Just like last year, “The Sinner” spent its penultimate episode of the season in a lengthy flashback to reveal answers to many of the questions that had been spun out from the beginning. “Part VII” revealed that not only was Marin (Hannah Gross) still alive, but that she was indirectly responsible for the mess everybody is currently in, including her son Julian (Elisha Henig) poisoning two Mosswood members with tea brewed with Jimsonweed.
The revelations actually begin a few days prior to Julian’s fateful act. While Marin has left her son behind to be raised at Mosswood, in the intervening years she tried and often failed to deal with some of her issues, whether it meant taking drugs, going into rehab, or finding religion. When she had finally gotten what peace she can, she returns to Mosswood not to do “the work,” but to take Julian with her. Vera (Carrie Coon), who had become Julian’s mother legally and in all other ways that counted, refuses.
Undeterred, Marin ropes in Bess (Ellen Adair) and Adam (Adam David Thompson) to kidnap Julian and rendezvous with her at Niagara Falls, which is where this season begins. That’s why he doesn’t have a bag with him, and that song “Down in the Valley” that Bess sings to him is one that Marin apparently used to sing also. Marin is the one who was living in the storage unit, waiting for their arrival, which was botched when Julian committed murder. Marin is also the hooded figure who had stolen into his room and then eventually convinced him to escape the foster home. Unfortunately, despite escaping to the First Nations Indian reservation on the Canadian-U.S. border, Marin’s journey ends there. After making a phone call, she is later found by police outside on the grounds, dead from a gunshot wound to the torso.
Despite all of these revelations, “The Sinner” is still withholding several cards, saving them for the finale in one week. Here’s an examination of the remaining eight burning questions and the evidence hinting at answers:
Who Is Julian’s Father?
Zach Dilgard/USA Network
Yes, yes, we know that the show wants us to believe that the Beacon (Brennan Brown) is Julian’s father, and their coloring certainly matches. But the show also wanted us to believe that the body dredged from the Purple Lake belonged to Marin, when in fact, she was alive and putting bad plans into motion. Besides, the only words said onscreen so far about paternity have been, “It’s his. It’s definitely his.” At no time did anyone refer to Julian as the Beacon’s son. This could still be the case, but we have a different theory that is related to two other burning questions below.
What Drove Marin to Mosswood?
Again, a big deal was made of Heather’s (Natalie Paul) romantic interest in Marin as the reason she was driven away and into the arms of Mosswood, but that doesn’t add up. While it’s true that Marin didn’t want to pursue those feelings, she still seemed more than willing to hang out with Heather as friends, even as she was acting out by drinking with strange firemen she never met before. She had been depressed about being a “loser” who had no plan for life and earlier had told Heather, “You lie to yourself every day.” This line, in particular, feels telling, as if she’s also trying to face up to some truth herself. We believe that perhaps there was another reason for Marin to have had a quarter-life crisis, such as if she were already pregnant before she went to Mosswood. This leads us to…
What Is Jack’s Part in All of This?
Heather’s dad/Harry’s friend Jack (Tracy Letts) has been oddly inconsistent this season, enough to seem suspicious to viewers. He initially came off as the most congenial and loving friend and father, having accepted his daughter’s sexuality without any qualms and encouraging her to try online dating. But over time, he seems to have become prickly and dismissive, especially when it comes to the subject of Marin. Even though this was his daughter’s dear friend who supposedly died, he tends to avoid engaging with Heather in conversation about Marin, to the point of coming off as rather callous.
It seems as if Jack has something to hide. Perhaps in keeping with the theme this year, he might be even lying to himself. Something that could explain his discomfort when it comes to talking about Marin is if something he had done caused her to leave. The night that she walked away from them, she told him, “I can’t be your friend anymore. She’s the one that changed.” On the surface, this may seem to support Heather’s guilt in pushing her friend away with her unwanted attentions. But since Jack had gotten out of the car by himself to speak to Marin personally, he may have thought he had a way to sway her.
One theory is that he may have had a relationship with Marin also, and when Heather also sought out romance, both sets of attention messed with Marin’s head. After all, she had only ever wanted a family, and here, her adoptive family was changing the rules on her. To take this theory to the extreme conclusion, Marin could’ve already been pregnant with Jack’s baby when she joined Mosswood, which would be a very solid, physical reason for her to want to leave her old life behind. That would also make the child Heather’s half brother, yet another tangled mess.
Of course, these are just theories, but Jack still does seem to be involved. The older men of Keller certainly do protect one another, so he could be guilty of something else related to Marin or Mosswood.
Peter Kramer/USA Network
Is the Beacon Truly Dead?
When Vera told Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) that the Beacon eventually left Mosswood, she could have been telling the truth and not using a euphemism for him dying. Just because she served him tea doesn’t mean that she killed him with the same poison that Julian had used on Bess and Adam, even though that’s how we’re conditioned to see tea on this show. If he’s still alive, he could’ve made a Mosswood 2.0 elsewhere with people who liked that idea of sacrificing a child as a scapegoat.
Who Killed Marin?
The end of the episode shows Marin dead by a gunshot wound. She had been carrying a gun while she was on the run with her son, and Julian saw that she had placed the gun down when she was in one of the homes on the reservation. Since Julian has a history of killing people who spirit him away, he is one possible culprit.
But she was also on the phone with someone whom she was supposed to meet, and this person could have been the one to kill her. For what purpose? If this person wanted Julian for some reason that she would not like — perhaps scapegoating? — then she would definitely be in the way since her latent maternal instincts have kicked in. If the Beacon were still alive, then having a ready-made child scapegoat would be handy.
Why Did Julian Put Stones on the Corpses’ Eyes?
This could be related to an ancient practice by the Greeks, who put coins on the eyes of the dead to pay passage to the mythical ferryman Charon to take the dead people’s souls across the River Styx. On “Game of Thrones,” both Joffrey and Tywin had rocks painted with eyes on them placed on their eye sockets, perhaps so they can see into the afterlife. Who knows?
What Happened With Harry While He Was Doing “the Work”?
Peter Kramer/USA Network
Harry lost a big chunk of time while doing “the work” with Vera, and we’d be as disturbed as he was since he also apparently drove afterwards. That is some Ambien-level sleep-walking! Vera knows but she hasn’t told him. They also had a bit of chemistry that night. Hopefully, we’ll find out.
What Will Happen to Julian?
Julian is once again missing. Either he killed Marin and is on the lam again or has been kidnapped… again. Since there’s only one episode left, we can’t see that he’d be killed, even if he is in mortal danger. But we could be wrong, and he’ll die. If he doesn’t though, he’d still have to face charges for killing Bess and Adam. Harry wouldn’t want him to grow up in prison or in the system, but a return to Mosswood doesn’t seem likely either. This has been one of the more worrisome aspects of the show.
”The Sinner” finale airs Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. on USA Network.