The Sinner Isn’t Your Typical Murder Mystery

Jessica Biel in The Sinner
Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/USA Network

The Sinner Series Premiere Plot Summary:

Cora Tannetti’s (Jessica Biel) life changes in an instant when she attacks and kills a man. It’s up to Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) to find out why, something Cora doesn’t even appear to know.

I’ve watched a decent number of murder mystery miniseries. They tend to drag on until the last episode while the rest of the episodes provide small clues and big red herrings. It’s a tired formula that we really shouldn’t put up with anymore. Color me surprised when an event series comes along to turn the genre on its head. That series is The Sinner.

The first third of the premiere is dull and strange, but it picks up once it explodes into a violent frenzy. It’s not for the faint of heart, but USA is somehow able to get away with it. I’ll admit that I don’t watch the channel that often, outside NCIS reruns, so maybe it’s actually par for the course. Anyway, after all that, the rest of the episode had no trouble keeping my attention.

One can only wonder what the reason behind the brutal stabbing is. The few flashbacks to Cora’s childhood suggest it has something to do with her past. Could she have repressed a handful of memories? Whatever the reason, watching her break down is definitely unsettlingly. Of course, the downside to all this mystery is that the show has to deliver satisfying answers. That’s not always easy.

The man looking for those answers, Detective Harry Ambrose, is not the most original character, but I don’t fault the writers too much. You know the kind I’m talking about. He’s the one who’s clearly better at his job, who’s more insightful and more tenacious. On the more original side, there’s a subplot involving his love life, but it doesn’t seem particularly important. It could weigh down the season if it gets too much attention.

While I’m not clamoring to watch the remaining seven installments, The Sinner is better than I expected and a show worth checking out. I’ll at least watch the second episode when it airs or later On Demand.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Good)

THE SINNER AIRS WEDNESDAYS AT 10 ON USA

Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.

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