Heading into Season 2, Part III of The Sinner, we’re getting a better idea of just what Julian’s childhood has been like at Mosswood Grove -- and while there’s still plenty of secrets to uncover on the actual nature of his relationship with Vera, Bess, Adam, and the others, it’s clear that nothing is what it seems. Catch our recap of Part III below.
Julian is arrested and tried in criminal court.
Following their revelations at the close of the previous episode, Harry and Heather are shown in their first scene together debriefing over breakfast about just what they learned while visiting Mosswood Grove. Heather has decided to hold off on telling police chief Tom Lidell about the blood-stained stone altar because he’s not taking the case seriously after Julian’s confession. They also think Bess and Adam were running from something on the commune, took Julian with them, Julian murdered them, and Vera and the rest of the community knew about the kidnapping and covered it up as a trip to Niagara falls. That’s one explanation, but it still leaves out the “why.” “When a boy that young kills,” Harry says, “it’s never really just his fault. Whatever’s going on in Mosswood, Julian’s in the thick of it, so it’s not the time to stop asking questions.”
It’s then that his meal 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 hasn’t said a word and is as lost as Vera is, but he heads down to the foster home where Vera is, just as Julian is getting cuffed and put in the back of a police car. Seeing that Julian is visibly shaken, Harry gets in the car to comfort and reassure him: “This wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s not what I wanted.” Harry writes his phone number on Julian’s hand and tells him to call if he needs anything at all. “You’re gonna be alright,” Harry promises before leaving. Julian is next shown being booked, fingerprinted, and photographed, wearing his orange jumpsuit and bunking with other presumably violent, young criminals.
Julian undergoes a psychological evaluation.
So suffice to say, things are not looking up for Julian. While behind bars, Vera and his lawyer Benji (a man from Mosswood) meet with the D.A.; the D.A. basically tells them that the 13-year-old boy is facing 30 years to life for two counts of murder that he has already confessed to. If Julian takes the plea bargain under Benji’s advisement, it could be cut to 15. The D.A. is absolutely cold to Vera’s situation, telling her to “Take some time. Meditate on it.” After the meeting, Vera runs into Harry, who informs her that her son has been ordered to an M.H.E. psychological evaluation. Vera hardens. “So now they think he’s crazy? Or that I made him that way?”
Vera admits that the Niagara Falls story was a cover-up, but that’s simply because she’s learned that “to protect and serve” doesn’t always apply to Mosswood. (In this case alone, there’s been clear prejudice across the board.) She says that Julian was protecting himself by poisoning his kidnappers. She relays this story, too, to Julian when meeting with him later. “These people do not understand us,” she tells the boy. “They will do anything they can to hurt us. We don’t have a choice.” 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 in Bess and Adam’s deaths, “they passed through death and now they’re starting over again.” Maria asks if that’s what he believes happens after death -- they start over. “In different forms,” he says. “They’re all mixed together, pieces of us.” Everything he’s saying, however, is still shy of a confession (which he’d previously rescinded under Vera). But when the subject turns to his relationship with Bess, Julian begins getting upset.
“It wasn’t supposed to hurt,” Julian tells the psychologist. “So why did you give her the tea?” Maria asks. Julian responds saying that he gave her the tea because she lied; he recalls hearing Adam and Bess talking outside the motel room door about how they’ve been lying to him and that he’s never going home again. 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. That’s when Heather enters and pulls Harry aside, revealing, “Detective, she’s not the mother.”
Julian’s parentage is again brought into question.
The realization above is first set in motion after Heather visits her ex-girlfriend Marin’s mother, Tammy, and learns that Tammy hasn’t spoken to or heard from Marin in 12 years since she left for Mosswood. Later, Heather is shown going through a box of Marin’s things and flips open a book -- an old, worn young adult novel called Dolphin Beach. Inside, Marin had taken copious notes, and the name Julian is circled and underlined throughout. This was one of her favorite books, and Julian, presumably, her favorite name.
Now outside the juvenile detention center with Harry, Heather explains all of her findings. “Ever since the beginning, every time I look at Julian, I get the feeling like he’s familiar -- his eyes, his expressions, sometimes. It’s because he’s her’s.” Despite the fact that Vera produced a birth certificate for Julian, Heather learns that he was born exactly nine months after Marin went into Mosswood. She is convinced that something happened; Harry poses her theory that something happened to Marin while at Mosswood (she could be dead), and Vera took Julian after her death. “I can feel it,” Heather insists, when Harry seems skeptical. “So you were a little more than classmates,” he concludes. “We were friends,” she says. Reexamining the birth certificate, Harry realizes that there’s no father’s name attached. They could be onto something.
Harry and Heather visit Dr. Poole -- and it ends in death.
Upon the realization that there is no father on Julian’s birth certificate, Heather and Harry track down the doctor who signed off on it and decide to pay him a visit. Dr. Sheldon Poole explains that his name is on “half the birth certificates in these parts,” considering Keller is so small. But he does remember that he was called in for the paperwork to Mosswood Grove, but not present for the actual birth. Once on site, he also admits that he didn’t do anything to prove that Vera was postpartum. Harry, ever skeptical, questions him a bit further: Had he ever gone to Mosswood to treat other cases? “Let me get my files.” Poole seems tense and put off upon his exit, and Heather thinks her theory fits: “He didn’t actually see Vera give birth,” she says. But then -- Poole doesn’t return.
Heather and Harry begin calling for him, walking from room to room in an old Victorian to no avail. Nearing the top floor, they find him in a study, bleeding out from having slit his own throat. Clearly, whatever trail he thought these two were on, he didn’t want them to know it. 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 in the back of the attic a dimly lit corner with a shrine built around a miniature version of the rock altar Heather found in Mosswood’s barn. So was Poole one of them? What was he hiding? Heather about sums it up with the episode’s final line: “Holy shit.”
—Harry is still as socially awkward as ever, and Jack is slowly but surely learning how to navigate it. When his old friend tells him that he may need to stay in Keller a bit longer to see the case through, Jack says that he can of course stay with him, but on the condition that he goes to a rotary club social to give Keller and chance to welcome him home. Harry reluctantly agrees, even though Jack himself admits that he knows it’s not easy for Harry to be back. At the party, Harry gets a glimpse into what some of the folks of Keller are thinking about the case -- the party’s host, Glen Fisher, offers to use “heavy metal and tear gas” to handle Mosswood the way they did with Waco, Texas. And in a major social faux pas, there’s also mention of the fire that haunts Harry’s dreams, which of course does nothing to loosen him up. Jack later reintroduces a ex-flame from high school, Carolyn, to Jack. Mid-conversation, Harry’s eyes glaze over and he’s off into a flashback where he’s standing in the kitchen while the entire room is fully ablaze. He comes to, leaning on the trunk of a tree and Jack checking in on him. When Harry gets testy at Jack asking him if he’s okay, Jack explains, “The reason I keep asking if you’re fine is because you don’t seem fine and I’m just trying to be a good friend. It’s not like you would tell me, right? The last 15 years have pretty much proven that.” Harry lets down his defenses, and admits that he’s not fine. Jack jokingly calls him pathetic and offers that they get out of there. “Come on, I’ll make you some eggs.”
—Turns out, that night at Mosswood was not the last time Heather saw Marin. Marin came to Heather’s the next morning, over the moon with excitement. Heather gets a little defensive when Marin says that she told the commune about the passing of her mother, but Marin insists that it was in line with the normal, deep, emotional conversation everyone was having. A younger Jack then knocks on the bedroom door and is surprised the girls in bed together. Later, Heather picks Marin up in the middle of a fight with Tammy, her mother who calls her a slut for flirting with her boyfriend and said that she wishes she never had her. Marin says that she wants to go to Mosswood, but Marin instead brings her home with her and Jack.
—Vera has been reading up on Harry’s case with Cora Tannetti. While Harry says that “people seem to make more of it than they should,” Vera implies that she expects the same special treatment for her son. “My impression is you went beyond the call for her,” she says.
—We get a glimpse into “the work” that Harry was so intrigued about last episode (and that Vera was mum on). While dealing with the stressors of her son’s situation and ongoing case, Vera is shown in the barn, curtains drawn back and the giant stone altar front and center. She’s doing yoga-like poses while screaming and writhing and making animalistic noises. She’s crying, trance-like, and goes to the stone to caress it and look up at its top peak. She’s angry, but seemingly at peace.
—And we’ll have to wait and see what Julian decides to do with Harry’s phone number. Vera says that he shouldn’t trust him, but the final frames of the episode show the young boy sitting awake in bed looking at the number on his hand. It’s becoming increasingly clear that just like he was for Cora, Harry may be a savior-in-waiting.