The Sinner Review: Biel stands out in latest Netflix original

The Sinner is about young mother Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel), who one day on a family trip to the beach falls into a fit of rage and murders a seemingly innocent man right in front of her child.

A group of men and women in their twenties are sitting, soaking up the beach atmosphere and playing music out loud.  Cora sits, eyes fixated on this one group of people.  The song changes and something snaps inside Cora.  She jumps on one of the men and stabs him repeatedly, while everyone around starts screaming and running for their lives.  Her husband drags her off, but not in time to save her from killing her victim.  Cora went from peeling a pear for her son with a knife one second, to stabbing the life out of a man the next, for no apparent reason.

Before the murder scene, we are shown a glimpse into Cora’s what seems to be past life.  We know that she has experienced some sort of trauma previously … but that “some sort of trauma” is as much of a mystery to Cora as it is to us.

After murdering the man on the beach, Cora confesses to it straight away and expresses remorse.  However, she is baffled as to why she did it.  All she knows is that she killed a man – reason unknown.

First episode in, we’re left entangled in this huge mystery and wondering why?  However, I found that after episode one, it wasn’t enough to lure me in and continue on the discovery as to why.  Episode one doesn’t give away many details of the mystery, just that we know it is in fact an enigma; an enigma that didn’t appeal to me enough to follow it more.

Luckily, I stuck with it, continued onto episode two and never looked back.

Although episode one doesn’t give much away, as the series goes on, the plot thickens and finally you’ll have that burning desire to find out why Cora Tannetti became a murderer.

A big component to the success of the Sinner is Harry Amborse (Bill Pullman), the detective who doesn’t believe a woman like Cora would kill without motive.  He is certain there is a back story and will endeavour to find out what it is, while everyone else hopes for a guilty verdict.

Most crime drama series are the opposite of the Sinner and start off addictive and then halfway through, lose their appeal.  The Sinner may be a slow burner but the end completely justifies its slow pace and at times, bleakness.  At the beginning of the series, it was impossible to predict where it was going to go. “She confessed, how is there going to be another seven episodes?” I wondered.  However, it really blossoms as each episode passes.

The Sinner is unique in the sense that it has been dubbed a mystery and crime drama. However, the murder and the solving of the mystery is not the essence of the show.  Instead, the characters and how they are coping post-murder are what bring the mystery to life.  As a true crime/mystery genre lover, I can say with confidence that the answer or conclusion to a mystery is what usually draws me in.  It’s what keeps me enticed.  In the case of the Sinner, I was enjoying learning about Cora’s life and how her husband dealt with everything; without yearning for the answer.  Of course, the possibility of an answer also keeps the interest, but I was able to enjoy each episode without demanding it.  Some crime dramas tend to make episodes before the reveal tedious and all you want is the answer.  The Sinner is not guilty of this crime.

I would highly recommend The Sinner to anyone who enjoys crime drama but who doesn’t mind the focus being on the drama, not the crime.  The crime is not important in The Sinner.  We know who did it, where it took place, when … we just need to know the why.  I’d also recommend it for people whose favourite genres venture outside of crime/mystery; as long as you love a good drama!

**** 4/5 stars

By Jenna Cox


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