The Sinner Season 2 Episode 1 Review: To the Beginning

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Harry Ambrose is going to get a reputation.

It's only the second such case he's investigating, but on The Sinner Season 2 Episode 1 when he's called by someone in his hometown to take a look at a murder with no apparent motive, it doesn't take long for Harry to get sucked into the case.

Whether it was being home again or his enthusiasm for another seemingly motive-less case, Harry wasn't on his game.

Julian in the Motel - The Sinner Season 2 Episode 1

There's no doubt in my mind The Sinner Season 2 will be as compelling as The Sinner Season 1, but as watchable as the first season turned out to be, it too had flaws.

There were a lot of moments that felt stuffed into the series for shock value only. At the time, The Sinner was only to be a one-time limited series. It was based on a book, though, so I figured the material came right from author Petra Hammesfahr.

Related: The Sinner Season 2 Trailer: A Harrowing New Case Begins

This season will continue with the character she created, Harry Ambrose, but everything else will come from the minds of creator Derek Simonds, director Antonio Campos, and executive producer, Jessica Biel.

So I'm skeptical right from the start, as you'll be able to tell when you click on the episode link above to read my full recap of the premiere which I write as I watch.

There is one thing this season has going for it and that's the cast. Carrie Coon? You can't go wrong with her. She'll be entertaining and mesmerizing regardless of the material.

Harry and Jack - The Sinner Season 2 Episode 1

Her husband, Tracy Letts, is in on the action, and he's also one to watch. I already don't believe he's going to get off as easily as being good ol' Jack Novak. Nope, he's going to be more than a fellow who needs his daughter to buy him cereal and watch out for ranch dressing when they get lunch.

So why do I think Harry is off of his game (or the new writers don't know Harry as well as Hammesfahr)? There were a lot of things Harry and the green detective Heather overlooked when examining the case.

Granted, we got a fly on the wall perspective of the strange vacation and the killing, and that didn't offer much to go on, either. But I'm not a trained detective. I just watch them on TV.

Related: The Sinner Teaser: First Look at Season 2!

There were a lot of things that stood out to me as the fly on the wall detective before the deaths of Adam and Beth, whoever the hell they really were.

Beth's nervousness, their concern over paying $59 for the room, the worry at staying in Keller for the night didn't make any sense in contrast to Beth's opinion that the trip really meant a lot to her and Julian.

Watching TV - The Sinner Season 2 Episode 1

The way she comforted him when he was crying made it seem like they had a relationship beyond a few days, but not trusting him to stay at a breakfast bar to grab cups of tea or knowing how long it would take him to return (i.e., not long enough to pound one out on the door to the room) betrayed that feeling.

Beth: You're such a bad father.
Adam: The worst.

The opening scene up to the death of Adam and Beth was released a while back, and I did my due diligence in trying to discover a poison the kid could have used that would cause the symptoms Adam and Beth shared given the amount of tea they drank and the speed of their deaths.

I also used the other clue that it smelled like licorice. 

There was no poison that fit the bill. I'm a great internet researcher. I can be exhaustive and somewhat OCD about it, so I was interested to see what was used to kill them because I couldn't find it.

Related: Enjoy UNLIMITED access to thousands of Movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video

Guess what? Jimson Weed wouldn't have done that. Not in that quantity, and not with the leaves. The seeds are the most toxic part, and ingesting them is the most harmful. Tea usually causes hallucinations and can be deadly, but teens make tea for the hallucinogenic properties because they're idiots.

Inaccuracies like that don't give me a lot of hope for the story being as strong as what Harry investigated courtesy of Hammesfahr.

A Troubled Detective - The Sinner

And would anyone have expected Harry to so easily believe Julian was the child of the murdered couple? That was a bit difficult to swallow.

Without any ID on her, there was no reason to suspect Adam and the woman were married, and without any bag in the car for Julian, there was no reason to suspect he was anything but kidnapped.

Heather: Oh my God. What kind of parents go on a trip and don't pack a bag for their kid?
Harry: What were they planning on doing with him?

Julian wasn't doing a lot of talking, and when he said, "my mother," he could have been talking about anyone. In fact, he may have been talking about someone else now that we've seen someone claiming to be his mother pop up elsewhere.

The line of questioning should have started a bit more simple. Who are you? Were the dead people your parents? Just because he didn't run didn't mean he wasn't a hostage or something. 

Related: The Sinner Season 2 Lands Carrie Coon to Star Opposite Bill Pullman

When a kid goes to such lengths to rid himself of the only people he's with on the road, wouldn't your first thought be that all is not what it seems with the trio?

That kid was not normal. I mean that sound he made? That was not normal.


They went far enough to realize the kid wasn't normal. What about the little family unit? 

Whatever Julian was dreaming about when it came to the hooded figure was distressing, but will probably be the big reveal Harry has to fight through Julian's mind to uncover.

I don't know how long I'll be able to sit through that deeply pulsing metronome while still thinking straight, so if the kid spent most of his life learning lessons in that way, it's no wonder he could kill without much emotion.

Taking those two back "to the beginning" seemed like he had to send them back to their maker. The conversations Julian and Vera had to the metronome were downright freaky. Her heart was in the right place, but with that noise the message might have gotten confused.

Vera: Why do you feel so bad?
Julian: Because I hurt Liz.
Vera: That's true, but we talked about this didn't we? When you push those feelings away, they just get stronger. Shadow Julian is Julian. He's you. And when he comes knocking, what are you supposed to do?
Julian: I let him in.

At this point, I think the dead couple was, for all intents and purposes, Julian's parents. I also think Vera is his mother -- by birth. That's probably why Beth was skittish stopping in that town.

Maybe they were part of a cult that Vera leads and escaped and thought it was a good idea to take a trip route right back through the very town from which they escaped. Not smart.

Why else bring up all of the religious stuff while Harry and Heather were driving around? Something in Coon's character description made it sound like she might be messed up in that kind of organization.

And if it's why Harry left town, it could tie back to why his mother was sitting inside a house just gazing around while it went up in flames. He's going to go back to the beginning, too, isn't he?

What did you think of the premiere? Is it enough of a mystery to pull you in or will you need another episode or two to get you invested? If you missed the first season, you can watch The Sinner online.

Hit the comments with thoughts and theories!

Part One Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (17 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Sinner Season 2 Episode 1 Quotes

So you think he poisoned them and then he arranged the bodies this way?


Beth: You're such a bad father.
Adam: The worst.