I've been waiting to get to The Sinner finale for some time. It was only eight episodes but they were some great full packed ones at that. After learning what actually happened in that random room at the bottom of the stairs of the Beverwyck Club I am already satisfied with a truth I never would've guessed. But now let's wrap up this series and see what the future holds for Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel).
After reliving that terrible night in her head of watching her sister die Cora is now sobbing with guilt as all her emotions take over. The police finally arrive and take her back to the prison but Detective Ambrose (Bill Pullman) tells her that he will find a witness to help back her story. Although unfortunately what Ambrose doesn't realize is that's going to be one hard task to accomplish. JD (Jacob Pitts) and Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd) are dead. The only other guy in the room was that weird Todd guy and they learn that he died of kidney cancer two years ago. Plus to top it off he left for the Caribbean with his wife the next day and stayed there for a month. So no way he could be our masked man. Detective Farmer (Joanna Adler) lets Ambrose know that they confirmed the DNA from the girl buried in the woods and it was a match for Cora's sister Phoebe (Nadia Alexander). So she's officially no help either!
The only lead that does surface is his partner Leroy (Dohn Norwood) alerts him to authorities getting a picture and identifying one of the two men who left the scene after JD was murdered. His name is Daniel Burrows a.k.a Duffy (Grant Monohon) and he has done the stupid act of renting a large van on his card so the police have something to look for. Sure enough Officer Caitlin (Abby Miller) finds it parked in front of a storefront called the "American Medical Clinic." Ambrose arrives on the scene and even though Caitlin tells him she's waiting for backup he has no such patience. He goes inside and sees several women sitting around like they are waiting for something. A man who is acting as a receptionist sees Ambrose and tells him he needs to leave but before he does Duffy walks in the door. When Ambrose calls him Duffy and then asks him if his name is Daniel that's all the reason Duffy needs to bolt out the door. But unfortunately for him, the cops are right there and have cut off his escape. Duffy makes the mistake of drawing his gun and Officer Caitlin shoots him dead immediately. He did pull his weapon but dammit Caitlin, they needed him alive!
Back at the station, Ambrose is interrogating Duffy's partner who was the receptionist at the clinic. He confesses that they were using the girls to get prescription drugs from pharmacies that JD was writing scripts for. Somehow JD had defrauded three different doctors of their licenses and was making a full business of it. But even though Ambrose accuses the receptionist of killing JD, he claims he had nothing to do with it. He says it was all Duffy because there was too much attention surrounding JD from the police. Ambrose is frustrated that both of the men were dead ends and had no connection to Cora. He goes to tell her the bad news and when she brings up that they should just tell the judge what she remembers, he advises against it. Without a witness to the events, it will do them no good.
Later on, Cora gets an unexpected visitor in her mother Elizabeth (Enid Graham) making an appearance at the prison. She says she only came because Cora's father convinced her. Cora wants her mother to know what happened to Phoebe so she tells her how she met a boy, fell in love, and had sex before she died in his arms. "I've never seen her happier than that night," she says. Her mother calls her "disgusting" and challenges Cora by asking if Phoebe dying alone in the woods is how she really wanted to go? When Cora asks why they never called the police after they didn't come home, her mother reveals that she knew they were trying to escape to Florida so she figured they just ran away. Elizabeth tries to belittle Cora by telling her "look at you now," but Cora just tells her she is "more free now than I ever was with you." Time for you to go Mom. Your daughter doesn't need you anymore.
At her sentencing that day, Cora acts on her own when the judge asks if she would like to address the court. She apologizes to Frankie's parents for "taking their son" and tells the court that her sister was buried in the woods, she was locked up in a room, and she doesn't know what was done to her. Now she's just starting to sound like a hysterical woman who is looking for leniency. But this "Hail Mary" of an effort is too late as the judge sentences her to a minimum of 30 years. C'mon Ambrose, you have to fix this!
The next time we see Cora she is getting at least something to smile about as Mason (Christopher Abbott) finally brings Laine to see her. It's probably the biggest smile we've seen Cora have the entire series as she tightly embraces her son. As they attempt to have as much of a family moment you can have in a prison visiting room, Cora all of a sudden tries to pull herself out of it. She expresses her concerns to Mason about bringing Laine to see her in this kind of environment. But he disagrees with her and says that Laine needs his mother so they will continue to come back every week. Mason continues his "Golden Husband" performance and it's nice to see instead of some jerk who just gives up on his wife.
Even with her sentencing now over Ambrose still hasn't given up. He spends hours looking at the board with all their clues and even goes back to the clinic that Duffy was using. This somehow inspired him to track down Maddie Beecham (Danielle Burgess) who has changed her name to hide from the prying clutches of JD. Ambrose recalled the story about a baby name Winter and found only one in the area on the birth registry. He asks her about what happened at the Beverwyck Club that night and she tells him how after her and JD got into a fight she left the city. She got on a bus to Vermont the next morning to escape her "toxic" relationship with JD. But he didn't go away that easily as he kept calling her and eventually asked her to be a part of his "new business opportunity." JD was now going to get into selling pills of Oxy and Ambrose finds the timing really odd since this happens right after the night in question.
This really gets Ambrose's wheels turning and we see he has a quick meeting with the judge that leads to him taking Cora out of her cell and into the public again. He takes her to the Belmont's house, where once inside Patrick Belmont (Christopher Innvar) is quite furious and yelling at Leroy about how they've entered his home. But when he sees Cora in front of him, Patrick falls silent immediately. Ambrose first takes her to the kitchen and then takes Cora upstairs and slowly lets her walk around the rooms one by one. It's not until the third one that she seems to have some sort of familiarity to it as she walks over to a corner where the sun hits a certain spot. She picks at a crack in the paint and as she makes it larger pulls it back, and it reveals the distinct gold wallpaper with the unmistakable patterns that she's been seeing in her memories. Jackpot.
In a flashback sequence (this is The Sinner so we have to have one) that opens up with Patrick at his house getting a call from his son Frankie who is at the Beverwyck club. Patrick quickly drives over to the club and discovers his son in a room with Cora knocked unconscious and her sister Phoebe dead of an apparent heart attack. When Patrick notices that Cora still has a pulse, Frankie suggests taking her to the hospital but JD puts a stop to that. He brings up how if the girl talks they are all in a ton of shit and he says if they try to take her he will completely tell the police how Frankie was "balls deep in this very sick girl." Oh JD, you're dead in the present and STILL, you find a way to annoy us!
Patrick tells his son to drive straight home while he and JD put the two girls in the trunk of a car and drive them into the woods where the old, junky school bus is. As they begin digging a hole we can see Cora starts to regain consciousness and can see them take Phoebe's body and throw it in the hole. She tries to crawl away as fast as she can but she is such a lethargic state she can barely move a foot. Patrick sees this and stands over her with a shovel in his hand, but just can't bring himself to end her life. This guy is a doctor so he is normally in the business of preserving lives not taking them. Next thing we see is Patrick has taken Cora to his home and he's tending to her wounds there. His wife is freaking out and not comfortable with this at all but for the sake of his son he convinces her this is the best plan. They put Frankie on a plane that same day and send him back to L.A.
While Cora is laid up in bed and healing from her head thump, we learn that the man in the brown knit mask that kept "taking care" of her was Frankie's father Patrick. He was a good doctor to her in many ways as he combed her hair, sponge-bathed her, and stitched up her head. Plus in an attempt to keep Cora subdued and try to brainwash her memory as much as possible he regularly shot her up with doses of heroin. So maybe not the best bedside manner. Finally, when she was all healed up he bought her new clothes (remember that clue) and dropped her off in that alley in Poughkeepsie. And he almost got away with it.
Jumping back to the present, Ambrose tells Cora that the stolen license numbers that JD had been using to write scripts were all from Patrick's colleagues. That piece of hick trash, JD was blackmailing the poor doctor. When they go back downstairs Cora walks over to Patrick and stares intently at him. "It was you," she says. "I remember your eyes." She tells him that she knows what he did to her was only because of his love for his son. With this acknowledgment of his actions, it fills Patrick with so much guilt that it causes him to sob and tell Cora, "I'm sorry."
As Ambrose and Cora drive back he begins to tell her the first time he interviewed her, that he saw himself in her. She blamed herself for what happened and he says he often does the same. "The thing is, what somebody did to us when we were young, I know it wasn't our fault, I know we didn't do anything wrong, but somehow I - I don't know what to do with it all." This is quite a huge reveal to drop this late in the series. I mean, we knew Ambrose definitely had some problems (the S &M for sure) but it sounds like there are enough layers to peel back that they could use his story for a Season 2.
After all, this has happened, Cora ends up back in court again and after her public defender finally does her job, do we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel for her. Her lawyer gives an emotional speech about all the trauma Cora has had to go through in her past and even with all that she persevered and became a good wife and mother. But one day Frankie Belmont was sitting in front of her and somehow all the trauma came back to haunt her. The judge sees that Cora "acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance" and reduces her sentence to manslaughter. She is to be taken out of prison and placed in a secure psychiatric facility. "Her case will be reviewed every two years, with the possibility of release if she is determined no longer to be a danger to herself or others." Everyone rejoice!!!
As Cora is escorted out of the courthouse, Ambrose meets up with her and tells her that he bets she'll be out in two years. But in the meantime, he'll check up on her from time to time. She tells him "thank you" with her eyes full of tears and lays her head on his chest (she is still handcuffed). Ambrose stands there for a moment but then puts his arms around her and embraces her for a moment. The one guy that didn't quit on her and kept going until he uncovered the truth to set her free. It's a damn, wonderful, and emotional moment that I can't imagine how one can't well up some tears over.
The last moment we are given of the http://tvweb.com/the-sinner-season-1-episode-5-recap/USA Network show is not of Cora, but of Ambrose. He walks to his car and sits down looking over at the press conference happening after the verdict. It's hard to imagine what he is thinking as he has to take some satisfaction from essentially saving Cora's life. But he glances over at his fingernails with the black bruises still underneath. Maybe this is something that gives him the strength to either seek therapy or just get better on his own. No way to know for sure but that is the future I'm going to wish for Harry.