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USA Network's Jessica Biel Series 'Sinner' Is Not What We Thought, Or Is It?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 11, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 11, 2017 |

I’m checking in on USA Network’s Sinner again after the second episode, because after the first episode, I was left with the impression that it’s a devil-possession horror series while several people in our comment section suggested it was simply a show about a woman suffering from PTSD.

After two episodes, I’m still not entirely sure, but so far, Sinner is working the opposite way of how Ryan suggests the best television series do: I don’t really care about the characters yet, but I remain intrigued about the plot (Ryan is correct, however, to assume that the plot over character formula cannot sustain itself for too long).

I don’t really even want to say that it’s the plot driving Sinner, either. It’s the mystery. I don’t give a damn about any of the characters, but I really want to know what the hell is going on. It’s like Lost, if all the characters were boring tropes.

Is it PTSD?

Maybe. There’s evidence to suggest as much. Cora Tannetti killed a man while he was aggressively making out with a woman on the beach. Turns out, Cora knew that man, and from what we think we know so far, he had a one-night stand with Cora (that definitely involved drugs) that left her pregnant. Because the guy, Frankie, used a fake name, however, Cora was unable to track him down and tell him about the pregnancy. She also couldn’t abort because she’s Catholic. Eventually, in a bout of despair, Cora threw herself in front of a car, leading to an injury that ended the pregnancy.

Cora also is clearly suffering from some sort of religiously-driven guilt. Her Mom was abusive, and whenever Cora’s ailing sister felt ill, Cora’s mother blamed it on Cora’s “sins,” even ones as small as eating chocolate without permission.

Is It Possession?

I’m still hung up on the fact that it seems like Cora’s mother bargained with the devil to save Cora’s sister’s life. Cora’s mom believes she made a deal with God, but I don’t think that God would make Cora follow his every command in order to protect her sister up to and including murder. There are also Cora’s visions to consider. And the fact that Cora was acting very weird even before she murdered Frankie.

Is It Mental Illness?

Maybe. Cora was taking pills, seemingly to reduce the visions. In her prison cell, she also had a freak out and demanded her medication. The fact that she apparently threw herself in front of a car may also suggest mental illness.

Is She Brainwashed?

She is clearly triggered by a certain song (when she heard the song, she murdered Frankie and later, when she heard the same song, she attacked Detective Ambrose) and she attacked both men with the same pattern of seven knife stabs or blows to the body. Is she a Bourne-like spy or trained assassin who is triggered to kill by a song? Maybe, but that doesn’t make sense if the killing isn’t random — and it clearly isn’t, because she knew the guy, and he seemed to recognize her before he died.

I am flummoxed, but again, I’m also captivated. I am desperate for answers and, for now at least, my curiosity is overriding my need for better, more interesting characters. It remains to be seen if that curiosity can keep me invested for eight episodes.

(Note: I know the movie is based on a novel, but I don’t want to ruin the fun by looking it up. Please be similarly respectful in the comments if you have read it.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.