USA’s Sleeper Hit of the Summer Is Jessica Biel’s ‘The Sinner’

USA has brought back original programming with a bang. Jessica Biel’s dark drama “The Sinner” has come to an end, but the questions seem to keep flowing. Developed by Derek Simmons, the series has recently wrapped with eight  full episodes based on Petra Hammesfahr’s  novel of the same name.

When a series begins with the main protagonist trying to commit suicide, it is difficult to look away and not wonder why an individual is left with such a choice. “The Sinner” opens with Cora Tanetti, played by producer Biel, as she attempts to drown herself in a lake surrounded by her family and random strangers. As she gasps for air, she makes the choice not to take her life.

As she basks on the lakefront that same day, Cora does the thinkable. She kills a stranger (Eric Todd) in broad daylight, in cold blood right in front of her horrified family. The act is swift, quick and vengeful. However, the few moments after the incident, Cora begins questioning why she committed the act in the first place. Especially after the victim seems to display acts of recognition before he dies. This begs the question, is Cora indeed guilty or not? Did the victim know Cora? Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) with his own demons  set aside, ventures to find the truth.

In court, Cora pleads guilty to avoid a trial. But Ambrose is not convinced that Cora is not as guilty as she appears and peels back the layers that uncovers Cora’s ultimate truth. The key to understanding Cora’s motive is hidden in the underbelly of how she attacks her victims. Three swift jabs to the upper chest in a strategic move is more than to enough to convince Detective Ambrose that perhaps the killings weren’t without merit. Especially when he was at one point a victim himself. Convinced more than ever that past regressions have begun to arise in Cora’s suppressed memories, he seeks to find the answers that will perhaps bring some clarity into the murder.

A major facet of the show is predictability. In all obviousness, if a woman attacks out of nowhere it is not without eminence. An underlying incentive is indubitably evident especially when the act of murder occurs within broad daylight among a bevy of witnesses. Viewers are sprinkled with flashbacks throughout the series of Phoebe (Nadia Alexander) who is Cora’s sister. Both Cora and Phoebe were brought up in an extremely and religious upbringing. Their mother in particular, was extremely strict on her two girls. As a reaction, both girls indulged in recreations that their religious mother would not be proud of.  Notably, sex and drugs.

The end of the finale reveals that the stranger that Cora killed is no stranger at all. Cora is driven to the Belmont’s house, as she takes in several room in the house, it begins to finally sink in. She encounters a room that differs from the rest and she peels back the wallpaper to reveal a pattern that has been haunting her own life. Frankie Belmont was her sister’s lover and also murderer. Although Phoebe’s murder was accidental, the Belmonts spring into action to cover up their son’s act. Cora witnesses the murder and attacks Franki by attacking him three times in the chest. But, she fails in the act. Franki’s father, revealed to be the masked man that haunts Cora’s flashbacks, drugs her to suppress her memories. He succeeds, until that one fateful afternoon, years later, where Cora’s memories began flooding her and takes her back to the night her sister died.

“The Sinner” does an excellent job with building up suspense and churning out a finale that is satisfying and flows well with the various story plots throughout the eight episodes. Jessica Biel’s performance is top notch and she plays the destructive character of a wounded wife, sister and mother impeccably.  The core of the show is family after all, and what drives us to protect our loved ones at any cost.

Season two of the “The Sinner” has not been confirmed which has left viewers in disarray. Ratings have increased, and in August the show became the No. 1 cable series of the summer with a strong viewer engagement. No progress has been made on an extension of the series as of publication date.

The season finale of “The Sinner” aired Sept. 20 on USA.