As with The Sinner Season 1, USA’s second outing with Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) proved to be a winding road full of malice, confusion, and by-the-minute revelations. To help you suss it all out, we’ve put together a recap of the entire season, breaking it down moment to moment in chronological order.
[Warning: Contains Spoilers for The Sinner Season 2!]
Harry Ambrose experiences a major childhood trauma.
It wouldn’t be The Sinner without a flashback or two, and we’ve got an ongoing one with Ambrose that’s slowly peeling back the layers to his guarded -- albeit interesting -- character. It has to do with his mother and a fire in his childhood. Currently, all we know is taken from a series of nightmares and visions Harry experiences as an adult. He remembers being a teenager and coming home to find a boiling pot of water on the stove. He also recalls walking in on his mother as she’s sitting on the edge of her bed, staring blankly into space.
Turns out, Harry started the fire.
Harry reveals to Julian in Part VI that he starts the fire himself when he arrives home to an unattended boiling pot of water and his depressed mother sitting non-responsive in he bedroom. Young Harry then proceeds to light a dish towel on fire and ignite the curtains with it, which results in his home burning down, his mother getting committed, and and Harry in foster care.
Harry runs away from Keller as a teenager.
It’s revealed at that same present-day party that Ambrose leaves Keller at age 17, after his mother's death, and never returns -- that is, until the Julian Walker murder investigation lured him back.
Heather Novack and girlfriend Marin Calhoun cross paths with Mosswood Grove.
To begin Heather’s story, we rewind to the first night they spend at the controversial spiritual commune Mosswood Grove. Heather and Marin are lovers, and Marin is battling ongoing issues with the men in her love life and with her mother, Tammy. While spending the day in the woods stealing kisses, the two have a heart-to-heart about Marin’s ongoing struggles and inadvertently wander upon the border of Mosswood Grove. Intrigued and wanting a distraction from their emotional strife, they decide to sneak onto the commune, where they’re quickly invited by an attractive stranger named Keith to join the men and women of Mosswood around a campfire. They’re burning worldly possessions that hold them back and Marin is immediately enraptured in the notion, burning a necklace from her mother. That’s when Keith comes over to Marin and tells her that there’s something that he wants her to see. He leads her into a barn and she leaves Heather, only offering a brief glance back from the threshold.
Marin’s relationship with Mosswood Grove grows stronger.
Heather is awakened the next morning by Marin in her bed. Clearly perturbed that she had left her there along for the night, Heather wants an explanation of why Marin felt such a strong connection to that place. Heather can’t really give one, but it’s clear that she felt a certain sense of calm and community while at Mosswood. This is made all the more clear when on a night shortly after, Heather goes to pick Marin up for a party and Marin and Tammy are at each other’s throats again. Instead of wanting the comfort of Heather, Marin says she wants to go back to Mosswood.
Heather and Marin later get drunk at the local firehouse; it’s their last night together.
Marin is having an emotional evening -- as is the norm at this point -- and wishing that Heather would let her go to Mosswood. When what’s meant to be a chill night in with booze and a movie turns into a serendipitous drunken party at the local firehouse, Heather gets peeved and broods in the corner while Marin dances with one of the boys in uniform. Their dance is cut short, however, when Marin -- drunk and erratic—storms out of the station without explanation. Heather follows her and tries to comfort her, calming her concerns of “running around like a loser” and eventually sharing an inebriated kiss. -- But Marin cuts her short. “We said we weren’t going to do that anymore,” she says. Marin then stands up, angry and yelling that Heather is lying to herself, and she storms off yet again.
Jack picks Heather up and tries to stop Marin from leaving.
Ever the dutiful father, Jack comes to pick a drunk Heather up from the station and drives around looking for Marin. He finds her walking down the center of an unlit main road. Marin says she can’t be friends with Heather anymore. That’s when Jack notices a “Y” symbol drawn on her forearm; she explains that Mosswood drew it on her; it’s a labyrinth if you draw additional lines on it correctly, “but you have to use your imagination.” It’s the last night Jack and Heather see Marin before she leaves for Mosswood.
Marin goes home with Heather -- and Jack does the unthinkable.
Before moving to Mosswood, however, Jack convinces Marin to come back home with them. (Heather doesn’t remember this because she was blackout drunk.) While Heather is asleep upstairs, Jack makes a move on Marin. She doesn’t resist at first, but when she begins to, he holds her down and forces her to have sex with him. She leaves the next morning. We later learn that Marin got pregnant on this night. Jack is Julian’s father.
Marin moves to Mosswood.
Marin moves permanently onto Mosswood and is never seen or heard from again. (The circumstances surrounding her move are still unclear years later, and Heather is clearly still heartbroken about being cut out of her life.)
Marin gets pregnant with Julian.
Marin adapts to daily life at Mosswood and strikes up a relationship with Vera Walker, who seems to hold an authoritative position alongside Jeffries as the Beacon. Marin also has a relationship with Jeffries, and later reveals to Vera that she is pregnant. While Vera explains that it is customary to have Dr. Sheldon Poole come in from Keller and perform an abortion, Jeffries allows for the child to be born for the first time. “We’ll raise him. All of us, together. The child will bind us,” he says. This comes on the tail end of Jeffries having a similar sentiment towards a baby cow that he later sacrifices with the commune, so time will tell if he has a similar intent with the boy.
Julian is born.
Julian Walker (now age 13) is born exactly nine months after Marin enters Mosswood. He is the only child his age on the commune, and -- at this point in the season -- his birth mother’s identity is unclear.
Vera bonds with Julian more than Marin.
Marin doesn’t take to motherhood naturally. She had a difficult, bloody birth; she doesn’t produce milk to feed her newborn; and young Julian doesn’t even seem to like her touch. He instead takes to Vera as his mother -- he stops crying in her arms, and she even begins lactating and breastfeeding him while living on Mosswood.
Mosswood’s work becomes increasingly violent.
After Jeffries/the Beacon has a particularly strong revelation about the work they’re doing in Mosswood, he begins having his followers act out their trauma rather than just have imaginative play -- no matter how violent. It leads to rape and unwanted pregnancies, burns, punches, and general physical injury all around, but especially for the women on the site. Vera doesn’t believe this is the right path, but her concerns are shot down by Jeffries, who insists both the abuser and the abused benefit from such tactics. When Marin becomes the subject of abuse by Glen Fisher and other men at the commune, Vera defies Jeffries and Marin is spare -- for now.
Jeffries takes Julian.
Upon returning from the cabin, Jeffries interrupts an argument between Vera and Marin (Marin has just caught Vera breastfeeding Julian in secret) to take the child for himself. It’s clear to him that Julian has become too much of a distraction and the women are too attached to him. It’s also a means of punishment for Vera for cancelling the session with Marin and Glenn. It’s still unclear what Jeffries intends to do with Julian, but it certainly has ominous undertones.
Vera apologizes to Jeffries.
The next day, Vera approaches Jeffries while in his study with “apology tea,” which he drinks gratefully while Julian nuzzles to his chest.
Marin leaves Mosswood
According to Vera, Marin was always troubled, and she left Mosswood shortly after Julian’s birth.
Dr. Sheldon Poole signs Julian’s birth certificate.
Dr. Sheldon Poole, Keller's resident physician who we meet at the end of Part III, claims to have signed half of the birth certificates in the small, rural New York town.
Julian is raised under odd circumstances on Mosswood.
The exact details of Julian’s childhood on Mosswood remain unclear -- but what is clear is that it isn't a normal childhood at all. At one point in the present day, Vera tells Harry and Heather that her “son is so far beyond anything you could understand; you have no idea.” What does that mean?
Julian builds a relationship with “Shadow Julian.”
Shown in flashbacks, Julian remembers meeting with Vera in therapy-like sessions where they discuss Julian’s -- and everyone else’s -- natural darkness as a “shadow” version of themselves, and that he’s supposed to let that shadow in when it comes knocking. This all falls under the umbrella of what Vera later calls “the work” of Mosswood: It’s “easier to experience than it is to explain,” she tells Harry one day. “We all have a shadow: all the good and bad inside that we try to hide. We shine a light on that shadow. You encounter parts of yourself that you never knew were there. Not for the faint of heart. But it’s rewarding, powerful. It teaches you how to trust yourself.”
Harry becomes well known for the Cora Tannetti case.
Cora Tannetti's case (from Season 1) hasn’t played a major role in this season so far, but several folks in Keller have mentioned it in passing as a major triumph or Harry. (He naturally shrugs such claims off as hyperbole.) But he finishes that case just a few months before getting the call from Heather to join her in Keller.
Marin returns to Mosswood for Julian.
It’s been nearly 13 years after she left Mosswood, but Marin, who’s been staying in a rehabilitation program at a local convent, goes back to Mosswood to try to reunite with Julian. But Vera, who’s now his legal guardian and, according to the birth certificate, his mother, refuses and kicks Marin off the property.
Marin tries to kidnap Julian.
We don’t learn this until Part VII, but the hooded figure seen in Julian’s ongoing nightmares is, in fact, based in reality -- more specifically, it's Marin. She’s caught at the last second and kicked out of Mosswood a second time, and while Vera tries to convince Julian it was all just a bad dream, he begins suspecting his “mother” of lying to him.
Marin convinces Bess to help her get her son back.
After she fails to get Julian back herself, Marin convinces an empathizing Bess to help get Julian out of Mosswood and to Niagara Falls, where Marin is living temporarily in a storage unit waiting for them. From there, she hopes to run across the border with her son. Of course, Julian doesn’t know any of this, and that ultimately doesn’t go to plan.
Julian poisons Bess and Adam.
Part I begins with Bess and Adam (who we at first assume are Julian’s parents) with Julian checking into the Rockford Lodge Motel on their way to Niagara Falls. At the hotel, Julian overhears Adam and Bess talking about how they’ve been lying to him and that he’s never going home again. The boy poisons their morning tea with jimsonweed, which leads to them both seizing on the floor and dying soon after.
Julian is put into foster care.
As a minor whose presumed parents are now dead, Julian is sent to foster care. He keeps completely to himself; as other boys around him play and roughhouse, he’s silent and sitting in the corner.
Heather calls Harry to help her on the case.
Knowing that Harry and her father, Jack, are old friends, Heather calls the celebrated detective and tells him the situation: Julian Walker is the lead suspect in killing his two adult companions while at the Rockford Lodge. After the murder, Julian cleans their bodies, covers them in white sheets, and places smooth, circular stones over their eyes in a sort of ritualistic way. Heather later finds the boy hiding in the woods behind the lodge. Harry agrees to drive up to his hometown to see if he can help.
Marin, meanwhile, keeps her eyes on the case.
As Julian’s murder case is unfolding in real time, Marin keeps a low profile in Keller and watches from afar, waiting to make her move.
Members of Mosswood know about Julian’s case earlier than they let on.
At the end of Part II, Heather is on the Mosswood Grove commune and recognizes a graying man with a ponytail as having been at the Rockford the morning she was first called in to examine Bess and Adam’s bodies. That means the members of Mosswood had known about the murders before they initially let Harry and Heather believe. Clearly, they’re hiding something, and their presence at the Rockford is one of the first signs.
Harry and Heather meet with Julian for the first time.
Julian stops short of confessing to poisoning Bess and Adam at this first meeting, but does mysteriously say that they went “back to the beginning.” Harry also notices the rash on his wrist from jimsonweed.
Julian confesses to giving Bess and Adam the jimsonweed.
Upon a second meeting with Harry and Heather at the foster home, Harry confronts the boy about the rashes on his hands, and Julian admits that he had poisoned Bess and Adams’ teas and knew what the weed would do to them.
It discovered that Julian wasn’t headed to Niagara Falls, after all.
Combing through their mound of evidence, Heather and Harry are beginning to think that Adam and Bess weren’t taking Julian to Niagara Falls; in fact, they were driving the opposite direction when their car broke down. Then the detectives discover that no one had packed a bag for Julian’s belongings. What kind of parents take their kid on a trip without a bag of clothes?
Vera arrives in Keller, claiming to be Julian's mother.
As revelations about Bess and Adam are unfolding for Harry and Heather, Vera Walker arrives at the police station in Keller, claiming to be Julian’s mother. She corroborates Julian’s story of going to Niagara Falls and says Bess and Adam, who were family friends, didn’t have clothes for him because they’re absentminded. She insists her son is a happy child and couldn’t be capable of such a crime. It’s in this conversation that she also reveals she’s lives off of Rout 4 on Osbourne Road outside of Keller -- Heather immediately knows that’s Mosswood Grove, and is suspicious.
With Vera by his side, Julian rescinds his confession.
The reunion of Julian and Vera in the foster home sours when Julian, now with Vera to lean on (she even whispers something indistinguishable in his ear before further speaking with Harry and Heather), refuses to cooperate. He says that he forgets ever telling Harry about making the poisonous and, when Heather tries to push him on it, Vera interrupts and says that from now on, any questioning will go through her. That hardball tactic is put on hold, however, when Vera is unable to take Julian home until proving to the court system that she is his mother day. That fails when Vera cannot provide documents for his homeschooling, and he remains in foster care.
Harry and Julian square off and eventually find common ground.
Going against Vera’s wishes, Harry meets one on one with Julian at the foster home, but Julian holds his ground and refuses to cooperate. “Outsiders are all the same,” the boy says. “An outsider promises you things before they even know you.” He also claims that his mother can read minds. Their next meeting, however, goes better when Harry opens up about nightmares he has and Julian tells him about a recurring dream he has of a hooded figure waking him up at night and pressing its hands into the soft of his stomach. Harry wonders if this is an indication that Julian was abused on Mosswood.
Harry and Heather get permission to investigate Mosswood.
With the knowledge of Julian’s dreams, Harry does some digging and learns that convicted sex offender Danny Spaulding lives on Mosswood and uses the possibility that Julian was abused as leverage to get chief Tom Lidell to grant Heather and him a warrant to search Mosswood, despite his reservations. (“They want to be left alone, and frankly, so do we.”)
This entire time, Harry shrugs off Jack’s kind gestures.
While the case is ongoing, Jack continues to try to get Harry to open up and be friends again like when they were kids, but Harry demurs and continues to be guarded, cold, and awkward.
Harry and Heather suspect a cover-up.
Vera showcases the utopian Mosswood upon Heather and Harry’s initial arrival, but towards the end of their visit, things get fishy. Harry notices that one of the residents is wearing a valued necklace of Bess’s and thinks that’s the kind of parting present you give someone if you don’t plan on coming back. As he’s piecing it together, Heather recognizes one of the gray-haired men living on Mosswood as having been at the Rockford the morning of Bess and Adam’s murder. So it’s clear that he and others on Mosswood knew of Julian’s situation shortly after Adam and Bess's murder. Is this trip to Niagara Falls just one big cover-up? Did Bess and Adam actually kidnap Julian? “They were running away,” Harry concludes. We just need to know why.
Harry learns more about “the work” that Mosswood’s residents undergo.
On their way out of the commune, Harry takes up a conversation with Vera about what she actually means when she says “the work.” Calling back to “Shadow Julian” of the boy’s flashbacks, Vera says that the work is “easier to experience than it is to explain. We all have a shadow: all the good and bad inside that we try to hide. We shine a light on that shadow. You encounter parts of yourself that you never knew were there. Not for the faint of heart. But it’s rewarding, powerful. It teaches you how to trust yourself.”
Heather enters the mysterious barn Marin visited and finds a giant rock altar.
While Harry chats with Vera, Heather sneaks away to the barn that she saw Marin enter that night all those years ago. Inside, she finds these giant, dark curtains hanging floor to ceiling around an elevated wooden stage. Walking up onto the stage, she finds that the barn has been built around a giant rock; it’s jagged and pointed vertically like an arrowhead, standing 10 feet. Directly above the rock is a skylight, the stage’s only light source. Upon closer examination, the surface of the rock is sporadically stained in a dark crimson color. Is it blood?
Julian is being tried in criminal court.
Over a debriefing with Heather is interrupted by an angry call from Vera, demanding Harry tell her what he told the D.A. after his visit to Mosswood Grove because now her son is being tried in criminal court rather than family court, and it’s all over the local news. Harry hangs up and heads down to the foster home just as Julian is getting cuffed and put in the back of a police car. Seeing that he is visibly shaken, Harry gets in the car to comfort and reassure the boy: “This wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s not what I wanted.” Harry writes his phone number of Julian’s hand and tells him to call him if he needs anything at all. “You’re gonna be all right,” he promises. Julian’s then brought to the juvenile detention center and booked with other teen criminals.
Vera hires a lawyer from Mosswood and meets with the D.A.
Vera hires an attorney named Benji Shah, who also happens to be a resident of Mosswood Grove. Together, they meet with D.A. Peter Hutchinson, who essentially offers them a plea bargain and little else. The 13-year-old Julian is facing 30 years to life for two counts of murder that he already confessed to. If Julian takes the plea bargain under Benji’s advisement, it could be cut to 15. Hutchinson is absolutely cold and condescending.
Vera confides in Harry about why she didn’t call the police over Julian’s disappearance.
Running into Harry after her meeting with Hutchinson, Vera admits that the Niagara Falls story was a coverup, but that’s simply because she’s learned that “to protect and serve” doesn’t always apply to Mosswood. She says that Julian was protecting himself by poisoning his kidnappers.
Julian is ordered to a psychological evaluation.
Harry informs Vera that her son has been ordered to a psychological evaluation, to which she takes personal offense, as if she’s the one that made him crazy. Before said evaluation, she’s shown talking to Julian about how he has to corroborate the reasoning she told Harry: He poisoned his kidnappers. “These people do not understand us,” she says, telling Julian not to trust Harry, either. “They will do anything they can to hurt us. We don’t have a choice.”
Harry goes to an awkward Keller reunion.
Finally caving in to Jack’s request to be friends, Harry joins him for a party, where Harry runs into several old acquaintances from when he lived in Keller. The night comes to an abrupt close, however, when Harry has a panic attack and falls back into flashbacks of finding his home on fire. Jack is understanding and brings him home.
Julian undergoes a psychological evaluation.
Cut to the evaluation at the Edgewater Juvenile Detention Center, and Harry, Benji, and Vera are all waiting outside the interview room while Julian and a child psychologist Maria Beltran have their back-and-forth. Julian says that he gave Bess the tea because she lied (her plan was never to bring Julian back to Mosswood). He says that when you lie, “you split in two.” “Have you lied about anything to me?” Maria asks, and that’s when he begins crying and lashing out and screaming. He bangs the table, throws his chair. He soon comes running out into Vera’s arms, crying.
Heather goes through Marin’s old things and finds a book highlighting 'Julian.'
After visiting Marin’s mother (Tammy) and learning that she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in the years since she left for Mosswood, Heather goes through some of Marin’s old things and finds her favorite book: Dolphin Beach. Inside, Marin has circled every appearance of the name Julian. This was her favorite book, and Julian was, presumably, her favorite name. That’s when Harry realizes that she and Marin had been more than just friends. Harry is tepidly onboard, hypothesizing that something happened to Marin at Mosswood, forcing Vera to take in Julian as her own. But Vera still has a birth certificate with Julian’s name on it…
Harry and Heather visit Dr. Sheldon Poole, who kills himself by the end of their meeting.
Harry and Heather track down the doctor who signed that birth certificate, Dr. Sheldon Poole. They press him for his involvement on Mosswood, asking how often he was asked to go there to sign birth certificates and perform other medical duties. He admits that Julian was already born when he signed the birth certificate and he failed to check Vera for signs of being postpartum. There is no father listed on the birth certificate. Before they can ask much more, however, Poole goes to his office and slits his own throat. Clearly, whatever trail he thought these two were on regarding Mosswood, he didn’t want them to know anymore.
Harry finds a miniature rock altar in Poole’s home.
Later, as the crime scene is further investigated, Harry tells Heather that he needs to show her something. Having explored more of the house, he discovers a shrine in the attic built around a miniature version of the rock altar Heather had found in Mosswood’s barn. Was Poole one of them? What was he hiding? Heather about sums it up with the episode’s final line: “Holy s#*t.”
Harry and Heather dig into Dr. Poole’s past... and discover "The Beacon."
In a journal, they find a black-and-white portrait of a mysterious-looking man and entries about nightmares of being chased through a labyrinth. They also discover that Poole had a malpractice suit against him 15 years prior from a woman named Carmen Bell. Aside from that hiccup, he has no records of working with Mosswood. Harry and Heather decide to pay Bell a visit, who now lives in Deakins Psychiatric Institute (the same asylum where Harry’s mother was sent after the fire destroyed his childhood home). There, the mentally disturbed Bell tips off Harry and Heather to "The Beacon" -- the man from Poole's journal who used to run Mosswood and who "lik,ed to surround himself with pretty things. It's a dead-end in terms of learning about what happened to Marin, but Harry looks into Carmen's patient files and discovers another "very thin" man had made the same request two days earlier.
Harry visits Vera at Mosswood and things get weird.
Vera invites Harry to Mosswood where she presents an audio file of her therapy-like session with Bess. She then shows Harry the mysterious rock altar and explains why she's drawn to it -- this, before losing Harry in the woods. After hours alone, Harry comes upon a cabin the woods where he finds Vera cooking over the fire inside. He’s furious, even at one point grabbing her by the wrist. “Finally, there you are,” Vera says upon seeing his rage. Is this the beginning of "the work" for Harry? He sees a picture of The Beacon on the mantle and confirms that it's indeed the former leader of Mosswood, "back when Mosswood had a leader." Later, Harry looks at Vera, as if hypnotized. The screen goes black, then cuts to Harry envisioning standing in his childhood kitchen, the entire thing ablaze. He then sees himself as a child opening a bedroom door and finding his mother sitting on the edge of the bed.
Harry undergoes “the work” with Vera.
We learn through a cassette tape what happened to Harry that night. Hypnotized during his work session, Harry begins telling Vera about his mother, before turning the tables on her and telling her how much he hates her. He then forces Vera to choke him when asked what he wants and what he feels; he blacks out and wakes up the next morning at the Rockford Lodge Motel.
Heather and her father hone in on The Beacon.
Jack draws the labyrinth design from memory, and Heather finds an image of the same labyrinth on the cover of a book called Escaping the Labyrinth by Lionel Jeffries. An image search of Jeffries brings up the same man she found in Dr. Poole’s journals. Going to the book’s small publishing house for the one copy they have, Heather learns that he’s a psychotherapist who focuses on releasing trauma and that his whole thing was about a return to ritual, symbolic play and reenacting that trauma. This was in 1989 when he developed a large following in Canada, but it came crashing down after accusations of sexual and physical abuse.
Heather travels to Niagara Falls to a mysterious storage unit.
While at the publisher, Heather learns that the reason they have one copy of the book at all is because someone had ordered it a month prior and it bounced back from the buyer. Looking at the envelope the book was first mailed in, Heather notices the address is a storage unit in Niagara Falls; on a hunch, she takes the envelope and tracks down the storage unit to find boxes of Jeffries’ books, bags of children’s clothes, and a lone tape of activities at Mosswood Grove. She also learns that the unit was paid in cash and listed under the name "Julian Walker"...
Heather watches the tape and finds Marin.
At home, Heather watches the tape. There’s no way to tell how old it is, but it’s of a man with a bloodied shirt sitting in front of the Mosswood Grove rock altar, encircled by a group of fellow residents. A voice --perhaps Jeffries’? -- asks the subject a series of intrusive questions about his childhood, ending on what he wants to do to his father. Rather than answer the question, the man shows just what he’d do: He jumps up and starts beating up the nearest bystander. The scene is violent and confusing, but through the chaos, Heather pauses the frame and centers on one face in the background: Marin.
Harry wakes up at the Rockford Lodge.
The last thing Harry remembers is being in the cabin with Vera, but when he wakes up, he’s in the Rockford Lodge Motel room -- the exact scene of Julian’s crime. His badge and gun and phone are all on the bedside table. What happened to him?
Julian pleads not guilty.
With Benji by his side, Julian pleads not guilty to the murders of Bess and Adam. Julian also refuses to see or speak to Vera because she’s refusing to tell him the full truth of his situation.
Heather accuses Vera of lying about Julian’s birth mother.
Also while at the courthouse, Heather confronts Vera, claiming that Marin is the real birth mother to Julian. (Vera has not yet admitted that these theories are true.)
Harry and Heather visit Glenn Fisher.
When the noise of the courthouse fades, Heather and Harry make their way to Glenn Fisher’s house. He’s identified as the man in the Mosswood videotape that Heather found in the storage unit, and he’s the same man who hosted the Keller community party with Harry and Jack. Glenn denies any wrongdoing in seeking therapy once or twice at Mosswood (he claims he doesn’t anymore), and he gets defensive as Harry presses further; he tells them to leave. Before leaving, Harry notices a metronome on Glenn’s desk -- one not unlike like the one used for Vera’s hypnotic thumping throughout her work sessions with Julian and Harry.
Harry gets a confession out of Vera.
Vera admits that Marin is Julian’s mother and that she disappeared from Mosswood after Julian’s birth and Vera raised him as her own. She also pleads with Harry to speak on Julian’s behalf in the court, citing the fact that Julian was acting out of self-defense against his kidnappers. Harry and Heather bring Keller's Chief Lidell up to speed.
Harry breaks into Glenn’s house and learns more of his family history.
By digging through some files and old photos, Harry learns that Glenn's family used to own the plot of land that Mosswood now inhabits. It’s clear his connections to the commune go way back.
Julian is put into solitary confinement.
Fellow inmates at the juvenile detention center poke fun at Julian. At one point, they pretend to be Adam and Bess’ corpses with stones over their eyes, and Julian snaps. He jumps on one of them and starts beating him up, earning himself a spot in solitary confinement.
Harry is taken off the case.
When it’s learned that Harry is going to be speaking on behalf of Julian during the trial, Chief Lidell calls him off the case, and Heather supports the decision. Harry is upset.
Harry goes to visit Julian.
After a phone call from Vera asking for his help, Harry goes to visit Julian at the detention center, who brings up his dreams of the hooded figure again. He says that he’s not talking to Vera because he knows that no matter what she says, these aren’t just dreams: it really happened. Someone tried to take him weeks before. The question is: Why would Vera lie about it?
Jack and Harry have a falling out.
When Harry makes his way back to Jack’s after visiting Julian, the old friends have an argument about the way that Harry’s handled the case, compromised Heather’s position in the precinct, and been standoffish towards his old friend. “I'm such an idiot,” Jack says. “All these years, wondering what I did. You never thought about anybody but yourself.” Harry packs up his things and spends the night once again at the Rockford’s crime scene motel room.
Harry tails Glenn Fisher.
Still suspicious of Glenn FIsher’s involvement in Mosswood, Harry spends several days tailing him and learns he has a relationship with a local sex worker. While she is reluctant to talk to Harry, he notices she has similar cigar-like burns on her ankle -- the same that Carmen Bell had.
Harry finds Carmen Bell’s missing deposition tape.
Harry revisits Carmen after making a connection to Glenn, but she’s not taking visitors after a violent episode following a phone call from a man she called “Satan.” Tracing the phone call with Brick’s help, Harry is brought to a trailer park in Keller. Inside, he finds stacks of documents and photos indicating that Harry’s being followed around Keller. Also with those investigative files is the missing tape from Carmen’s archival file.
Harry takes the tape to Vera and sends it off to Heather.
Carmen’s deposition tape from 2002 -- which was never brought to court -- details how she was recruited to Mosswood by Vera, how she endured others’ abuse in the therapeutic “work” sessions, and how she was eventually forced to have an unwanted abortion by Dr. Poole. It’s rather damning -- and it’s enough for Vera to sit with Harry and give him the most in-depth account of Mosswood and Julian’s early days on the commune yet. She gets up to the point where Jeffries took Julian as his own and Vera made him apology tea. She also intimates that it wasn’t Glenn Fisher who shut down Carmen’s deposition, but D.A. Peter Hutchinson.
Harry confronts Hutchinson.
With the evidence of Carmen’s tape, Harry approaches Hutchinson at the courthouse and accuses him of being paid off by Mosswood to keep Carmen’s file under wraps. He threatens to take his evidence -- which probably wouldn’t hold up in court -- to the local paper unless Hutchinson brings Julian’s charges down to manslaughter and puts him back in family court. Hutchinson reluctantly complies.
A body is dredged out of the Stillwater Reservoir.
Also on Carmen’s deposition tape, it’s made clear what the “purple lake” is: the Stillwater Reservoir. Heather sends a team of divers to go under and see if they can dredge anything up (she has a feeling Marin’s body is down there), and sure enough, they find a car held down by rocks, and in the driver’s seat are the remains of a body. Heather takes it as proof that Marin was disposed of there after leaving Mosswood.
Heather has a falling out with Jack.
While Heather and Jack’s relationship has been mostly amicable up until now, he’s coming across rather insensitive to her emotional struggle in the face of the Walker case. After what’s assumed to be Marin’s body is found, he simply offers her some “now you can move on with your life” advice and she’s not having it. She lashes out and tells him that they never talk about anything real -- a similar complaint that Harry had in his argument with Jack. She questions why she even stays in Keller now that her mother is gone.
Harry advises Julian to face his guilt.
While visiting Julian in the foster home, Harry admits to him that it was he who started the fire in his childhood home -- because he apparently knew that his mother was unfit to care for him. Facing down his own guilt for his actions, he advises Julian do the same. He believes his “guilt” is being manifested as the hooded figure at night, and he tells Julian to face it down next time it appears.
Turns out, the hooded figure appears to have been real all along. The next time it appears outside his window of the foster home, Julian sits up and yells at it, but it opens the window and enters the room. The next scene is Julian's new guardian Garrett checking on him -- and the bed is empty, the window is open. Where did Julian go and who is he with?
We learn that Julian is with Marin.
The truth is revealed! Just as she tried while Julian was still living on Mosswood, it was Marin the whole time wearing the hooded ensemble and haunting his dreams. She tracks him to his new foster home, tells him in the middle of the night that she’s taking him home, and he goes with her voluntarily. They drive off in her brown camper.
Julian gets suspicious and runs away.
While he’s at first excited to be going back to Mosswood, Julian realizes the following morning that Marin is not taking him there, and that he actually has reason not to trust her. When he begins panicking, she jumps in the back of the camper with him and explains that she’s his mother while trying to tie him down with a knotted cincture rope from the Grey Daughters convent, but he bites her and flees out of the van and into the woods.
Vera is arrested.
Chief Lidell and Heather raid Mosswood in search of Julian, and when Vera’s temper rises upon learning that her son is missing, she resists their efforts and gets herself arrested.
Harry gathers enough evidence for an Amber Alert.
Harry’s the only one who thinks he may have been kidnapped, and eventually learns of a brown camper mysteriously parked across the street from Julian's foster home the night of his disappearance. He takes that info to Lidell -- who’s reluctant to accept any further assistance from Harry -- and Heather ultimately calls in an Amber Alert to track down the camper van.
Vera sends Terry to the Grey Daughters.
Vera figures out that it was Marin who took Julian and she sends Terry (the guy with the long gray hair) to the Grey Daughters to inquire on Marin’s whereabouts and get her remaining belongings from the convent.
Harry and Heather learn that Marin’s alive.
The van is tracked down on the side of the highway, where Marin and Julian run off into the woods. Exploring the surrounding area, Harry finds the five-knotted cincture, which leads him to the Grey Daughters convent. It’s there that he and Heather learn that Marin is still alive after living in their sobriety program. They also learn that Marin that she left several weeks ago, and that she’s likely the one behind Julian’s disappearance. Heather calls to update the Amber Alert with a lead suspect.
Marin earns Julian’s trust.
After having run off in the woods, Marin eventually gains her estranged son’s trust by further explaining who she is and singing his childhood lullaby to him by heart. He knows that no matter what Vera says, Marin is telling the truth: This is his mother.
Julian and Marin have to get off the bus to Niagara Falls.
Now that the police have tracked down their camper van, Marin and Julian need to find other means of transportation. Marin decides to stick to the original plan of going to Niagara Falls. While bonding with Marin on the bus, however, the weight of his actions begins to settle in -- Julian finally realizes that Bess and Adam were just trying to reunite him with his mother, and he killed them. The guilt takes hold, and he lashes out violently, causing a scene and forcing them to exit the bus before reaching their destination.
Marin calls Heather to plead for help.
Despite her obvious sympathy for Marin and her situation, Heather holds strong and refuses to direct her colleagues off the case. Soon after the call, Heather traces the call to a gas station just outside the Five Nations Reservation, and she and Harry head over.
Vera knows where Marin is taking Julian.
Vera has always known more than she initially lets on, and that holds true here. Once released from jail for resisting arrest, Vera goes back to Mosswood to find many of the peaceful commune’s followers packing up and leaving due to the ongoing drama. She mourns the loss of these followers while standing near the bonfire. That’s when Terry presents her with Marin’s Bible that he found at the Grey Daughters, and inside is a folded out matchbook being used as a bookmark. One look at it, and Vera knows where Marin is going.
Marin and Julian check into a motel on the reservation, and Marin takes a call.
As they’re settling into the motel, Marin calls a still-unknown source to let them know that she’s with Julian and where they are. Clearly, someone aside from Marin and our main cast of players is privy to the situation. Who? Julian, meanwhile, anxiously eyes the gun that Marin brought with her into the motel room.
The man on the other line is Jack, and he’s there when Marin dies.
Marin calls Jack, the father of her child, and he agrees to help her escape. But when he arrives, Marin is erratic and unhinged; she draws her gun on him. He tries to disarm her, but in the altercation, the gun goes off and she accidentally shoots herself. Jack goes into the motel to call the police. He finds Julian under the bed, calls Vera, and makes a handoff with her there before the police show up. Together, Vera and Julian run away.
Heather and Harry discover Marin’s body shot dead in the road.
The phone call in the motel is the last we see of Marin alive [motels + The Sinner = a bad time]. It’s still unclear what happened, but when Heather and Harry get to the reservation, it’s too late: Marin is shot dead in the middle of the road, and Julian is nowhere to be seen.
Vera and Julian escape to New York.
Staying in Chinatown with an old member of Mosswood named Danielle, Vera and Julian get to NYC and start planning their cross-country trip to Washington State, where they’ll hideout in peace.
Harry finds out about Jack.
Using documents Chief Lidell drummed up that show Jack created a fake company to pay Vera child support in monthly installments, Harry and Heather corner Jack in his restaurant and -- after Jack pleads for his daughter to leave -- Jack gets the full story about him and Marin. He confesses to being Julian’s biological father.
Julian calls Harry in secret.
Julian has his reservations about running away with Vera and calls Harry for advice. Harry tells him that it’s up to him if he runs away or turns himself in. While Julian thinks about what he wants to do, they hang up, Harry traces the call to Chinatown, and police head to Danielle’s apartment.
Heather and Jack’s relationship gets on the rocks.
Jack didn’t just have to face the music with Harry, though -- his daughter was devastated after learning of his actions that night. When she finally confronts him, it appears their relationship is damaged for good.
Against Vera’s wishes, Julian turns himself in.
Vera and Julian see the police outside Danielle’s and hole themselves in a nearby diner; there, Julian tells his mother that he wants to go back and face his sentencing. Distraught, she reluctantly agrees to honor her son’s wishes.
Julian faces his sentence, to surprisingly positive results.
The next morning, after their return to Keller, Julian sits in the courtroom and awaits his fate. After several people, including Harry, speak on Julian’s behalf, the family court judge decides to send him upstate to a rehabilitation center rather than to prison for murder; he’ll be there for the next four years. Charges against Vera, meanwhile, have been dropped thanks to Harry.
Vera brings her time at Mosswood to a close.
Now with her adoptive son living upstate and most of Mosswood’s community having disbanded in the midst of the drama, Vera burns her belongings on the commune, the way they often did. Only this time, she brings the fire to the barn, and burns the whole thing down until it’s just her and rock altar standing.
Julian finally makes it to Niagara Falls.
This season finale ends with the kind of bittersweet closure we’ve come to expect from The Sinner. On a break from his rehab center in Syracuse, Julian joins Heather and Harry for a day trip to Niagara Falls, where his journey first began. While the situation is still unclear and messy, we get glimpse into a future where Julian might just be OK.
The entire second season of The Sinner is streaming in USANetwork.com and in the USA App! Watch Season 1 starring Jessica Biel on Netflix now!