'The Sinner' showcases Jessica Biel in 'whydunit' mystery

Biel plays Cora, the mom to a toddler whose distant stares suggest some sort of inner turmoil. Yet there’s no warning for her seemingly random act of brutal violence against a stranger, prompting an inquiry into whether there was some sort of unknown motivation which triggered the crime, or if she simply snapped for no apparent reason.

“I just did the item. in addition to I don’t know why,” she says at first, while still covered in blood.

The task of determining what happened, in addition to why, falls to a local detective, Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), who begins slowly unraveling threads which might add up to a larger story. Additional hints come inside form of flashbacks to Cora’s childhood, further clouding whether she knew the victim or if he was merely an unlucky surrogate for someone who wronged her inside past.

Based on a book by Petra Hammesfahr, not everything about “The Sinner” works, coming from the cryptic title to Ambrose’s subplot — the “cop plagued by personal demons” riff being one of those clich├ęs which adds almost nothing to the proceedings, additional than dragging them out. Cora’s husband (Christopher Abbott), an understandably stunned witness to the event, also remains something of an underdeveloped enigma.

Still, Biel delivers a restrained, glamor-free performance, in addition to teasing out a case beyond the customary crime procedural works well inside limited-series format — offering an eight-episode package which has almost a British-style feel, on the order of “Broadchurch” or “The Missing.”

the item’s premature to conclude whether the show will rise to which level, or have enough twists to sustain itself until the end. Strictly in terms of drawing you into Cora’s story, though, “The Sinner” has the makings of a winner.

“The Sinner” premieres Aug. 2 at 10 p.m. on USA.

'The Sinner' showcases Jessica Biel in 'whydunit' mystery

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