Massive spoilers ahead – watch the finale before you read!
The season finale of season two of The Sinner revealed some of the most crucial pieces of the Julian puzzle -- how he was conceived, why his mother might have had difficulty bonding with him after his birth, why Marin might have felt weird about maintaining a friendship with Heather, and why Heather’s dad Jack has been so touchy about the whole investigation. (Heather’s boss Chief Liddell had a point about taking her off the case -– it’s been too personal for both her and Ambrose all along.)
Still, there might be some lingering questions in this whydunnit –- or at least some need for clarification – and showrunner Derek Simonds was good enough to entertain some questions. Again, we’re talking spoilers, so if you have not seen the finale, best to come back later.
Was it rape?
Just so there’s no question about it, what happened between Jack and Marin is rape. “Yes. Yes, it was,” Simonds confirmed. “She expresses the desire for it to stop. She does not give consent. He ignores that.”
Simonds said that he and his team gave this a lot of thought -- writing and rewriting the scene, conferring with the actors and other people to “make sure it was saying what we wanted it to say.” They didn’t want the rape to come out of nowhere -- for Jack to “suddenly appear like an absolute monster.” But this is a man who doesn’t talk about his late wife, who doesn’t talk about his feelings, and his pent-up emotions are a “perfect storm” to bring out Jack’s shadow self. It all just rushes out, and Marin pays the terrible price.
“There is a range of human behaviors that we’re all capable of, from a Jungian perspective,” Simonds said. “This is about facing them head-on, and working with them, rather than repressing them. I think that’s the essential message of the show. We cannot compartmentalize and repress our darker impulses. We have to engage with them in a healthy way, because otherwise they erupt in un-healthy ways.”
Jack was originally seen as a character on the sidelines: a loving dad to Heather, a friend to Ambrose, a pillar of the community. When talking about the search for Marin’s killer, Heather told Jack, “All roads lead to Mosswood.” And indeed, all roads seemed to lead to Mosswood for a variety of crimes. The show invited us to suspect Mosswood –- and more specifically, Vera, even though Vera had changed the culture of Mosswood in a positive way. (Not that she’s entirely blameless -- we’ll get to that in a moment).
“One thing we responded to in the writers’ room,” Simonds said, “was that, while we’re fascinated with the commune -- the other-ness of the commune -- at the end of the day, the answers are much closer to home. The villain can be right in our own backyards, can be someone we love.”
Will Jack be held accountable?
Yes, off-screen. “We have limited real estate and a lot of characters to service,” Simonds said. “We can’t dramatize all of the events, but I would definitely imagine he faces the consequences of what he did.”
What’s the deal with the rocks?
Even at the end of the show, Vera approaches the rock totem, which is still standing after the barn has burned down. “I think the fact that Vera and the people at Mosswood are actually engaged with whatever the rock represents is important,” Simonds said. “It symbolizes something divine or spiritual, some unknown mystery. It’s the gray area the show walks in.”
Since Jungian therapy is the basis of “the work” at Mosswood, is the stone a symbol for the self? Could the rock have inspired Julian’s ritual of putting stones on the eyes of corpses? “We imagined that he had been exposed to death at Mosswood,” Simonds said. “That’s where the rocks over the eyes came from. I think he knows that death is an ending of a certain kind of life, and he believes it’s the beginning of something else.”
Where does Ambrose go from here?
At the end of the episode, when Heather and Julian start to make peace with what has happened -– and maybe begin to embrace their sibling relationship –- they gaze out on Niagara Falls together, while Ambrose stands behind them, stuck in his interior world. “That was a very conscious move for me,” Simonds said. “I never imagined this being a picture-postcard ending. We stay in the gray area, where the light and the dark coexist. The characters have come to a place of truth, and the truth is often difficult, but it’s also freeing and inspiring.”
Simonds doesn’t think we’ll be revisiting any of these characters, save Ambrose, should there be a season three. He wants to keep to the show’s anthology format with a new standalone story each season -- not that the events of season two will leave Ambrose untouched. Learning the results of his therapeutic moment with Vera, Ambrose now has a name he can put to his feelings of shame, and to what it is he truly seeks: oblivion.
“I think Ambrose is more comfortable keeping that episode in the confines of a little microcassette than he is engaging with it fully,” Simonds said. “He’s constantly struggling to deal with these darker feelings, and he’s going to be able to admit to them or face them, but with limited success.”
Is the Beacon dead?
Don’t drink Vera’s apology tea, or anything made with jimsonweed. Just don’t. “We made a very strong suggestion that when Vera made this gesture with the tea, the Beacon is dead, and Vera took over,” Simonds said. “But I like that the question lingers, and is answered by inference. I don’t think we need a definitive answer.”
Should you offer Simonds a cup of tea, he would take that willingly, no questions asked. “No, ‘What’s in this tea?!’ for me!” he laughed. “Tea’s a lovely gesture, if someone makes it for you. And that’s why we tell stories, to exorcise our paranoia and fears –- not to have them in real life.”
Binge Season 2 of The Sinner on USANetwork.com and the USA App!