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Why You Need To Watch: The Sinner

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This underrated psychological crime drama follows in the footsteps of Mindhunter as it unravels the motives for a violent and seemingly random murder on a public beach.

After all the noise about psychological crime drama Mindhunter, it’s understandable if its understated partner-in-genre passed you by. But with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and two Golden Globe nominations, if you haven’t seen it already, it’s time to schedule The Sinner into your next Netflix binge session.

This murky thriller delves into the reasons behind an apparently random act of violence and unravels a mystery that manages to hold your attention from start to finish without falling into any cliché pitfalls. The show opens with a seemingly normal suburban housewife spontaneously stabbing someone to death on a beach. And she has no idea why she did it.

As everyone deals with the immediate aftermath of such a savage crime, you soon find yourself dragged into an increasingly dark world of repressed memories and a convoluted investigation into her motives for murder. Jessica Biel shines as the troubled killer, jumping unpredictably from shy mother Cora Tannetti to unstable criminal and back throughout the eight-part series.

Her inconsistent memories and untrustworthy perspective add to the tension as she works with detectives and doctors to unravel the trigger to her horrific crime. But it’s Bill Pullman (Torchwood: Miracle Day) that carries the show as the Columbo-esque Detective Ambrose, who is determined to find the truth. The interactions between the two troubled characters are fraught with tension.

For a drama largely reliant on flashbacks and discussions of the past, it manages to maintain the suspense by leaving a tantalising breadcrumb trail of clues which make the show so addictive. While mystery dramas that lead up to a final moment of revelation can often struggle to make the answer as gripping and dramatic as the build-up promises, The Sinner makes the ending as compelling as the beginning. It’s relentlessly nerve-wracking as the past is unravelled bit by bit in a series of half-accurate flashbacks - wallpaper, a mysterious woman walking down an eerie staircase, a school bus in a swamp - every hint of an answer just leads to more questions.

If you want a slick drama that keeps you rushing to press 'Next Episode' every time, then this is the show you need. If the quality of the drama itself isn’t enough of a reason to watch, the show must also be credited for its subtle commentary on relevant aspects of society in America today. Over the course of the story, the series explores the frightening depths and potential repercussions of drug abuse, religious fanaticism, and attitudes to healthcare and mental health issues.

Not only must Cora fight with her own trauma and fractured memories, the American court and healthcare system is set up against her and unwilling to acknowledge her mental instability. The show makes these issues central to the plot without moralising, and provide an unsettling reminder of deep-rooted societal issues that exist today.

This genuinely scary thriller manages to stand out in an increasingly diluted market of heavy crime dramas. It crafts a truly unpredictable story with expert pacing, stellar casting, and a fragile balance between grotesque violence and unsettling calm. This was the number one cable show in America of 2017 for a reason and it doesn’t disappoint.

If you’re looking for a show to fill the horrifying-crime-drama-shaped gap in your life, then The Sinner is what you should be watching.

The Sinner is available to stream on Netflix now.

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