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NETFLIX The Sinner - Just who is the title referencing in this dark thriller

Published 20 NOV 2017 18:23PM

Words by Martha Glaister




Full spoilers ahead.

The Sinner has been out in the US for a few months now and has finally been made available to binge on UK Netflix, assuming you’re all caught up, let’s discuss just who is the titular sinner.

Focusing on Jessica Biel’s Cora, a quiet mum who kills a man in broad daylight in the first 15 minutes, The Sinner is an eight parter that explores the whys of the crime and unravels the reasons behind this violent act.

The show is often a hard pill to swallow, there is no one to really root for here, every character is in a grey area with no one truly good or evil. With an unreliable narrator and different yarns ever unravelling, the audience are put in the uneasy position of not knowing who to trust and whose side to be on.

At times this is a flaw of the show, but it makes for a very visceral watch with three dimensional characters who all have their dark sides.



Let’s take a look at some of the main players in the series.

Detective Ambrose, the brilliant Bill Pullman, takes an over involved interest in Cora and sees there is more here than just an open and shut case. We see he has his own issues around relationships and hints of a troubled past, seeing his own shame and traumas within Cora.

His loss of control with his dominatrix addiction is a great side story and hopefully this will be explored further in a possible season 2.


Phoebe, Cora’s sickly sister is dying, but is she really a girl to be pitied who just wants to live, doing anything she can to be close to Cora? Or is she manipulative and deranged, coercing her sister into stealing, sex and drugs, all learned controlling behaviour from her very own mother.



The sister’s mother, Elizabeth, takes her religious beliefs to the extremes. Cora ‘murdered’ her sister even from birth, her mother blaming her for Phoebe’s illness.

It’s hard to justify her hatred and blaming of Cora, is she a grief stricken mother placing blame in the wrong way or does she truly believe God has done this.


Men are shown as adulterers, masochists, sadists and then there’s Frankie.


We feel sorry for him, murdered for an accidental death, but maybe he does deserve his eye for an eye punishment for continuing on as normal with his life, covering up a death and knowing what his father did.

Frankie’s father Patrick, revealed to be the man in the mask, uses his medical knowledge as a doctor to get Cora addicted to heroin, ensuring she forgets everything for another hit.



His awful actions justified to him, as, Cora forgetting is kinder than death, but as an outsider he’s a monster.


The show focuses on how far we go to protect a child, do we lock them up forever to keep them safe from temptations? Do we lock up someone else’s child and make them sick just to protect our own? Do we cut off our own child completely so they don't see us locked up forever?

Cora may be the protagonist that the title is speaking about, she is after all a murderer, but there are no clear cut answers here, no one is right or wrong, no one’s without their vices and pasts.

Who here can we say is truly without sin?

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