Every good murder mystery needs something that makes it just that bit different, and ever so often exceptional. Deserving of its place in the long line of shrewder, mind-bending whodunnits, The Sinner is actually anything but.
Opening with the roundly shocking act, the show leaves you in no doubt as to how it happened or who is responsible. Having arrested Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) who now faces a lifetime behind bars, Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), not content with one of the more open and shut cases of his career, sets out to determine the why.
As much a traditional detective story as an adept psychological thriller, both we and Ambrose are slowly drip-fed bits of information. Not insignificantly proffered in flashbacks, given Cora’s particular state the method is neither hackneyed nor contrived, advancing what turns out to be a engrossing series of ever-escalating events.
Packed with performers lacking recent, wider recognition, Biel’s superb dramatic chops are only matched by Pullman’s deceptively complex Police Officer, juggling his difficult personal life with the unique demands of his latest, highly involving case. Jacob Pitts, known for his lighter roles, is similarly one of the series’ numerous stand-outs.
Slyly made in the traditions of the best film noir, The Sinner contends well with a burgeoning series of misdeeds, the seeming underbelly behind the polite veneer of higher society, scorned lovers, several more nefarious figures, a few individuals who are markedly absent from proceedings and, as always, a carefully staged series of twists.
The penultimate conclusion and the crux of the series, well worth the investment, bears the rare distinction of being as harrowingly morbid as it is bitter-sweet. The use of music in this regard, and in particular the choice of soundtrack, which figures heavily in the series, is an instructive example of practised sound design and how greatly it can contribute to another work of art. Reaching near Broadchurch levels of formidability, the revelation is all the more powerful for the impact it has on the few characters to whom we have quickly become accustomed.
Rounding out The Sinner on a finalistic note, it is not yet clear whether there is the possibility of one performer returning for future offerings. Given the refreshingly excellent turn, their presence in a future instalment would not go unwelcome.
The Sinner is now streaming on Netflix