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Bill Pullman Charts Det. Ambrose's Journey in
'The Sinner'
Part 2: Facing the Minotaur?

by  Mary Cochrane-McIvor

February 5, 2020

A young boy has murdered his parents in Det. Ambrose's hometown of Keller, New York.  Det. Heather Novack, the daughter of Ambrose's friend Jack, asks for Ambrose's help with the case.

Ambrose agrees to help Det. Novack. He leaves the security of his good partnership with Det. Leroy in Dorchester, New York.  Pullman says: “(Det.) Leroy has a lot of generosity for Ambrose. For some reason, he has been a friend to him, tolerating Ambrose's insular kind of quality, allows Ambrose to stay with him when things are . . . rough in his life, but [is] also aware that there are many things Ambrose isn't telling him. [Leroy] is probably the best friend that he's had.”

In Keller, New York Ambrose's old friend Jack Novack, owner of the local Cobblestone Inn, offers him a place to stay. Once in town, Ambrose is haunted by memories of traumatic events from his own childhood.

On first meeting Julian, the young boy accused of murdering his parents, Ambrose's acute observation of him reveals that Julian's 'parents' were poisoned by drinking tea made with jimson weed, tea brought to them by Julian.

Julian is not, in fact, the son of Bess and Adam, the murder victims. He is the son of Vera Walker, the head of Mosswood Grove, a local commune.

At first, Julian refuses to talk to Ambrose, calling him an 'outsider' but Ambrose says to Julian:  "No reason why you should trust me. You ask the questions.”  A connection between the two begins to form. Ambrose tells Julian about his own experience living in foster care due to his mother's mental health problems and the crisis of a fire at his family's house. Ambrose helps Julian, watches over him and guides him during the murder investigation. Ambrose becomes the one who tells him the truth.

Ambrose tells his partner Heather Novack: “When a boy that young kills, it's never really just his fault. Whatever is going on, Vera Walker is in the thick of it.”

Vera has repeatedly told Julian that a hooded figure who comes into his room at night is “just a dream”, a deliberate, self-serving lie on her part.

Ambrose questions Vera about “the work” individuals do at Mosswood. She engineers a 'session' with him where she guides him in confronting the traumatic events in his past with his mother. Afterward, he doesn't remember what happened. When Vera provides a recording of the session to Ambrose, he turns it off just before the pivotal revelations.

I asked Bill Pullman if Ambrose is moving closer to getting himself together or unraveling and facing even more trauma ahead. Why does he turn off the 'session' tape from Vera?

 Bill Pullman: “ Good observation about Vera's input, the journey with her was complex. It opened up a lot of doors inside himself that he had kept closed for a long time . . . you can't go backward after you open those doors so he (Ambrose) know's there's something out there for him, that he needs to take a big risk and commit to some kind of intimate relationship that he could investigate. He's not yet ready to do that till the start of the 3rd season.”

In the final courtroom scene in Season 2 Ambrose asks the judge for permission to “say one thing” about Julian:

Det.Ambrose: “He knows what he did. He knows why he did it. His first instinct was
to confess. He had a chance to run away. He came back to face judgment, to make amends.
That's more than most of us can say.”

I asked Pullman if that statement relates to any insecurities and unsettled issues in Ambrose's life?

Pullman replied: “That was a critical moment . . .built by Derek Simond (Showrunner-Creator) and the writers . . . .that ability to . . .regret not only Julian's behaviour but see the authenticity of the need for Ambrose to say something that could waken up the courtroom to really have empathy for Julian and he (Ambrose) had to both enter his own culpability with that kind of situation and (get) everybody else to identify with that culpability for the same reason.”

At the end of Season 2  Ambrose has become a protector and guide for Julian while uncovering the truth.  He is recognizing the issues he has to face and getting closer to taking a risk to deal with those issues, but still not quite ready to face the Minotaur.  What lies ahead in Season 3?  Watch  www.billpullman.org  and Bill Pullman.org Facebook for Part 3: Going Into the Woods.

“The Sinner” Seasons 1 & 2 are available to stream on Netflix.  Review Det. Ambrose's cases by watching Seasons 1 & 2 and read Bill Pullman's perspective in this series of articles on the cases solved and the new one ahead.  Part 1 of this interview: Awakening  Read it HERE


© 2020 Mary Cochrane-McIvor


Det. Leroy (Dohn Norwood) &  Det. Ambrose (Bill Pullman)

Det.Heather Novack (Natalie Paul) &  Det. Ambrose (Bill Pullman)

Julian (Elisha Henig) &  Det. Ambrose  (Bill Pullman)


Who is the Minotaur?

The Minotaur is a monster at the center of a labyrinth in Greek mythology.
In the world of  The Sinner,
facing the Minotaur means encountering the dark shadow side of yourself.