The Sinner on Netflix has a very simple premise. A seemingly normal young woman murders a stranger for no apparent reason. One detective in particular doesn't believe her so he goes in search of answers. That's the very simple overview of the show.
Cora, played by Jessica Biel, is a married woman with a toddler and a nice normal husband and job. She's not the most outgoing person and does have to contend with the over bearing nature of her in-laws. Which is proving more difficult as time goes on. But otherwise all is good in her life. At a trip to the beach, while peeling her son's fruit, she spots a couple nearby. The music is playing loudly and the couple are a bit all over each other and then the mist descends on Cora.
In a heart beat she is up and stabbing the young man to death right there on the beach. Taken in to custody, Cora admits to murdering him and resigns herself to life in prison. She did do it after all. But Detective Harry Ambrose, played by Bill Pullman, needs a ‘why?'. It quickly becomes apparent that Cora has had a very difficult life. Growing up in an uber religious home with a slightly deranged mother and a terminally ill sister, life was no picnic.
As Detective Ambrose digs further, he discovers a period of two months, five years earlier, which Cora has absolutely no memory of. She believes what she was told by her mother but that's not the whole story. In fact it was a complete fabrication and as the story unfolds the reasons for Cora's actions become very clear.
The Sinner is a great piece of tv and it is a completely engaging story. Similar to Mindhunter (review here), this is a story about why somebody would commit murder. However, it also lacks pace in parts and I confess, I did forward through some of it and didn't really miss anything crucial to the story. Ambrose has his own demons which are explored but not really resolved and his on again/off again with his wife and mistress/girlfriend didn't really add anything.
Jessica Biel is excellent as the stripped back emotionally tortured Cora. That said, there did come a point where I almost pleaded at the tv for her to stop crying – there's a lot of crying. Overall it's a worth a watch, it's well scripted and the story is excellent as are the leads.
The Sinner Season 2
Detective Ambrose is back again in a new season called ‘Julian'. This time he returns to his home town to help a young detective solve a mysterious case of a 13-year-old who poisoned two people assumed to be his parents.
Things get very complicated when old friendships are put to the test and Ambrose wants to delve deeper into the commune the boy comes from. Similar to season one, we all know who committed the crime. The question is why?
The Sinner Season 3
This show just keeps getting better and better. Bill Pullman is truly at his finest and this time around he has Chris Messina and Matt Bomer to play against. So when Ambrose has to investigate a fatal car accident in Upstate New York, he uncovers a much larger and disturbing case behind it.
Bomer plays Jamie Burns, an expectant father who gets in a car accident that kills his old college friend. But what exactly happened to the friends and can Ambrose use his unusual methods to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Overall Season 3 is good but probably not as good as Season 1, which is the best by far. Season 2 was good but got a little bizarre with the actual crime getting lost in a crazy bigger picture.
Likewise with Season 3. It's almost as if the crime is irrelevant, it's just a jumping point for the 10 episodes with the ending contrived and implausible.