“Part II” gets darker and weirder as we learn more about Jamie and Nick’s relationship, and Ambrose digs deeper.
This recap of The Sinner Season 3, Episode 2, “Part II”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The Sinner continues to locate something quite terrifying in rather mundane destructive relationships, in particular, the one shared between Jamie Burns (Matt Bomer) and Nick Haas (Chris Messina) which resulted in the latter mangled inside his car and the former watching him die. This season’s comparative mundanity – no secret cults or murderously exclusive country clubs yet – seems largely the point: It has been about, thus far anyway, what it’s like to gravitate towards someone who you know is bad for you, and how to deal with that person’s absence when you realize it’s time to move on. And rather than being subtle subtext, this is made pretty explicit in dialogue.
The Sinner Season 3, Episode 2 hones in on that relationship, though importantly leaves elements unanswered for now. We know that it was Jamie who reached out to Nick after almost two decades of no contact, and we know that while Jamie earnestly loves and appreciates the life he has now, there is some kind of nebulous gravitational pull towards the old one he shared with Nick, which seems to be defined by willingly standing as close to death and destruction as possible without quite making the final leap. Flashbacks help to put the point across; we see the pair’s testy greeting after all those years, see Nick guide Jamie’s knife through his hand at dinner, see them both standing on the edge of tall buildings and making strong implications that it isn’t the first time they’ve participated in such death-defying feats.
The crucial question is, I suppose, whether Nick’s death is now compelling Jaime to return to a life of murder-by-proxy and actual attempted murder, or if this is something new to him. His conversations with Ambrose (Bill Pullman) and Leela (Parisa Fitz-Henley) make clear that he is on some level hiding a double-life or at least two competing identities, but don’t clarify exactly what lengths he and Nick went to in search of that elusive rush – or crucially how far he might go in covering up what he’s done, or what he might do going forward. And if The Sinner Season 3, Episode 2 is anything to go by, Jaime is liable to do just about anything; in the hospice care wing of the hospital, he attempts to strangle a kindly old man with dementia for virtually no reason at all and scurries away with the job half-done. Staying ahead of the authorities is not going to be easy for a man this uncommitted to crime.
That internal conflict is the point, obviously, and the not-so-subtle ghost of Nick cropping up here and there when Jaime is at his worst seems to indicate that even in death his bad-influence bestie can continue to coach him along roads without any route back to normalcy. As good as Matt Bomer is at getting this across, it’s Chris Messina who really makes this season tick with an edgy, compelling malevolence that makes even his imagined presence a frightening prospect. Anyone Jaime happens to be around seems at risk whenever Nick is lurking in the frame, be it Leela or a random old man or the awful father of a prep school student; Jaime is permanently teetering on the edge of that Manhattan skyscraper we saw them both standing on, just waiting to be pushed.
The exact shape this mystery is going to take remains indistinct, though we know it involves Sonya (Jessica Hecht) and a grave dug on her expansive property, which might have been for her or someone else. And we also know – or can make the logical assumption – that the process of finding out is going to heavily involve Jaime’s gradual unraveling. While the much more intimate focus might have seemed like a downside in “Part I”, The Sinner Season 3, Episode 2 suggests that it’s going to define whatever happened in the past, whatever was planned for the future, and whatever happens next.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.