The Sinner Is Back With A Different Twisted Mystery
You always knew that after following Harry Ambrose, the grizzled psychologically worn down detective at the center of USA’s incredible mysteries The Sinner for his last three cases, that there was going to come a time that the darkness of the job would become to much for him. And after the tragic conclusion of Season 3 — where he was forced to kill the disturbed Jamie and then had to watch him die — Harry took the advice of his fellow cops and has handed in his papers. He’s following his new love (Jessica Hecht) the troubled artist he encountered in Season 3 to an island in the Bay to try and relax.
But we know Harry too well. From the beginning of Season 4 we know he’s in bad shape. He’s not taking anti-depressants any more. He has insomnia. And given the sex scene we see early in the first episode, he’s not in a good mental place. We know things are going to go wrong for him and that’s before he sees a young girl he briefly met — Percy Muldoon jump off a cliff.
Before you start getting the idea of Cabot Cove and Jessica Fletcher, this is a different kind of story, even different than the ones were used to for The Sinner. For starters, the police drag the river but can’t find a body. And soon afterwards, Harry begins to doubt the evidence of his own eyes. It’s inevitable, of course, that Harry will be drawn into the case by local law enforcement and that there’s more to Percy that what we seen. There’s the possibility of some kind of bizarre behavior of the missing girl and maybe some kind of cult involved. But the fact that there’s a chance that Percy’s alive is the biggest twist and arguably the most welcome one — after starting every season so far with a death and a suspect in custody, its intriguing for there to be a mystery where they’re actually might be someone for Harry to save — other than himself.
For its clear that Harry is lost, and that he can no more retire from police work then the families in this town leave fishing behind. As Sonya notes very clearly in the first episode: “I haven’t seen you this energized in awhile.” We know from past experience this is not a good thing. Harry can not escaped the demons in his head any more than any of the people he tries to help — this time, the series makes it literal by having Percy literally appear to him in his head. It’s not a gimmick, we know this is just as much a sign that Harry may be losing his faculties not just to age but to all the demons he’s amassed over the years.
Much in the same way that Bryan Cranston was born to play Walter White and James Gandolfini Tony Soprano, this is Bill Pullman’s role of a lifetime. For decades, he was basically Hollywood’s everyman actor, usually supporting, sometimes the lead, but always fading into the background. Pullman is Harry Ambrose in every fiber of his being — grizzled, troubled, weary, wanting not to believe the worst in people and inevitably disappointed. There are a lot of good actors around in the current season of The Sinner – I’m particularly riveted by character actress Frances Fisher playing the missing girls mother, a matriarch of the community — and there’s clearly an interesting subtext between the Muldoon family and the Lams, a rival Chinese family that wears the stain of outsider and whose son loved Percy once and is still drawn to her. But the eye can not be drawn away from Pullman as Harry. It’s no coincidence that this season has the victim appearing to Harry — once someone gets in his head, he can’t let it go until the truth comes out, no matter how much damage is does to him. You wish that Harry could somehow find peace, but you know too well it’s just not going to happen. As long as the series has Pullman and Harry, I’m along for the ride.
My score: 4 stars.