As if the name wasn’t already troubling to digest, The Sinner touches some of the most complex and taboo topics in a television show in a way that is deep, explanatory and thoughtful.
The Sinner, a limited series by USA Network, based in the book with the same name by Petra Hammesfahr, is a mystery story that narrates the life of Cora, a young woman who commits a murder without an apparent explanation. During the 8 episodes, Cora’s past and present are treated and therefore what drove her to commit such violent act.
In the surface, the plot could be perceived as the common mystery/crime show, but as soon as the first episode starts, it is evident that this series tries to challenge the viewers into understanding the whole context to make a verdict of their own, given the many situations and topics it involves.
A sinner, a person who has committed acts considered as sins to the eyes of a God or a religion, makes up for a disturbing title for the series; but it certainly summarizes the entire point of it. How a sin can be turned into a weapon to destroy someone, how faith and especially religions have a huge role in everyone’s lives whether you are a believer or not, and how forbidden things acquire a more desirable and romanticized implication.
Cora committed what could be considered as the biggest of the sins: killing a person. But Cora was also a victim of sinners before she killed someone, even before she was able to make her own decisions. Religion and faith are as important to this story as the crime itself. This is where the biggest challenge is built and presented, and why it is surprising that the series has gained so many good critics and a good audience; because no matter what you believe in, religion is always gonna be a controversial theme that would make some people look away; and the fact that this series takes the courage to show the good and the bad is an act of bravery.
With religion in between, it is reasonable that sex would be an interesting and explored topic in the series, even driving the forces of a sub-plot by one of the characters, Detective Harry. With aging comes the sexual awakening, which mixed with prohibition, makes for a maximized curiosity. No matter how right or wrong the acts in the scenes could be seen as they are explicit but with a purpose that many series struggle to show. They are hurtful, disturbing and emotional, not because of the graphic content but because of the context and meaning of them. They shape the passion and the hurt, the love and the hate, the past and the present.
It is also family and the repercussions of guilt, overprotection, and preferences one over the other. On top of all, it’s a sisterhood that was unbreakable but toxic to some extents. Family turns into a side to take into account when looking for who’s responsible, a judgmental home that values honesty and sacrifice, but ultimately lies and delivers disappointment, a contradiction to what is taught inside the home under the belief of God.
Drugs and sexual abuse are also on the map, shaping the turbulent story and making every single detail even more confusing. Because 8 episodes exist given the fact that there is a story to reconstruct and to discover along with Cora; and even to understand, as mentioned before, that the audience makes its own judgment and decides the destiny even if an ending is given by the series.
The thrill and anxiety of the investigation, as well as the many revelations, make for a series that doesn’t hold back and that takes its time to explain the when, how, where, who and why of the actions of the characters.
The Sinner is ultimately a series to understand that in order to know about the present we need to know about the past and that even in the most out of nowhere and traumatic decisions, there’s a reason that we might not even understand.