Netflix Pick 'n' Mix: The Sinner

Grace Dean watches The Sinner for the first time

Grace Dean
4th March 2019
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After watching Louis Theroux’s Jimmy Savile documentary, I was in need of some light entertainment – and what better choice than a dark crime series?

The Sinner is a 2017 American crime drama mystery series starring Jessica Biel in the lead role as Cora, a married mother around the age of 30 living in suburban America with her husband and young son. The rest, however, is a bit difficult to explain, as the series consists of repeated flashbacks, addressing time periods varying from Cora’s childhood to just a few weeks ago.

While the first fifteen minutes of episode one pass by without anything remarkable happening – indeed, my boyfriend and I were even contemplating ditching The Sinner for a bit of SpongeBob – the series greatly improved (in my opinion at least) when the first sign of blood appeared. In a seemingly unexplainable bout of insanity while at the beach, Cora violently stabs an apparent stranger to death using the knife with which she peeled pears for her son. Yes, she commits brutal, bloody murder in front of her toddler.

From this moment onwards, Cora is presented as a troubled young woman. Flashbacks address her deep-rooted problems stemming from her hard-line-religious mother, who blamed Cora for her sister’s ill health and subsequent death, and who made Cora repent even the most mundane of actions. Detective Harry Ambrose, who himself has his own problems with a failing marriage and an affair where he tries to fulfil his masochistic desires, tries to uncover Cora’s motive for the murder. Despite very openly admitting her guilt, she refuses to explain her reasons for her sudden violent actions, leaving Detective Ambrose no choice but to delve into her past. He soon uncovers some of Cora’s darker secrets (some revealed by friends and family and others by Cora herself): she ran away from home; she attempted suicide following an unexpected pregnancy; and she was admitted to rehab as a heroin addict.

Yes, she commits brutal, bloody murder in front of her toddler


Stitching her life story together, however, is difficult for both Detective Ambrose and the viewer due to Cora’s compulsive lying and the fragmented nature of the flashbacks. One thing the viewer is aware of, however, is one song that seems to be haunting Cora; a song which happened to be playing at the time of the murder. In a rare moment of weaknesses, she reveals that her victim, a young man named Frankie (and known to Cora as JD), was a member of the college band who recorded the song and was also the young man who impregnated her and drove her to desperate measures. Doubt is however thrown upon the identification of Frankie as JD.

Further with the series I have unfortunately not got yet, but I am intrigued to see what happens to Cora and the true symbolism of the mysterious song that follows her around. For those of you who similarly want to be confused by a series (a series which I am not sure whether is actually good or not), both series one and two of The Sinner are available on Netflix, you can also read the original book of the same name by the German crime writer Petra Hammesfahr.

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AUTHOR: Grace Dean
Editor-in-Chief of the Courier 2019/20, News Editor 2018/19, writer since 2016 and German & Business graduate. I've written for all of our sections, but particularly enjoy writing breaking news and data-based investigative pieces. Best known in the office for making tea and blasting out James Blunt. Twitter: @graceldean

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