cathartic for Ambrose to tell Julian about what he did when he was a boy. It gives Julian the confidence to confront the monster stalking him in his dreams. That just unfortunately leads to the reveal that the monster may be more real than anyone was expecting. People have already tried to kidnap Julian multiple times. And now, it seems like that has once again occurred after he is released back into the foster home. Vera and Ambrose are able to have these personal moments with Julian. He is still a child traumatized by the world and believing that everyone except Ambrose is lying to him. But now, a situation presents itself where Ambrose is completely wrong. At least that's the perception that the episode wants the audience to believe. Someone sneaks into Julian's room and abducts him. Or it could just as easily be a figment of his imagination telling him he needs to run and escape all of these dangerous people who continue to consume his life. That could also be the direction this story is going in.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Part VI" was written by Nina Braddock and directed by Brad Anderson.
  • A body is pulled out of the lake. Heather immediately assumes that it is Marin. This is her greatest fear come to life. Her best friend either killed herself or was murdered by this twisted community. And yet, there are no features that can easily identify her. So, this body may not even be Marin's. It's proof that there is reason to investigation further into Mosswood. But it could also be leading to an even bigger twist when it comes to Marin because her story isn't finished just yet.
  • Jack believes this moment should provide clarity to Heather because she now knows what happened to Marin. As such, she can move on with her life and completely forget about her. That's the way he processes the world. And yet, she doesn't want to do that. She doesn't want to forget the people who were so inspirational to her life. That's what has made it so difficult for her to move on. She's trapped in this world not fully knowing what to do.
  • The person who stole the deposition tape was actually a private investigator hired by the District Attorney to follow Ambrose around and learn everything about him. He simply didn't want Ambrose compromising this case. Vera exposing the corruption of his campaign also proves his past dealings with Mosswood even though she never thought to use that connection to help her son.
  • Julian is physically hurting himself as well. It's eery and nauseating to watch as he's digging his fingers into his wrist over and over again. The medical treatment he gets is mostly just to pump him full of drugs to keep him sedated. As such, he sees Vera again but he can't interact with her. That only leads to her latest railing against the corrupt system for the way that it treats these boys.
  • Bess is seen as a blindly devout follower to Lionel and his methods as well. She is more than willing to suffer an injury to help someone else because she accepts it's part of her own work too. That's the point of her suffering. And yet, she becomes a different person by the time she goes on the run with Adam and Julian. So what prompts that change given that Vera makes things less violent at Mosswood?