For a while there, it seemed like the television gods had turned on us. After all, it really seemed that Netflix's hit show The Sinner would wrap after a single, dazzling, eight-episode season in 2017. Blasphemy. But then our collective TV fate changed. USA network renewed the psychosexual thriller for a second season, causing everyone who loves twisted murder mysteries to rejoice.
However, there is only one problem: The Sinner season 2 needed to drop its unforgettable initial leading lady, Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel). Cora’s story wrapped with last year’s finale, “Part VIII,” when fans learned the complete reason the seemingly mild-mannered mum killed a “stranger” (Eric Todd) on a placid family beach day (the late Frankie Belmont wasn’t a stranger at all, he accidentally killed Cora’s sister during a drug-fuelled evening five years prior).
Although Cora will fade during The Sinner’s 2018 run, premiering Wednesday 1st August, the drama’s sophomore year still has a serious connection to the series’ first season. That connection is the mysterious detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), and his even more mysterious past.
The new season of The Sinner is truly an exploration of Ambrose and his habit of finding the most disturbing, confusing cases possible. While season 2’s murder might technically be a brand-new crime, it runs on the same mechanics as last one. Again, there is a gruesome murder and a very unlikely, inscrutable murderer. This time around, the victims are a husband and wife, who, as trailers show, were brutally killed in a motel room. Yet, the clear perpetrator isn’t a suburban mum with repressed trauma. Instead, it’s a quiet, haunting young boy named Julian Walker (Elisha Henig). His parents are the dead couple.
Ambrose is brought in on the parricide case due to his past success with unraveling the impossible-to-understand, bloody investigation into Cora. As Biel, who is now a Sinner executive producer, wrote on Instagram about the new season’s trailer, “Once again, we know WHO did it… but we don’t know WHY.” Once again, it is Ambrose’s job to get to the bottom of that problem.
By bringing Ambrose back for season 2, the USA drama opens itself up to answering some of the burning questions left dangling in the wind in 2017. Namely, what exactly is Ambrose’s own personal trauma. In the season 1 finale, Ambrose explains to Cora why he became so fixated on helping her the moment he interviewed her about Frankie’s death.
“The way you were blaming yourself, I realised it felt familiar. Because I do that, too,” the detective admits. “The thing is, though, what somebody did to us when we were young… I know it wasn’t our fault. I know we didn’t do anything wrong.”
After eight episodes of seeing the failed family man’s alarming self-destructive behaviour — like tricking a partner into S&M sex that purposefully endangered Ambrose’s life without her knowledge — this season-ending moment is one of the first times The Sinner nods at the root of its leading man’s troubles. Something awful happened to Ambrose when he was a child, and it has followed him far into adulthood. We should expect season 2 to reveal what exactly that traumatising moment was, as new episodes bring Ambrose back home to rural New York. Ambrose’s hometown and the scene of the Walker murders are one in the same.
We might not have Cora Tannetti anymore, but Ambrose is still caught in quite a few mysteries worth solving this summer.