We have had police procedural after police procedural in regard to the content on the small screen. When a genre’s well has been gone into time and time again at a certain point you have to bring something new to the conversation if you don’t want to face criticism. Or even worse, indifference.
Beginning in 2017 the police procedural series The Sinner began and lasted four seasons. The series is based on the 1999 novel by Petra Hammesfahr and that book is the source material for season one. The main character of the series is police detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman – Independence Day, Lost Highway), a man with plenty of demons he seems to be battling.
Season one sees Harry returning from a leave to work on a murder case. The case, at first seems straightforward, as it involves a woman, Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel – Total Recall – 2012, The Illusionist), who, while spending a day at the beach with her young son and husband, Mason (Christopher Abbott – The World to Come, The Forgiven), out of the blue stabs to death a man (Eric Todd – appeared in episodes of television’s Blue Bloods and Neste Sommer) that she does not even know.
Cora is in jail and has confessed to the crime. Yet Harry seems to believe there is something more to the case than meets the eye so he is not giving up on the investigation or Cora. This is despite no one in the police department supporting him and Cora does not even seem to want to help him. Harry doggedly, while dealing with his marriage falling apart, forges forward to the truth.
The first season is made up of eight parts or episodes. In each one after the murder, the threads of the story begin unfolding. With healthy amounts of flashbacks to Cora’s life with her mother (Enid Graham – from television’s Mare of Easttown), father (C.J. Wilson – Manchester by the Sea, The Trial of the Chicago 7) and sick young sister, Phoebe (Nadia Alexander – appeared in episodes of television’s Bull and Elementary). Talk about a family with issues!
As many of these types of series attempt, The Sinner leads you down one path only to deviate to another unexpectedly at the end. Not quite a twist, but kind of. It is a dark series with very little light to speak of. What does shine through is the acting of Jessica Biel. She does not work very often and has definitely had an up and down career with her talent overshadowed by her looks and marriage to pop star, Justin Timberlake. But here she demonstrates that she has the ability to carry a series or film. Her turn in the series was recognized with a 2018 Emmy nomination for Oustanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.