Season 2 of The Sinner, featuring a fresh new story, is finally here. And if you’re not watching, you’re making a major mistake. Sidenote: While not necessary, we strongly recommend binging on the superb first season at your earliest opportunity, especially to get extra hyped for the new season unfolding every Wednesday night on USA. Here, we’ll break down the top reasons you ought to be watching in the form of the five most necessary questions: who, what, when, where, and why.
Detective Harry Ambrose, played by the wonderful Bill Pullman, is the only character connected to Season 1. He’s smart, handsome, and sweetly charming. And as we learned in the first season, he’s also wrought with demons yet to be explored. He’s contacted by a detective in his hometown, the daughter of an old friend. She desperately wants his help with this wild new case.
The focal point of this season is Julian, played by Elisha Henig. Last seen on the short-lived Alex, Inc., Henig plays a very troubled 13-year-old who has obviously been through a great deal in his short life.
Carrie Coon, who you might know from The Leftovers but would definitely know as Proxima Midnight from Avengers: Infinity War, joins the cast as Vera. There are a couple of flashbacks of Vera speaking with young Julian, therapizing him actually, while he doodles meticulously. But the first hour ends with a startling revelation about their relationship.
WHAT (THE F***)
The premise of this season centers on a double homicide so grisly that you may want to turn your head. En route to a family trip to Niagra Falls, a couple is murdered at the Rockford Lodge Motel, moments after sneaking in a little sexy time while their 13-year-old child is off at the complimentary breakfast bar.
The weapon? Poisonous tea. The child shakily confesses to the crime and even admits to knowing what would happen if his parents drank the tea he prepared for them. Damn, sis!
Which parts will keep you coming back for more? When the couple drinks the tea and suffers their demise. When Julian explains that his parents died because they had to go “back … to the beginning.” When Vera and Julian discuss “Shadow Julian.” When Detective Ambrose has a childhood flashback! When the police discover the luggage! When Vera appears at the police station looking for Julian!
Our new story takes place in Manchester, NY, not far from the upstate New York town of Dorchester that served as the backdrop in Season 1. Driving back to the precinct with Detective Novack, Ambrose reflects on his reasons for leaving for Dorchester all those years ago. And we think his reasons tie to the overall plot of the season. “You know, in the 1800s, it was swarming with evangelicals. Joseph Smith saw God, started Mormonism, spiritualists, talking to the dead.”
While he explains the history, Detective Novack looks super creeped out. “There’s something in the soil here,” he continues. “Things won’t stay quiet.”
We love the “whydunnit” framework so much. It’s better than the more common “whodunnit” strategy because there you’re left pointlessly guessing all season long about the identity of a criminal, even though every purposeful deceit is employed by the showrunners to make you think you’ve figured it out, while they fully intend to run you off course week by week. The Sinner shows you everything you need to see about what happened, but leaves you wondering why it happened in the first place.
While she magnificently portrayed Cora in the first season, Jessica Biel is strictly EP this time around. We’d like to tip our hat to that fine woman for bringing us such a tasty summer treat, sure to be your new fave.