There are only two weeks to go on USA’s The Sinner, but for this CarterMatt article, let’s look beyond the show itself and speak more about the meta. This is a brilliant summer limited series, one accented by great writing, a twisted memory, and a visual aesthetic that is haunting as it allows darkness to slowly pervade its various rooms and settings. To go along with all of this, it is also anchored by great performances by the likes of Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman.
For Biel, we’d argue that Cora Tannetti is her greatest role and the best performance of her career. She’s been able to play so many different dimensions of her, whether it be a wife, a killer, a secret-keeper, a sympathetic figure, and a proactive truth-seeker determined to better understand herself. She’s been both bold and fearful, and handled much of the material with alternating layers of power and grace. What more could you have wanted from this portrayal?
Her performance is a nice contrast to that of Pullman as Ambrose. While you get the sense immediately in the pilot that Cora has darkness steeped in her soul, it takes a while for some of Ambrose’s layers to unravel. You see that he is troubled by his own demons, but before Cora, he was able to repress enough of them that it didn’t impact his job. With her around, some of that is changing as you can see a warped perception of him beginning to reveal itself.
While the reviews for The Sinner have been almost universally positive and the show is receiving solid ratings on USA, there is still this feeling that it is under-appreciated by both the critical community and potential awards-show viewers. Why is that? Is it because of it not airing on premium cable, or at a time in which Game of Thrones and events outside of TV have swallowed up headlines? Is Peak TV just such a thing now that no show gets the attention and publicity it deserves unless it’s dominating the pop-culture zeitgeist?
In their own way you must consider all of these possibilities, but our perception is that this show needs more attention and recognition for what it has managed to achieve. It’s delivered something new and refreshing to USA while also building a mystery that generates true debate. It’s not a fluffy story where you allow it to slowly slip from your brain; you think about it from 11:05 p.m. Eastern Wednesday night after it airs until the next episode.
Here’s what we ultimately implore our fellow critics and TV-watchers to do: Take stock in this show, and remember the thrill ride that you experience when you watch. This show isn’t eligible for the Emmys until next year (blame the eligibility window for that), but we strongly believe that the series, Bill Pullman, and Jessica Biel should all be considered. There may be more exceptional television between now and then, but this is truly a work not to be forgotten.
Do you think that The Sinner is getting the credit it deserves?
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Oh, and we also suggest that you visit this link in the event you do want to preview next week’s episode of The Sinner here at CarterMatt. (Photo: USA.)