After last week’s penultimate boatload of revelations, Cora’s case inches towards its close in this week’s finale with even more surprises to spare.
Cora knows what happened to her on July 2012, but what happened after that?
Episode 108 opens with Cora (Jessica Biel) on her knees in the center of the basement room of the Beverwyck Club where J.D. knocked her unconscious and Phoebe died while having sex with Frankie. That’s all she remembers though -- the next two months are still a black hole. She just remembers the decorative wallpaper and the man in the mask.
Cora’s visited by family in jail before and after sentencing.
In the day leading up to Cora’s final sentencing, Cora’s mother finally visits her for the first time at the behest of her husband. While few definitive answers come from the exchange -- both have a laundry list of resentments against one another -- we do learn that the reason a missing persons claim wasn’t filed with the police upon Phoebe and Cora’s disappearances was because their mother, Elizabeth, knew the whole time that they were planning an escape to Florida. She stills blames Cora for brainwashing Phoebe against her and making her out to be a monster. “We just wanted to live,” Cora says. “And look at you now, just look at what you’ve done to yourself,” Elizabeth responds. But Cora shuts her down: “I’m more free now than I ever was with you.”
Then Cora is back in court, and after apologizing for killing Frankie and trying to plea the truth that she was held captive the night of Phoebe’s death, the presiding judge cuts her short, saying that she’s already forfeited her right to a trial and that they’re only there for sentencing. Cora is found guilty of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Shortly after, Mason (Christopher Abbott) visits Cora with their son, Laine, for the first time. While Cora is at first reluctant to let Laine see her behind bars, Mason promises that they’ll visit her every Thursday from then on and remain faithful to their family.
Harry tracks down those who may have some answers.
With minimal living leads (J.D. is dead, Frankie is dead, and he soon learns that Todd, who was with them in the basement, died to kidney cancer in 2015), Harry (Bill Pullman) hits a roadblock while piecing together the events that lead to Cora’s blackout. Good news -- if you can call it that -- comes, however, when the human remains in the back of the Beverwyck are determined to be Phoebe’s, not Maddie’s, which means that Maddie may well still be alive.
Before tracking her down, though, Harry gets wrapped up in identifying the two men who fled the scene at J.D.’s death and who are suspected of murdering him. With the help of his partner, they get the license plate of the getaway car and identify one of them as Daniel Burroughs (AKA Duffy). He’s easy enough to find after he rents a large, multi-passenger white van. Kaitlin follows it to a medical clinic where the two suspects from J.D.’s murder are purportedly inside, and when Harry gets to the scene, he strolls right in. There, he finds a waiting room full of women, and before he can figure out exactly what’s going on, Duffy’s partner yells at him to get out and that it’s a private business. That’s when Duffy walks in. Realizing he’s got his back to a wall with Harry prepared to make an arrest, Duffy flees the scene; that’s when the police come. Cornered in the middle of the street, he pulls his gun on Harry but is shot down and dead by Kaitlin.
The cops on the scene are able to bring Duffy’s partner into the precinct for questioning, though, where they learn that they had a business with J.D. where they’d get a script from him and hire these women to go fill them. The women would get $50 and they’d keep the bottles for drug distribution. Duffy killed J.D. in fear of his own safety after J.D.’s girlfriend was taken in and police were circling his life closer and closer. Unfortunately, it appears to be a dead end in terms of linking J.D.’s death to Cora’s capture. Appears being the key word.
After hours of mulling it over and revisiting the medical clinic, Harry has an epiphany at a travel agency sign proclaiming the warmth of a “winter” vacation. Winter. That was what Maddie had said she wanted to name her child with J.D., and after doing some preliminary research, Harry finds only one Winter registered in the Dorchester area. He goes to the address, and there, he finds Maddie with her child. While Maddie fled the scene of the Beverwyck Hotel that night, jumping on a bus to Vermont and never looking back, she confesses to Harry that J.D. wouldn’t stop calling her after then. He kept insisting that she should go into a new business venture with him: selling opioid pills. That’s news to Harry: It wasn’t until after the events of July 4, 2012 that J.D. began selling opioid pills. So how was he getting the scripts and licensing numbers of physicians? The pieces were coming together.
Harry connects Frankie’s physician father to J.D.’s opioid business.
After making a few phone calls, Harry somehow connects the dots and learns that all of the fraudulent license numbers J.D. was using to obtain his painkillers were colleagues of Frankie’s father. The evidence is enough to allow a second release of Cora to go to the Belmont home and see if she remembers anything. Going upstairs to a back bedroom, something clicks, but Cora can’t quite put her finger on it. Then, noticing a nick in the wall, Cora begins peeling the wallpaper back to reveal her worst fear: the decorative, old-fashioned wallpaper from her memories of being held captive. That was the room where the masked man kept her sedated for two months then dumped her on the side of the road. Her captor was Frankie Belmont’s father.
We go back to that night at the Beverwyck.
After Cora’s present-day realization that Frankie Belmont’s father was holding her hostage after Phoebe’s death, The Sinner spins to a flashback to that July 4, 2012 night where after receiving a call from Frankie, his father comes to his rescue to find a dead Phoebe and an unconscious Cora. Frankie wants to get the police involved, but J.D., who’s still there, knows that that’s a bad idea considering the circumstances. Frankie is told to leave and to go home -- the less he knows, the better; meanwhile, J.D. and Frankie’s father load up Cora and Phoebe in the trunk and drive them to the back woods of the Beverwyck. The plan is to kill Cora and bury her with her sister, but Frankie’s father instead decides to bring her home and nurse her to health while also pumping her with opioids in hopes that she’ll forget everything about that night. And the plan works -- until Cora sees Frankie and hears that music that fateful day on the beach. It’s also from that night forward that J.D. blackmails Frankie’s father into getting him what he needs to sell his drugs. Harry has cracked the case.
Back in the present-day, Cora leaves the bedroom and knows that Frankie’s father is going to pay for his crimes against her. Before leaving, she confronts him in the living room, both of them with tears in their eyes. “It was you,” she says. “I remember your eyes. I know you did it for your son.” All he can say is how sorry he is.
We learn more about Harry’s past.
We’ve known all along that there’s more to Harry than meets the eye, but we finally learn in the car ride back to the precinct with Cora that he, too, has experienced his share of trauma when younger. Could it be why Ambrose has relationship issues, behavior ticks, or why he goes to see Sharon? We understand now why he was drawn to help Cora in the first place. “The way you were blaming yourself, I realized that felt familiar because I do that, too,” Ambrose tells Cora. “The thing is, what somebody did to us when we were young, I know it wasn’t our fault. I know we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow I don’t know what to do with it all.”
Cora’s case reaches its rightful end.
Now presented with this mountain of new evidence, the judge reconsiders her 30-year sentence against Cora and instead takes her charges down from a murder to a manslaughter and orders her to a psychiatric facility until she it is determined to no longer be a danger to herself or to others. Her actions were not done with the intent to harm but instead were done due to psychological trauma. After sharing a hug with Harry, she thanks him for all he’s done for her. “It’s gonna be OK,” he says. Harry then exits the building to flashing cameras and reporters circling Cora’s lawyer; none of the attention is on him, perhaps just the way he likes it. He walks to the parking lot, an unsung hero. And just before the credits roll for this final episode, Harry sits silently in his car, and taking a moment to himself, looks down to his crushed and bruised nails and heads to his next case, his next destination.