Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pilot Review: The Sinner

The Sinner (USA)
Premiered August 2 at 10pm

Jessica Biel last starred on a regular TV series over a decade ago when “7th Heaven” came to an end. Now she’s back for a show that’s been heavily promoted across a number of networks, showing her character, Cora, seeming to snap one day at the beach with her family before stabbing a man to death in front of hundreds of witnesses. It’s an intriguing premise, to be sure, but I worry that there’s not quite as much here as the people behind this show would like you to believe. Eight episodes seems like an awfully long time to figure out why one woman killed a man she didn’t know, and exploring her own psyche, her family, and the investigating police detective with his own insecurities will only do so much to fill in an explanation that probably isn’t all that sophisticated. Biel seems up for the task of playing this complicated character who seems to be losing it even more after being isolated in jail following her murderous rage, and it’s hard to imagine anyone aside from Bill Pullman auditioning for the role he got here. After seeing him in “Sweet Virginia” at Tribeca, I’m excited to see Christopher Abbott in a role like this, where he gets to be a mildly social husband and further who jumped into action to calmly but firmly hold down his wife when he saw her stab someone in front of their daughter. I’m not as optimistic about the show which I, again, don’t think has nearly as much buried under the surface as it’s suggesting.

How will it work as a series? If her mental state isn’t what it’s supposed to be, what does that change? Is the idea that maybe Cora knows something about the world – or at least this man - that no one else does? This is a dark concept whose mystery might be appealing, but I just don’t see what can possibly be concluded or uncovered from such an insular-focused thriller.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be pretty good, with others proving to be much more intrigued than I am. It ranks as the summer’s strongest cable debut, which is good news, so I think that a second season might end up being in the cards after all. Nothing is guaranteed now, but USA likes to endorse its solid performers.

Pilot grade: C+