At last the fog is cleared

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Tv And Radio - The Sin­ner, BBC Four

There were a great many ques­tions run­ning through the minds of ev­ery­one gripped by The Sin­ner, the Amer­i­can crime drama which reached its sea­son one fi­nale last night. But two were up­per­most, for me at least: first, what was su­per­model Christy Turling­ton do­ing mar­ried to some blue-col­lar Joe Sh­moe in up­state New York? Se­cond, why did a young mother at the beach with her hus­band and son de­cide to plunge a par­ing knife into the neck of a com­plete stranger just be­cause she didn’t like the mu­sic play­ing on his phone?

The first ques­tion was eas­ily re­solved. It wasn’t su­per­model Christy Turling­ton at all, it was ac­tress Jes­sica Biel, do­ing her best to scrub down for the part. As for why her char­ac­ter, Cora Tan­netti, sliced and diced the stranger, well that took some un­rav­el­ling, most of it done by Harry Am­brose (Bill Pull­man), a trou­bled (is there any other kind?) and dog­matic cop. So, this was a why­dun­nit rather than the more com­mon sort, the who­dun­nit.

Af­ter weeks of feints, flash­backs and hyp­no­sis ses­sions, the why fi­nally be­came ev­i­dent in last night’s clos­ing episode as Cora’s fog­ging trauma cleared, and all those half-re­mem­bered events and con­ver­sa­tions co­a­lesced into some­thing that made sense to her, to Am­brose and, im­por­tantly, to the judge who had ini­tially tried her for mur­der and sent her to prison.

There was cathar­sis of sorts and, though other crimes were ex­posed and their per­pe­tra­tor brought to jus­tice (and we fi­nally learned who was un­der that scary an­i­mal ski mask) we also learned that it had all been at the cost of an in­no­cent life: that of Frankie Bel­mont (Eric Todd), the man Cora stabbed to death way back in episode one.

To be fair to Biel, she scrubbed down well enough to be be­liev­able as the dam­aged, vul­ner­a­ble Cora and the nods she has re­ceived for her per­for­mance to date – nom­i­na­tions for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe – are well de­served. But the more in­trigu­ing char­ac­ter was Am­brose him­self, like Cora a sur­vivor of abuse (though his was only hinted at and then only briefly).

He was so­cially awk­ward and had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with his wife, so he took refuge from his prob­lems by study­ing the nat­u­ral world – he was an ex­pert on plants – or by fall­ing into the mus­cu­lar arms of wait­ress Sharon, whom he paid to pun­ish, hu­mil­i­ate, stran­gle and beat him.

It’s no sur­prise that it’s Am­brose who re­turns for sea­son two of The Sin­ner, which departs from its source ma­te­rial – Ger­man crime writer Pe­tra Hammes­fahr’s 1999 novel – to bring us a com­pletely new story in what now ap­pears to be an on­go­ing an­thol­ogy se­ries. Cur­rently stream­ing on Net­flix, here’s hop­ing it makes its way to ter­res­trial TV soon.

Jes­sica Biel as Cora Tan­netti in The Sin­ner

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