Jessica Biel Serves as Executive Producer and Protagonist in Slow Burn Thriller ‘The Sinner’

It’s one of our worst nightmares — suddenly losing control of our actions in public and being left to deal with the consequences, no matter how reeling. Adding even more chills to the already terrifying proposition is an uncertainty as to why we would lose control in the first place. “The Sinner” brings that nightmarish scenario to cable television and explores that very question. The newest murder thriller to hit the USA network, “The Sinner” starts off a bit different from your run of the mill crime tale. In this series, the viewer already knows who the killer is, turning the million-dollar mystery from “who?” to “why?” That’s a much harder answer to uncover, even when you’re the killer yourself.

“The Sinner” is based on a novel penned by German crime writer Petra Hammesfahr with creator Derek Simonds tasked with bringing the pages to life. The show is executive produced by Jessica Biel with producers Michelle Purple, Antonio Campos and Charlie Gogolak also attached to the thriller. The show was shot on location in Charleston, S.C. by production company Iron Ocean in conjunction with Universal Cable Productions.

The series begins with a jumpy yet familiar Cora Tannetti (Biel) a character with an unforthcoming personality. Cora and her husband Mason Tannetti (Christopher Abbott) are in a somewhat mundane relationship and have a young son together. It’s beyond obvious to viewers that this relationship is anything but exciting, something that seems to bother Cora. One afternoon, on a public beach surrounded by witnesses, Cora does the unimaginable: She stabs a stranger to death in front of his friends and family, an act she can’t even explain herself.

Each encounter the viewer has with Cora takes the show a step closer to discovering the motive for someone to kill an innocent man. Sporadic flashbacks flesh out much of Cora’s past and add further layers to the cerebral mystery. One of the most significant themes in Cora’s flashbacks points to a harrowing childhood that included abuse and religious fanaticism. Adding to that layer is Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), who has demons of his own to deal with yet becomes obsessed with his latest case.

One of the series’ biggest faults by far is a lack of emotional involvement from the protagonist. In order for an audience to flourish, there has to be that smattering of empathy geared toward some kind of redeeming sentiment from the main character. Biel’s performance is rock solid, but it still ultimately comes off as detached and uninvolved. That initial lack of relatability might work as a lure for viewers to tune in and witness some major character growth, but it will certainly take some work to drum up that interest. Still, the show does offer a refreshing premise and could make for a real nail biter by the time all is said and done.

The Sinner” premieres Aug. 2 on USA and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.