Revelations past and present abound in The Sinner’s latest episode, which has Harry getting, erm, closer to Vera and Heather combing through her past for more answers about Marin. We’re also introduced to the man who started Mosswood Grove in the first place: psychotherapist Lionel Jeffries. Catch up on all that and more below.
After Dr. Sheldon Poole’s suicide, the case brings Harry and Heather to Deakins Psychiatric Institute. Who is the Beacon?
Part IV opens with Harry and Heather reading through the late Dr. Poole’s journals, where it becomes clear that he was indeed a dedicated (and deranged?) member of the commune at Mosswood Grove. They also find a black-and-white portrait of a mysterious-looking man tucked into its pages. Harry can’t help wonder if there are others like him in Keller, but there are no supporting documents indicating as much -- nor any that tie Poole’s practice directly to Mosswood. It’s also determined that his record is clean, save a malpractice suit 15 years ago by a woman named Carmen Bell, who now resides in Deakins Psychiatric Institute -- the same asylum where Harry’s mother was sent after the fire destroyed his childhood home.
Sitting face to face with Carmen, Heather and Harry learn that she filed against Poole because, while a resident of Mosswood Grove, she was sent to Poole for an abortion, and instead of standard procedure, he removed her entire uterus, deeming her incapable of having children ever again. She says that when she went to complain to the police, she was followed by “everybody.” (“Once you’re deemed a danger to yourself, it’s basically a free for al.l”) While Carmen seems more than a little loopy, Heather uses their time together to ask about Marin, showing Carmen a photograph. But all Carmen has to say is that Mosswood Grove chewed up and spit out a lot of young guys and girls that came through, and suggests Heather look for Marin in what she calls “the purple lake. The Beacon liked to surround himself with pretty things. But he got bored easily,” she says. Pressed further, Carmen explains that the Beacon is the one who planted the eggs in her brain. Thinking she may know who the Beacon is, Heather grabs the black-and-white portrait from Poole’s notebooks. She doesn’t get confirmation either way, but Carmen’s mood changes -- she begs her for the photo, screaming and crying and hitting herself maniacally. That’s when their visit is brought to a quick close.
While Carmen had a lot to say, it seems to be coming from an unreliable source; Harry wants to back up her claims elsewhere. But before they can do that, he turns on his phone to find a voicemail from Vera requesting he visit Mosswood the next day -- she has something to show him that he should see before anyone else. More on that later.
Following clues from her past, Heather ends up in Niagara Falls, after all.
Heather’s main arc this episode begins with a flashback to her and Marin. 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 fire house, 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. She then stands up, angry and yelling that Heather is lying to herself, and she storms off yet again.
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; it’s 2 a.m., and he’s worried. When she ignores his calls, he gets out and insists that she get in the car with them, but Marin refuses; she says she can’t be friends with Heather anymore and that she’s the one who changed, not her. 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 to it correctly, “but you have to use your imagination.” That’s the last night Jack and Heather see Marin before she left for Mosswood.
Now in the present day, Heather meets with her father to see if he can redraw the labyrinth Marin showed him all those years ago. Doing a search of the 42 lakes in a five-mile radius of Mosswood doesn’t turn up any obvious “purple lake” results, so she’s hoping the labyrinth could be something. Taking Jack’s drawing, a Google search of “spiral maze” turns up an image of the same labyrinth -- and it’s on the cover of a book titled Escaping the Labyrinth by Lionel Jeffries. An image search of him confirms that it’s in fact the same man who’s portrait in Poole’s journals. Apparently, he’s a psychotherapist who focuses on releasing trauma.
Heather tracks down the publisher of Escaping the Labyrinth, and learns from the owner that he gained quite a following in Canada back in the ’80s before being hit with accusations of sexual and physical abuse. She explains that his whole thing was about a return to ritual, symbolic play and reenacting trauma. “So you could see how that could easily go off the rails,” the woman admits. Heather takes the book with her, and upon learning that someone ordered the book a month prior but it bounced back from the mailing address, Heather takes the envelope in which it was initially sent. It’s ironically addressed to a self-storage unit Niagara Falls. Could Bess and Adam been heading there, after all?
Heather drives up to Niagara Falls to the storage unit; according to the manager there, whoever was using the unit paid cash and stopped paying last month. It even looks like someone may have been living there. Inside are kids clothes in a duffel bag and several more books by Jeffries, including Inhabiting Our Animal Bodies by Connecting to Nature and The Return to Ritual. Most eerily of all, the name on the rental was Julian Walker. What was going on here?
Also within the storage unit boxes is a videotape, which Heather takes back with her. At home, she watches it; 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.
And finally, Harry gets lost in the woods with Vera -- and more.
Per Vera’s request, Harry visits her at Mosswood Grove the morning after his meeting with Carmen to find the outer gates spray painted with “CULT!” across the front. Vera doesn’t seem to mind though -- she stoically walks down the path to greet him. Before he enters the commune, Vera tells Harry to leave his gun and phone and badge in his car. “You have to come in like everybody else: stripped down.”
What she wants to show him is a tape of “the work” she’s done with Bess in the past -- an otherwise confidential file. In it, Bess -- who’s clearly emotional in the audio clip -- expresses how she can feel the weight of Julian inside of her (as if she birthed him herself), but how now people are after them. She says she covers his mouth to stop him from crying, but accidentally suffocates him. She breaks down into sobs, and the audio ends. Vera explains that Bess had been unable to have children herself and that she developed an unhealthy attachment to Julian, which is why she abducted him from Mosswood. She’s presenting the audio file of their therapy-like session as evidence, but Harry doesn’t know if it will hold up. He says needs to understand more about these sessions, and when Vera won’t let him sit in on one, he requests to have a session with her himself. Vera obliges.
She first brings him to the rock altar, explaining that while she doesn’t quite know what she believes about it -- “All I know is that I feel better when I’m close to it. It’s like something from a dream” -- in the past, there was a Pentecostal tent revival built there with the rock in the middle, and before that, the Seneca said that a man and a woman were locked inside this rock for eternity as a punishment for breaking their vows.
Next, she brings him to the woods, and that’s when Vera’s personal line of questioning comes in. She asks about his daughter, for one, which gets Harry defensive; he asks her if that’s how she gets her answers from everyone, by poking and prodding. “I don’t force anyone,” she says. “This work, it’s all about invitation, not confrontation. And Julian certainly benefits from it.” Upon further questioning, Harry admits to getting cranky at times and that he likes being in control; that’s when Harry twists his ankle just as Vera calls, “This way!” and disappears over a hill. He calls to her, but she’s disappeared; he’s lost her for good. Harry spends the next hours roaming aimlessly through the woods, calling for Vera all the way until nightfall. Finally, he comes upon a cabin the woods, where he finds Vera cooking over the fire inside. Panicked and exhausted -- and still in pain from his twisted ankle -- Harry is furious.
“What is all this, huh? What do you think you’re doing?” he demands. But Vera is calm, assuring him that she was confident he’d find his way. But Harry continues yelling, even at one point grabbing her by the wrist. “Finally, there you are,” she says upon seeing his rage. She tells him to sit down and let her tend to his twisted ankle. Once wrapped, Harry notices a portrait sitting on the mantel -- the same portrait found in Poole’s journals and who’s the man who we now know as Jeffries. Vera says he’s the Beacon. “He was the leader of Mosswood, back when Mosswood had a leader,” she says. “This is his cabin. He’s gone now, but he did most of his writing and meditating in this room. This is where he developed the ideas I’m trying to pass down to my son.”
Vera continues, “Most of us spend our lives trying to suppress the parts of ourselves we deem inappropriate. We spend our lives trying to detach from all of that beautiful feeling, and it doesn’t work. Does it? Julian is a new kind of man -- at one with nature, fluid with all of the darkness and all of the light.”
Harry is apprehensive. “You’re never going to show me what the work actually is, are you?” he asks. But she says that they’ve already been doing it. That’s when the questioning begins again, and Vera asks if his mother ever left him in the woods. Harry says he’s not there to discuss his mother. “What are you feeling right now? Be honest,” Vera prods. “I don’t trust you,” he says, and Vera agrees: “That’s fear. I’m scared, too. And a sexual pull, right here.”
Vera rises to her knees, scooting closer to Harry. She asks him what else he’s feeling, and he says rage. Vera begins tearing up. “And underneath that rage, if you could just taste what’s there, what would it be?” They stare at each other, she cups his cheek, and a thumping noise grows louder and louder in the background. At first we’re not sure if it’s actually happening in the room or if it’s just the series’ score, but a metronome is shown on a nearby desk picking up the swelling sound. Harry looks at Vera, as if hypnotized by her warmth and the thumping.
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.
That’s when he wakes up in the Rockford Lodge Motel room -- the exact scene of the crime. His badge and gun and phone are all on the bedside table. What happened to him?
- Julian is shown again having the same recurring nightmare of the hooded figure pressing on the soft of his stomach while he’s paralyzed in bed. Harry even mentions these dreams to Vera upon his visit, and she shoos any concerns away, saying that it’s a common recurring dream in adolescents: the old hag. Apparently many dream of a cloaked, old woman coming into their room while they sleep and sitting on their chest. Who knows if that’s the truth, but Harry seems to accept it for now.
- After his visit with Carmen, Harry goes to the facilities archives in hopes of retrieving an old videotape of her case. As he and the archives’ manager walk through the aisles of material, he learns that another man -- unnamed, but “very thin” -- came looking for the same file just two days prior. When they get to the tape, they open the cover to find that same man took the tape with him. Harry doesn’t have much time to look into this matter before meeting with Vera, but it will likely play a role in future episodes.
- Just entering Mosswood with Vera, Harry does, however, receive a call from Julian who asks for his help. His mother had told him to not trust Harry, but he doesn’t trust his mother to take care of him behind bars. Harry assures that they’re all doing the best that they can, but that his sentence could be two counts of 15-30 years. Out of desperation, Julian asks Harry if he could be his lawyer, but as Harry tries to explain that that’s not a possibility, Julian hangs up.
- Heather is standing her ground with D.A. Peter Hutchinson, as seen in this episode when Hutchinson and she meet with Chief Tom Liddell, and the former insists that Harry be booted out of Keller. “The guy likes to pick apart slam dunk cases. It’s a sickness,” he says. But Heather intimates that he should want to keep Harry around so as not to appear too biased against Mosswood Grove. The chief falls decidedly on Heather’s side, but he’s worried she’s putting her neck on the line.
- And finally, we have a slight callback to Harry’s penchant for sadomasochism that may have been lost on viewers who missed Season 1. When Vera goes to wrap his twisted ankle, he howls in pain, and she wavers: “Too tight?” she asks. But he looks her dead in the eye and says, “No.”