Chapter VI of The Sinner Season 2 was especially interesting in that nearly half of the hour was a flashback of Vera, Julian’s birth, and their time together on Mosswood. We also get a number of revelations about Harry’s past—and one heck of a cliffhanger with Julian! Catch up on all that and more below.
Harry finds the Carmen Bell tape that was stolen from the archives.
It was a brief moment in Chapter IV, but think back to two weeks ago, and you’ll recall Harry going to Keller’s precinct archives for a deposition tape from Carmen Bell after visiting her at Deakins Psychiatric Institute. When he got to her file, however, he discovered that the previous visitor—described only as a tall, thin man—stole the tape. Cut to Chapter VI, and Harry begins finding those missing pieces. Still suspicious of Glenn Fisher’s involvement with Mosswood, he decides to tail him for a few days and catches him on three occasions hiring the company of a local sex worker. While she’s reluctant to speak with Harry about her relations with Glenn, he does notice while speaking with her what look like red cigar burns on her ankle—the same kind of scars and same pattern he saw on Carmen’s ankle at the ward. Sensing a through-line, Harry then goes back to Deakins to see Carmen, but she’s currently on lockdown and not taking visitors after an incident the day before. Apparently, she had a fit after a phone call with an unidentified man, but she said it was Satan. With the help of Brick back at the precinct (who’s reluctantly and secretly going against the chief’s wishes), Harry traces the number that called into Deakins to a trailer in Keller, so he goes to investigate, posting up and waiting until someone leaves the trailer and gets in a car. Much like he previously did with Glenn, Harry breaks into the trailer to see what he can find. Inside, he discovers a pile of documents and photographs of someone who has clearly been researching and tailing Harry’s every move. They have a copy of his license, his mother’s obituary, newspaper clippings of the childhood fire, information on the Cora Tannetti case, and more. Then, inside a manilla envelope, he finds a videotape from the archives—it’s Carmen’s deposition. That’s when he emails the file to Heather (perhaps in an effort to earn her trust back) and himself heads to Mosswood to have a word with Vera.
Let’s talk about Vera’s flashback.
This one is a doozy, and as it takes up much of the episode’s real estate, there’s a lot to unload here. The flashback begins because Vera in present day is finally sitting down with Harry and laying most (if not all—you never know with her) of her cards on the table after Harry presents Carmen’s 2002 deposition tape. On the tape, Carmen discusses how Vera Walker recruited her, offering her a haven through a difficult time. She speaks of the therapy sessions where they’d reenact their trauma with one another—all things we already know about Mosswood. But then it gets to the good part: apparently that all changed when the Beacon had an epiphany while he was swimming in the purple lake, which is what he called Stillwater Reservoir. “He said the only way to break out of trauma was by going straight into it.” The sessions got violent physically and sexually—and that’s how she got the burns on her foot. Also through the work sessions, she got pregnant and Vera took her to Dr. Poole to “fix” her. That’s when Vera breaks, slamming the nearest door and telling Harry to get out, but when he gets up to leave, she stops him: “Sit down. I’ll tell you everything.”
The flashback opens with Bess and Vera hanging laundry on the clothesline when Vera notices Bess limping. She was injured quite badly at the work session from the night prior (she has a giant, bloodied gash on her thigh from a man named Vick), and Vera is slowly beginning to feel uneasy about Jeffries’ new methods. She decides to take her concerns to Jeffries, who’s not having it. “Scrapes heal, and now Vick, he’ll also heal. That’s the point of this.” Vera believes that such a breakthrough is at Bess’ expense, but Jeffries maintains that she needed that moment as much as Vick did, in inexplicable ways. Vera says she want to go back to the way things were, when it was imaginative work rather than literally taking one’s pain out on one another. But Jeffries alludes to a time when before they had progressed the way they have, Vera left the commune, going home to East Texas, “hoping your father would welcome you back…. It’s the same, small-minded, middle-class fear.” Jeffries cites Abraham and the sacrifice of his son Isaac that God rewarded him, and Vera submits to his will. We then cut to Julian’s birth; it’s a difficult one, and Marin loses a lot of blood, to the point where she falls unconscious and is rushed from the rock altar to the medical room inside. While Marin is being tended to, the newborn Julian is left in Vera’s care, and an inextricable bond is clearly established. Later, Julian is refusing to take to Marin as his biological mother; she’s not producing milk and cannot breastfeed; meanwhile, Vera miraculously begins lactating and feeds Julian in secrecy. It’s also only seems to be Vera’s touch, for instance, that will get the boy to stop crying; Marin is resentful and jealous of her connection with her son.
Things are made worse for Marin when the work pushes her a little too far out of her comfort zone. Vera watches on from outside the barn as a line of cars pull in from Keller—outside of Mosswood—and a group of men enter the barn. Shortly after, she hears Marin yelling, objecting to whatever it is the men want from her. She ends up retaliating and striking one of the men down before storming out the barn and running into Vera holding her baby boy. She runs off into the night as Jeffries tries to bring the men in the barn back to order. It was a startling enough scene that Vera brings it up with Jeffries in their next meeting. “She wasn’t ready,” she insists, but Jeffries says that she needs to “assist” and it will “prepare her”—thought it’s still unclear for what, exactly. While Jeffries is in his cabin for the night, he requests Vera oversee the work session with Glenn Fisher and Marin, to which she reluctantly agrees. But later that evening, upon Glenn and other Keller residents’ arrival, Vera tells him that the Beacon has cancelled the night’s session. “He’s reconsidering the path of the work. That’s all I can say.” Glenn is furious, and after insulting Vera and claiming that he’s the one who’s been with Mosswood since the beginning after selling the land to Jeffries, he gets in his car and leaves the premises.
The next morning, Vera has to unwanted confrontations: one with Marin, who catches her mid-breastfeed and is clearly upset at this new development in her and Julian’s relationship. And the second one comes right on the heels of that, when Jeffries interrupts their conversation to reprimand Vera for going against his wishes and canceling Glenn’s session with Marin. Vera maintains that Marin wasn’t ready and she needed to rest, but Jeffries ignores her, grabbing Julian from her arms and telling her that the boy is going to live with him from now on. It’s clear that there’s too much of a connection between the women of Mosswood and his growing child. “He’ll keep you up all night!” Vera interjects, but his response is clear: “I don’t care, it won’t be for much longer.” Vera is upset, but she straightens her shoulders and resolves herself to protecting Julian no matter what. Later that day, Vera approaches Jeffries in his study with a mug of steaming tea. It’s her “apology tea,” she says, and he goes to drink it.
With Vera’s insight, Harry sets his sights on D.A. Peter Hutchinson.
In speaking with Harry, it appears as if Vera is genuinely remorseful for the way she became complicit in Jeffries’ treatment of his Mosswood followers. “I allowed horrible things to happen, I did,” she says. “But I did it because I believed in him, and he healed me. I wish I had stopped it sooner, but when I saw Julian’s face, I woke up, and I knew what I had to do and I changed Mosswood for good, and I know now that I will never lose myself that way ever again.” When asked what happened to Jeffries, she explains that he was unhappy for a long time, and “one day he left us—didn’t say goodbye, nothing.” The others with her on Mosswood, however, turned to her to take up the mantle, and they haven’t been a violent community since. She also maintains that she had no idea that Carmen pursued legal action, and Harry clarifies that it was never filed, surmising that Glenn Fisher probably had something to do with its status. But Vera has a feeling it goes higher than Glenn, and puts Harry on the D.A.’s scent.
Cut to the Keller courthouse, and Harry steals a moment with a reluctant Hutchinson when he begins talking about his recent reading material: the D.A.’s campaign financial activity back in 2003, the first year after he got voted in. This was the same year that Carmen’s case was made DOA, and from his research, Harry gathered that it was also a year that Hutchinson received thousands of dollars in donations from Glenn Fisher, Dr. Sheldon Poole, and others. Harry thinks each of them was a payoff for a case that he managed to squash, and then someone ended up discredited and put into an institution (ergo, Carmen). While Hutchinson knows that Harry doesn’t have the evidence to take him down (and that he’d probably get laughed out of court), he’s put between a rock and a hard place when Harry threatens to take his findings to the local newspaper. There’s enough smoke there to at least get some print coverage and negative press. Considering it’s an election year, Hutchinson fields Harry’s demands: Julian Walker’s case to be kicked to family court where it belongs and for his want his charges dropped to manslaughter.” Reluctantly, we learn in the next scene that D.A. Hutchinson complies, and Julian is moved back into foster care.
Harry visits Julian in his new home, and advises the boy to face his guilt—for better or worse.
Harry goes to visit Julian at his new foster home, and the boy opens their conversation by saying he wanted to ask him something. He hands Harry a copy of the day’s paper with his case on the front page. “I thought they would start over when they died,” he says of Bess and Adam. “But that’s not true, is it?” “Nobody really knows for sure what happens when you die. If they say they do, they’re lying,” Harry says. Julian knows that he’ll get the truth from Harry, whereas his mother, Vera, tells him that he’s not guilty, even though he knows that he is. He feels like she’s lying to him. “When do you stop being guilty? When is it over?” he asks. It’s here that Harry, seemingly faced with images of his past, answers honestly and reveals what happened the night his house burned down: “I’m not sure.” He recounts again how he was once in foster care himself because his mother couldn’t take care of him after the accident. “She was sick. She felt too much. It would come out of nowhere. I just wanted it to stop,” he says. That’s when we learn that even though Harry did indeed come home to find a pot of boiling water left on the stove, it was he who lit a dish towel on fire then proceeded to burn the curtains in his kitchen and watch the whole thing in flames. He admits to Julian for the first time that he started the fire, and he feels guilt for it to this day. He relates his experience back to the hooded figure Julian sees at night: “That hooded thing you’re seeing—you told me it’s real. But have you ever thought that maybe it’s the guilt? I’d stare it down next time you see it because it’ll ruin you if you let it. Will you do that?” Julian nods his head. Harry then reaches out his hand, and Julian takes it.
Later that night, Julian again sees the hooded figure standing outside his window. But this time, instead of sitting in fear the way he did in his cell for nights on end, he sits up and yells at it: “You aren’t real!” But still, the figure is there outside the window, and it slowly begins to slide it open and enter the room. On the floor below, Julian’s foster parent, Garrett, hears rustling from upstairs and goes to investigate, thinking it’s his kids roughhousing in the middle of the night. He opens the door to Julian’s room to find his bed empty and his window open. He’s nowhere to be seen. Is the hooded figure real? Did he kidnap Julian into the night? We’ll have to wait for Chapter VII for these answers and more.
—Heather and Harry seem to make up and find common ground again. After his meeting with D.A. Hutchinson, Harry goes to meet Heather and others from the precinct at the Stillwater Reservoir (otherwise knows as the Purple Lake), where they have divers going under to see if they find anything of note. Turns out, they do find a car being weighted down by rocks about 30 feet below, and in the drivers seat, they find an unidentifiable skeleton that many take to be Marin. Heather is heartbroken, and takes a moment to herself for some closure.
—Heather’s story doesn’t end there this week, either: She has a heated confrontation with her dad, Jack, while at the local bar after discovering the skeleton in the reservoir. On the heels of trying to persuade her to get on Bumble and start dating, he tries again to comfort his daughter with a little too much cold-cut logic: “I know it’s awful, but at least you can finally forget about her [Marin] and get back to your life.” But Heather gets defensive, saying she doesn’t “believe in forgetting people.” That’s when the conversation abruptly turns to Heather’s mother—she wonders aloud when the last time they had a real conversation about anything was, and accuses Jack of only caring about himself. She says that her mom made things bearable for her as a queer, black woman in Keller, and now she doesn’t know why she stays there.
—There’s also tension between another parent-child relationship, this time Vera and Julian. When Julian is moved out of the juvenile detention center and put back into foster care, Vera escorts him to his transport van, saying that she knows he’s angry with her but that they will get through it together. She promises to get him home to Mosswood soon, but Julian smells another half-truth and goes cold before being driven away.