The mundane life of Jamie Burns (Matt Bomer) is thrown for a loop when he reconnects with his old college buddy Nick Haas (Chris Messina) ... who ends up dead in the Season 3 premiere of The Sinner.
Throughout this season of the anthology series, audiences saw Jamie's continual spiral downward as he yearns to connect with another individual going through a similar existential crisis. So, does he find that with Detective Ambrose (Bill Pullman)?
Distractify spoke exclusively with the show's creator Derek Simonds about the themes prominent in Season 3, the relationship between Burns and Ambrose, and a few lingering questions we had about the show's finale.
Check out our Q&A below. (Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
'The Sinner': Creator Derek Simonds Talks Season 3 Finale & More!
Distractify: Can you talk about creating these three dimensional characters in Season 3 who we sympathize with, hate, and run through the full spectrum of emotions with? What is your process?
Derek Simonds: I wanted to switch things up in Season 3 because I’m always conscious about not wanting the show to continue to feel like it’s following pattern every season. I was really interested in Ambrose confronting a male character versus another woman or a juvenile, like with Julian in Season 2.
I was curious about creating a character who was struggling with morality more directly and when he kills, is doing it conscious of what he’s doing rather than creating a typical sort of psycho killer who we don’t really relate to but watch with fascination. We’re all about sort of peeling back layers of psychology and relating to sort of the darker corners of ourselves.
Aside from the murderous part of the character, it feels like people can really relate to Jamie.
DS: From the very beginning in the writers room, I was always making the line of like, ‘We have to do everything we can to relate to Jamie every step of the way.' ... I really wanted Jamie to speak truth and struggle kind of philosophically about where we are collectively right now as a culture.
Can you talk about Jamie and Ambrose’s connection throughout the season and how these two characters are seemingly parallels of one another?
DS: I wanted Jamie to be a mirror to Ambrose so that Jamie is outwardly struggling with all of these questions that Ambrose is struggling with himself, but isn't nearly as willing to face himself.
There’s a lot of questions of death and here comes Jamie sort of actively grappling with all these things and notices a certain kind of relation to Ambrose that Ambrose understands, much more than he let on. Then Jamie starts to become dependent on that, especially with the loss of Nick. There’s a lot of themes of finding that other person or that companion to mirror back your struggles and make you not feel alone.
It seems like they're both looking to connect to people.
DS: That is really like the thesis of the show, that human connection is actually what heals people and their traumas. I really wanted to create a character in Jamie who is not gonna take no for an answer. Is not going to just snuff the questions back into a little room in his mind, but is going to keep coming at Ambrose with a ‘I know you’re thinking about these things too. I know you’re just like me.’
Towards the end of the season finale, Burns utters the phrase, 'I’m not a bad person.' What is your stance on that since fans have been rooting for Jamie and have been against him throughout the season?
DS: It’s so challenging, right? You feel sorry for Jamie, but he’s also killed people so he is a bad person by one vector. By another, hopefully people had seen his inner struggle enough and had related to it in ways that there is also this feeling that he’s not a totally bad person. He’s not just a Jeffrey Dahmer monster that we don’t relate to at all, which is what I didn’t want to do with the character.
Exactly, it's such a gray area.
DS: To me, it’s an interesting sort of challenging moment where we get to question a little bit, like, does evil exist, or are we creating it through our experiences? ... I don’t think Jamie is a bad person at heart. I think he has good instincts. He’s been in desperate situations and has acted rationally and has this anger that he can’t let go. Then it comes out in these inappropriate ways.
Before he died, Burns tells Ambrose that he didn’t have to shoot him. So, why did he?
DS: It’s an exciting moment for me because we are sort of complicating Ambrose’s heroics a little bit. I was really interested in this idea of, Jamie is the shadow side of Ambrose kinda come to life. The part of Ambrose that Ambrose really doesn’t want to see. There is the part of Ambrose, like in all of us, that wants to extinguish that part, that shadow side.
Ambrose is just pushed to such the brink with Jamie. ... Their struggle just keeps going and going and by the end they’re both breathless and sort of circling each other. Jamie is saying, ‘You’re never gonna get away. If it’s not me, it’ll be somebody else or something else. You can’t get away from yourself. It’ll come back.’ I think the truth of that and the confrontational quality of that is just a moment where Ambrose’s hand just squeezes the trigger.
I think what’s great of Bill’s performance is after he does it, he’s kind of shocked by what he did. ... I see it as this moment that comes out of huge resistance in Ambrose to contend with this force in Jamie and it’s not even about being in danger; it’s like ‘I don’t want to look at myself’ is basically the gesture. … 'I don’t want that truth. F--k you.’
The show ends with the line, 'He was scared.' Was there ever any talk to not end on that sentence?
DS: No. This last scene with Bill, [he] has such a beautiful performance, so vulnerable and we’ve never seen Ambrose like this. I’ve been dying to get Ambrose to this point in the series. To me, this is like the culmination of three seasons of emotional repression in Ambrose that comes flooding out. ... I do feel like, despite the darkness of the season and Jamie’s fate, which is tragic, I hope there is this feeling of hope for Ambrose, this emotional opening, which we haven’t seen before.
Any plans for a Season 4? Have you started thinking of possible storylines and characters?
DS: I have vague ideas for a Season 4. There has been no word yet from the network side whether the show is going to continue or not, so that remains to be seen. But, with an anthology show, someone like me is always under the gun, thinking ahead. I have a few ideas.