No One Saw The Real Sinner Villain Coming

Photo: Courtesy of USA Network.
Well, that’s it, The Sinner friends. The USA Network's murder mystery has come to an end, after eight straight weeks of creating unexpected ski mask phobias and generally making nudity seem like psychosexual horror rather than a beautiful thing. Last week, we finally found out why Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) killed Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd), what happened to Cora’s younger sister Phoebe Lacey (Nadia Alexander), and why all of Cora’s memories of supposed romantic rival Maddie (Danielle Burgess) seemed so darn weird. Absolutely none of it was good. So, season 1 finale “Part VIII,” which may or may not be the series finale as well, worked as a clean-up episode for the drama, answering all remaining mysteries hanging above The Sinner. Chief among those questions was where Cora was kept for the two months she was “missing” after the disturbing Beverwyck Club fiasco, when Phoebe was accidentally killed and Cora was sexually assaulted during a drug-fueled party. The answer is something truly haunting.
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If you asked the Internet, everyone from Frankie Belmont to Cora’s husband Mason Tannetti (Christopher Abbott) was the man under the ski mask who held Cora prisoner for two months. Shockingly, neither Frankie nor Mason was actually under the disguise — and neither was Cora’s manipulative criminal boyfriend J.D. (Jacob Pitts). Instead of those obvious possibilities, the man in question was Frankie’s father Mr. Belmont (Christopher Innvar), who previously preached about his son's innocence in “Part II,” and claimed the young man was in California during the summer of 2012. The reveal comes towards the middle of the The Sinner finale, as we see Frankie immediately calling his father after the young man accidentally killed Phoebe in the Beverwyck cottage’s basement.
Mr. Belmont’s actions after realizing his son inadvertently ended a girl’s life couldn’t be more frightening. First, he forced Frankie to leave the entire situation so the 23-year-old couldn’t be culpable for any remaining crimes ahead. Then, Belmont dragged Phoebe’s dead body out into the woods and brought an unconscious Cora along to keep an eye on her. We then see the determined dad burying Phoebe, which confirms she is the young woman whose skeleton was uncovered by Detective Ambrose (Bill Pullman) in “Part IV.” As Mr. Belmont was trying to hide Phoebe's body, Cora came to and began crawling away from the scary scene. Frankie’s dad almost killed the older Lacey sister with the shovel, to protect his son's secret, but thankfully couldn't follow through with his evil plan.
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While Mr. Belmont didn’t murder Cora in cold blood, his solution to keep her quiet was truly awful. The doctor brought the young woman back home to hold her captive until she no longer remembered what happened in the basement. One creepy scene shows Cora’s limp body splayed next to the Belmont’s kitchen as she lies on a bed of gory towels. Blood is everywhere and Mr. Belmont is attempting to clean up Cora’s head wound. This scene proves Frankie’s mother Elsa Belmont (Orlagh Cassidy) also knew about both Phoebe’s death and Cora's kidnapping. While Elsa begs her husband to get Cora out of their home, he explains they can’t since she’ll probably remember what happened and tell the police. Once Elsa realizes this is true, she lets Mr. Belmont go forward with his plan of kidnapping and drugging the 23-year-old.
It’s impossible not to think about what the Belmonts did for the two months Cora was trapped in their house. I assume, they shopped at the grocery store, saw friends, went to work, and lived their public lives similar to the way they had before the weekend of July 4th 2012 ever happened. They acted as if everything was normal. They acted as if they didn’t have a young woman held prisoner in their guest bedroom, as if they weren’t filling her body with heroine on the regular just to make sure she didn’t know the difference between a drug-induced haze and reality. In one especially chilling scene, Mr. Belmont sits in bed with Cora, asking her what she can recall — all she wants is more heroine. In an equally unsettling scene, we see Mr. Belmont purposefully injecting Cora’s arm with heroine poorly to make sure it looks like she’s an addict. Again, there's so much blood. This entire scheme to protect Frankie was clearly meticulously planned.
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All of this is what makes Mr. Belmont the true villain of The Sinner — not Frankie. As Cora tells her mother, Elizabeth Lacey (Enid Graham), Frankie did nothing wrong that evening (other than flee the scene of multiple crimes, which the older Lacey daughter had yet to realize). Phoebe had the most beautiful night of her life with Frankie. The would-be med student killed his new paramour by trying to save her life during CPR. There was absolutely no malice in his heart that night, just love. Mr. Belmont, on the other hand, used his privilege as a rich white man and doctor to kidnap a woman and shoot her up with drugs. He also helped supply J.D. with prescription pads as a way to keep J.D.'s mouth shut about Frankie. This allowed the drug dealer to lead a bigger pills business. This new entrepreneurial effort likely led to many deaths, overdoses, and addiction issues for J.D.’s clients. But, it’s not like anyone would ever suspect a nice Upstate doctor of being connected to such heinous crimes.
At least we can understand why Mr. Belmont would go to such dark places: to protect his son. But, just because we understand Frankie’s motives, doesn’t mean we forgive him.
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