The Sinner Season 1 Episode 1 Review: I Don't Know Why

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While The Sinner Season 1 Episode 1 gets started, the tension building within Cora seems like a great indicator of her murderous intentions.

She's clearly unhappy. Her husband, Mason, is a mama's boy, something Cora jokes about and is backed up by his actions including dropping on the couch with a beer while mom and Cora care for his son and the discovery that he and his wife live right next door to his parents.

By the time Cora takes a paring knife and tears into a man at the beach manhandling his girlfriend in front of nearby families, viewers nerves are raw.

A Day at the Beach - The Sinner Season 1 Episode 1

But nothing is as simple as that.

Sure, Cora got up the morning of the beach excursion to cook, clean and do laundry while feeding her son all while Mason slept in bed awaiting the start time for beach day, but that doesn't drive someone to kill.

Yes, Cora wanted alone time and for her husband to care for their boy while she had just a moment to herself. She swam out past the ropes and might have considered never coming back to the surface for air. When she did, she was met with calls from a distraught Mason because Lane was crying.

Again, not reason a to kill.

Soon-to-be-dead man, Frankie, was getting a little too fresh with his girl on the beach in front of nearby families. His girlfriend was playing music loudly and to an overwrought young mom who had the world on her shoulders, might have seemed to be having a little too much fun.

What The Sinner had done very well by this point was show how easily someone could make a case for murder based on the most feeble clues. My nerves were fried watching Cora suffering, and I learned later, Cora didn't even know what was bothering her.

Jessica Biel as Cora - The Sinner

Even worse, Cora found no fault with her life. I may have been judging Cora and her marriage based upon mine. Who am I kidding. I was doing that. Her life would drive me nuts. 

Cora, though, appeared to have no idea why she struck out at an innocent man before her. Well, maybe she did.

Cora: No. I've never met him before.
Det. Leroy: Then why kill him?
Cora [sneers]: Because they were playing that music and they were turnin' it up.

Detective Ambrose is odd, too. There didn't appear to be a good reason why he was so intent on discovering the truth behind the murder once all the "facts" were on the table, but it's nice to think men like him are out there (Detective wise, that is).

Personally, Ambrose is suffering some issues that may at some point intersect with those that are leaking from Cora.

It's not hard to imagine Ambrose feels a kind of kindred spirit in Cora, a broken soul that needs assistance whether she wants it or not.

Ambrose Looks for Clues - The Sinner Season 1 Episode 1

And Cora's first instinct after the brutality she committed was to reject any assistance. It probably didn't help that Mason stayed away when Cora needed him most because with his presence she might have felt compelled to plead not guilty.

Instead, Cora sat with herself and her recollection of her childhood, one in which she was to blame for all things. She was solely responsible for the life breath of her little sister if she was to believe her mother. 

Mother: When you were a baby inside of me, you took up all my strength, enough for three children. So when Phoebe came, there wasn't any left for her. That's why she's so sick. But I prayed in that hospital, I prayed like I've never prayed before. And it worked. You see? He was testing me. It's all a test. Every single thing he expects of us, every single thing he expects of us, we have to do. Do you understand? Do you?
Cora: Yes.
Mother: It's the only way she'll live.

That's quite a burden for a young girl to carry on her shoulders with nobody to support her. To believe your actions connect directly to God's will not only makes you extremely powerful but keeps you in line if you have any love for the person for whose life your actions effect.

Ambrose makes a lot of headway in the case with Little help.

Cora is a hostile witness, at best, and her visions seem all jumbled. It's impossible to tell if she's seeing the distant or more recent past and to know if the two are related in any way.

The Police File - The Sinner Season 1 Episode 1

Given what she doesn't remember, it's unlikely they're disconnected, so it will be up to Ambrose to tie them together.

For that to happen, people will have to stop holding back information. It's hard to believe Mason would have held back some of what Cora said at the beach. When she reached for the girl, I knew right away she believed she was saving her from something.

That story had stronger legs when the man who was with the doomed couple on the beach tried to answer Ambrose as to why he never even lifted his ass off the beach towel to help his friend Frankie.

You think he knew her? And then he let her...kill him.


Under any circumstances, the guy gave a terrible answer. He thought Frankie had things under control because he had the look in his eye of recollection. Frankie was already stabbed once. No matter the level of his strength, you'd think a friend might offer a hand nonetheless.

There are some issues with this production. They may come directly from the book written by Petra Hammesfahr. I haven't read it.

But as I said in The Sinner Review, based on the first three episodes that were available pre air, it's not a bad detective story.

What do you think so far? What clues are hitting you square in the face? What works and what doesn't? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Sinner Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Cora: No. I've never met him before.
Det. Leroy: Then why kill him?
Cora [sneers]: Because they were playing that music and they were turnin' it up.

Ron: You should go to the station.
Lorna: You need to eat something.