Wednesday, September 12, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Sinner' - Julian's Latest Kidnapping Sends Everyone Chasing After Him in 'Part VII'

USA's The Sinner - Episode 2.07 "Part VII"

Heather and Ambrose search for Julian.

The seventh episode of the season has proven to be a pivotal one for The Sinner. In the first season, it was the episode that explained what happened to Cora and why she acted the way that she did. And now, that same energy is applied to the second season. It was a strategy that worked last time and it once again works here. In fact, there is so much momentum from this episode because it's no longer hiding crucial details from the audience. It is allowed to be upfront about Marin still being alive and trying to be Julian's mother once more. That's a huge reveal in "Part VII." Of course, it probably depends on the audience being just like Heather in believing that the body pulled out of the lake was indeed Marin. The show provided no evidence of such though. All the audience had to go on was Heather's worst fear coming true. She wanted to know what happened to her best friend after she escaped to Mosswood. The story this season has forced her to actually search for the answers. She was horrified after discovering them as well. It could have provided a sense of clarity to know what had happened to her. And now, all of that prior understanding is completely thrown out of the window. Vera has once again been lying to the investigation. She knew that Marin came back recently and tried to steal Julian away. The audience and investigation are aware of that now too. Heather always believed that something had to have happened to Marin at Mosswood because there was no evidence of her existing anywhere else in the world. That assumption is completely torn apart as soon as Heather and Ambrose find a convent because of the evidence left behind from Julian's latest kidnapping. As such, everything has been flipped and it's a race to find Julian.

Ambrose believed he was giving the best advice to Julian. He wanted him to confront his nightmare and take its power away. Now, it's perfectly understandable that he had a reason to be afraid. Someone really was stalking him and trying to take him away from the life he has always known. But some instances of seeing the hooded figure had to have occurred in his dreams as well. No one was ever willing to address them as real because they sounded like the nightmares that children have at that age of being powerless to stop people who wish them harm. Marin doesn't want to hurt Julian though. Of course, the young boy doesn't know that. He has already turned to violence in order to keep people from taking him away from Vera. He didn't know what Adam and Bess were doing with him. He just knew that they were lying. He may have acted impulsively. He didn't know what was going on. And now, it's particularly crushing once he realizes that they were just trying to reunite him with his biological mother, Marin. For his entire life, he believed that Vera was his mother. There was no reason to ever question it. Even when the investigators confronted her about this, she figured it wasn't important to tell Julian the truth. It wouldn't be changing his life. She is his mother and she is the one who is going to bring him back home. Only now is it starting to sink in that Julian may never return to Mosswood and Vera's care. The community just sees Mosswood as a crazy cult and the wrong place to raise a child. With Marin back in the picture, she has rights that could ensure that Vera is no longer treated as Julian's parent. Marin can finally step up and be the mother she has always wanted to be.

It's exciting to see Marin as an active character as well. As I've mentioned previously, so much of the season has revolved around her as a plot device. She was a mystery that needed to be solved instead of a character whose actions meant something to the audience. It's still a big deal when she shows up in the pictures at the convent. That reveal happens with the complete clarity that she is the one who has been trying to take Julian from this place. She wanted to escape to Canada. She was the one who rented the storage locker that had the supplies for Julian. She left Mosswood behind and struggled in the real world. She changed her name to make sure that no one from her old life would be able to find her. It took finding refuge at the convent for her to get sober. She has been clean for three years now. That's very impressive. It's enough time to believe that she is capable of being a good influence on Julian. And yet, his life has been defined in such a specific way that he resorted to violence the moment he didn't know what was going on. He was confused and lashed out. He was scared about how Adam and Bess died. He feels guilt for their deaths. He has taken responsibility for them in his private conversations with Ambrose. He still plead not guilty in front of a judge. But with his case being knocked down to family court, the sentence could be less severe. Of course, that's all before Marin abducts him. She has a hard time getting to connect with him. He has to trust her. But knowing the truth only further destroys him. He realizes that he killed two innocent people who were just trying to do the right thing. That's absolutely devastating and ensures that these two are stuck on a tragic path for their lives.

All of this is so important and emotional for Heather as well. She thought she would never get to talk with her former best friend ever again. She believed that Marin was dead. She pushed her away and has carried that guilt around with her ever since. And now, she realizes that she once again has to crush Marin's dreams. Marin wanted a family. When she gave birth to Julian, she wasn't mentally prepared for the responsibilities. She wasn't in the proper environment to get the help she desperately needed either. That led to many years of distance and abuse. It's still inspirational that she was able to get her life back together. She is willing to take on this responsibility. It just comes at a time when all of this is considered kidnapping. The outside world just sees a woman trying to help a child fugitive escape to Canada. She has a plan to get them across the border. She just has to get Julian to trust her. It seems like he does but he is still eyeing the gun that she keeps in her purse. That too is a very big plot point because Marin ends up getting shot by the conclusion of this hour. Heather just got her back into her life and she is taken away from her once more. It's the episode once again ending on the mystery of what happened to Marin. She finally reached out to Heather for the first time in years. It's so emotional to Heather getting that call. And yet, she doesn't allow her personal feelings to cloud her judgment. She simply can't delay the investigation to help Marin get away with Julian. She has a professional responsibility. Even if she had, the folks from Mosswood would still have tracked Marin down at the exact same time. They knew that she was heading towards this Five Nations motel. And so, all of this was inevitable. It just proves that Heather has really stepped up and become more assertive with her actions this season as an officer. But it also means she loses her best friend all over again.

Now, did Julian kill his mother? That was the tease at the start of the season. It could be him fulfilling the premise we were led to believe from the premiere. A child kills his parents. He doesn't run away from Marin after she starts opening up about who she is. She is able to prove that she was at Mosswood and had a connection to Bess. She is able to convince him just enough in order to continue on this journey with her even though they aren't returning to Mosswood. And yet, he still seems skeptical. The direction calls attention to the gun on multiple occasions. Marin probably just has it for her own protection. She knows what Mosswood is capable of. She knows that there is no way Vera is just going to let her take Julian away from her. She has to be very careful. But she still ends up dead. Julian has already killed when someone was trying to take him away from his family at Mosswood. He could have made that same exact decision here. It would just be a different way he has killed. It would be a bullet wound instead of poison. But is that a believable twist? The audience has been getting into his head. We have seen just how distraught and damaged he has become because of his guilt. He now fully understands what was going on. He will no longer be plagued by the nightmares. And yet, he could be traumatized in a completely new way if people from Mosswood found them at the motel and killed Marin in front of him. That would prove that this community is just as lethal and dangerous under Vera's reign as the previous leadership. That always seemed likely. Vera was quick to point out the injustices of the world even though the police are right to suspect that Vera kidnapped her son in order to reunite with him at their home. All of this culminates in her lashing out at everyone. She probably orders this hit. But that seems bound to take her down as well because so many things are happening very quickly now as the season only has one more episode to put the finishing touches on this story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Part VII" was written by Jesse McKeown and directed by Tucker Gates.
  • Vera suggests that Ambrose has become fixated on Julian's case because he's hoping that solving it will also fix his life. That's a profound accusation to make. One that he doesn't totally understand right away. It probably ties back to the confession he made during their time together in the woods that he doesn't remember. And yet, both seasons have shown him prioritizing these cases instead of his own personal problems. Maybe this is building to him realizing he needs to put the work in there to live a better life.
  • Meanwhile, Heather's life seems to be completely crashing. She is lashing out at her father because he told her to just forget Marin completely. He did the same thing with her mother. As such, she may feel the need to escape this community and all of its darkness. She has lost so much here. She has no true sense of herself either. Her identity is constantly influx. The only thing she has is the police work. She is really stepping up in that regard too though.
  • Heather also gets the results back on who the body is from the lake. It turns out that it's just some random individual from decades earlier who has no connection to Mosswood. That means it's just a narrative dead end made to deceive the audience into foolishly coming to the same conclusion as Heather. I'm curious as to how many people fell for that though? It didn't fool me. But I could see some people being led to that conclusion.
  • There always seems to be someone one step ahead of Ambrose and Heather's investigation. First, it was the private investigator working for the district attorney to ensure that Ambrose didn't uncover that abuse. And now, it's the fixer for Mosswood who gets to Marin's room at the convent in order to take any of the relevant evidence that could point to where she is heading. Of course, Ambrose and Heather are still there to see her body in the end as well.
  • It's a little ridiculous how Ambrose is immediately able to deduce that Julian has been kidnapped simply by following a trail of sunflower seeds. They just happen to be in the window and where Marin parked the camper while she was stalking the house. Sure, Ambrose still has to fight to prove his point at a precinct that no longer needs his help. But Heather is more than comfortable calling in without her captain's permission.