The fact that Jessica Biel has been gone from television for quite some time would give us reason to believe that The Sinner must be one hell of a good story if she is choosing to not only return in the lead role, but also as Executive Producer on the project. She plays Cora Tannetti a wife and mother to her young son Laine who seemingly passes through her days in a gray haze of uncertainty. Her husband Mason (Christopher Abbott) is a big momma's boy (as Cora points out to him) who won't even let one day go away from his mother to spend some quality time with his wife. But even with the sorrow being evident in Cora's eyes Mason seems oblivious to what she's feeling, as per example to a scene of them having sex which made me uncomfortably cringe from the pain shown on Cora's face as Mason flogs about on top of her. The next day things would terribly change for both of them.
They take their son out for a day at the lake which has dozens of other people gathered enjoying the sun and water. Cora decides to go out for a swim and leaves Laine with Mason. She begins to just swim out a short distance, but then something in her makes her decide to go farther out to where there are no other people. Far away from the shore she looks back at the people and submerges herself down below the water's surface. Well we know she can't die in the first episode, and she does eventually pop back up although out of breath like she was trying to drown herself. She swims back and joins her family on the sand but we definitely know things are very wrong from the distraught look on her face.
As she sits eating a piece of fruit she watches a young couple playing around in front of her laughing and kissing. The emptiness and despair shown by Biel's face is outstanding showing how lost Cora feels with watching two people in love. Something in her snaps and she runs up to the boyfriend (Eric Todd) and stabs him repeatedly with her paring knife. Blood flies everywhere, the girlfriend (Teri Wyble) is screaming, and Cora only stops as Mason jumps up to take her to the ground.
And that's just the first 15 minutes! This is quite a turn from the drama seen on 7th Heaven back in the day!
Enter Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) the detective assigned to handle Cora's case. While his colleagues are urging him to wrap it up because of her confession and several witnesses, Ambrose still sees something in the murder that won't let him just throw her to the system. While this is a typical plot point to keep the story moving we are shown Ambrose is possibly quite damaged himself. He appears to be having problems with his wife and this sends him into having sadomasochistic meetings with a local waitress (Meredith Holzman) at her house. Maybe this allows him to see what's on the surface with Cora and why her outburst makes no logical sense.
On the other end Cora is put through the ringer of being processed and put into a cell to await her hearing. The entire sequence of her being fingerprinted, photographed, and showering all the blood off, makes you feel so much sympathy for a someone who in all honesty we shouldn't. When Cora goes to make her one phone call to Mason, he doesn't answer and as she listens to his outgoing voicemail the scene just sweats beads of sadness as she realizes how alone she is. Biel is remarkable in playing how distraught Cora is and her confusion as to the reasons for her own actions. She is questioned by Ambrose and his partner Dan Leroy (Dohn Norwood) as they ask the same questions about what she did and make her revisit the scene in her head again. Biel keeps her emotions in check and while she shows her frustration with the detectives she never pushes to the level of a hysterical lunatic.
The Sinner based on the 2007 book of the same name by Petra Hammesfahr has a still, dark calm about it as the show flows along like ice in a mountain river. It is slow but the story continues to unfold in small increments as Ambrose continues to interview characters and dig for clues to reveal that the murder is more complicated than Cora simply losing her shit. Being a big fan of director David Fincher, who did the film Gone Girl, I feel a similar tone to this story with the focal point being on a woman who we still have much to learn about. There are several flashbacks that take us to Cora growing up as a child that give us some possible insight as to where her demons might have come from. With only eight episodes to this Limited Series it stands to be we are going to get answers very soon. I'm all about finding out what they are! Are you curious about finding out Cora's story as well as this series continues on USA?