TV Review: The Sinner

Netflix’s most convoluted programme is back, and it’s just as bingeable as before. The second series of mystery drama The Sinner sees Jessica Biel behind the camera as executive producer, with an arguably upgraded cast. Like the first series, it is fast paced from the outset yet doesn’t compromise character development.

Some continuity is offered from the first series as viewers are reunited with detective Harry Ambrose. Despite the resurfacing of unsettling memories, Ambrose returns to his hometown to work alongside the likable Heather Novack. Viewers are introduced to a new setting and set of characters. Seeing as the first series was based on a novel that had a closed ending, the introduction of a new set of characters makes the series fresh and prevents it from being dragged out. Carrie Coon deftly portrays Vera Walker as a complex character who is both sympathetic yet sinister.

The series opens with a family staying a night at a motel on their way to Niagara Falls. The parents act awkwardly and are nervous about their thirteen year old son’s safety. They should have been nervous for themselves. The following morning they are agonisingly poisoned to death and their son is the only suspect. The intensity of the first episode seems to suggest the murder is a clear case. However, in a manner typical of The Sinner, the mystery unfolds not as a ‘whodunnit’ but a ‘whydunnit’. The case leads Ambrose and Novack to a cult-like commune that has led multiple ex-members to suicide, where they attempt to piece together why a child would kill his own parents.

The Sinner could have been improved by interjecting elements of humour, but it maintains a near-perfect balance between the exploration of character and plot advancement. Coon in particular offers a magnetic performance, and the reliability of each character is questioned by the viewer. The well-timed twists and unpredictable manner in which it unfolds makes for a truly absorbing watch.




Anya Loudon

Images: speakertv, IndieWire, USA Network