The Sinner Season 3 Episode 1: Part 1-Review- Chris Messina And Matt Bomer Are The Darkness
An ominous episode one of The Sinner Season 3 brings Detective Harry Ambrose back to Hell again. Chris Messina and Matt Bomer have been very bad boys.
The Sinner seasons one and two were so successful for a handful of reasons. Among them is a hypnotic hook that keeps you guessing. The other is fantastic performances from its actors. The Sinner Season Three is more of the same high-level mystery and even higher-level acting.
The only mainstay across all three seasons is Detective Harry Ambrose a deeply flawed but gifted man. Bill Pullam who plays Ambrose is a grizzled, gruff, perpetually suspicious man who try as he might can’t quite make the personal connections he so desperately needs. He has seen things no one ever should have to. In the last two seasons alone he has seen brutal rapes, kidnappings, coverups, cults, murder, and child abuse.
It’s a lot to handle. He is living alone in an isolated cottage cut off from the world. His only reprieve is his job. As much as he wants to reconnect with his daughter and grandson he isn’t capable yet. His decision to leave them instead of calling his partner to investigate a terrible car accident proves disastrous for a multitude of reasons. Among those, he disappoints his family and gets pulled into yet another horrific crime. If you watched the first two seasons of The Sinner you know Harry has problems with intimacy. He has thrown himself into his work to the detriment of his personal life. Similar to Zelda on The Magicians who is a Librarian first and a mother and friend second, Harry has a hard time being anything other than a policeman.
The writers do an amazing job creating stories that feel as script to screen as the first season based on the novel of the same name. Season three thematically has the same tone, but as the final moments reveal there is an entirely different set of rules. In the first two seasons, the “killers” were both very sympathetic people. The secrets they hide define the crime the committed. It is more important to find out what happened to them than why they murdered anyone. In season three those rules have been thrown out. It’s very possible there is no good guy anymore, just a sweet-faced school teacher with too many skeletons in his closet.
Matt Bomer who joins the cast as Jamie Burns a high school history teacher and soon to be father is struggling even before his strange friend Nick comes calling. He’s unhappy and troubled to the point of self-destruction. When the supremely menacing Nick Hass played by The Mindy Project alum Chris Messina shows up unannounced at his door its clear Jamie has a dark side. He is not the innocent middle-aged man he appears to be. Messina who typically plays the sarcastic funny guy is all ominous threats and side-eye. He is disturbed and has some kind of control over Jamie. After dinner, the two go for a nightcap at Nick’s hotel or so Jamie claims but get into a terrible car accident instead and Nick dies.
It only takes one interview with Jamie for Harry to question everything and open an investigation. Bomer delivers a chilling to camera monologue about Nick and his death. What begins as a typical picture of grief and shock pivots into a cold space about perspective. Jamie says he thought seeing Nick die would be terrible but it wasn’t. Everything is different now and he saw him for the first time. That is just one of many hints throughout that this relationship had a leader and a follower and Nick was the former.
As the episode progresses he becomes more and more paranoid as guilt and fear take over. Jamie sees Nick everywhere and has visions of Nick’s hand wound. We don’t know how he got that injury but Jamie seems to know and it happened within the last couple of days. The wound was never treated which indicates they were hiding something. How much Jamie was involved and what he knows will be revealed throughout the season. The clues are leading us strongly down a path of a psychopath and his accomplice but what The Sinner has always done so well is zig just when you thought it would zag.
After just one episode Jamie is disintegrating. He sees Nick everywhere and hears the sound of digging when he runs. Good use of auditory noises and well-timed musical cues keep the tension ratcheted up. Who or what was buried and why are the biggest questions. A local painter Sonya(Jessica Hecht) is equal parts aggressive anxiety and defensiveness. She knows more than she is letting on and the men’s accident on her secluded property proves it. Hecht brings a fragile quirkiness to Sonya that allows her to be both vulnerable and oddly predatory at the same time. She will be a compelling character for Bomer’s Jamie to play off of.
For his part, Pullman limps and lurches his way through the scenes like a man who is so beaten down by life he can barely function. His boss doesn’t understand why he hasn’t retired and his new partner Vic Soto(Eddie Martinez) is both deeply respectful and confused by him. In typical The Sinner fashion, however, the evidence shows Harry is right. Just because you are retirement age doesn’t mean you don’t have something left to offer. For Harry, in particular, he is the job and no one has better instincts than he does.
A Blackberry which had been wiped of fingerprints and turned off was found near the crash site. Cell phone records prove that Jamie waited an hour before calling for help. The final scene definitely answers what happened. Jamie sat and watched Nick die. What we don’t know is why? An odd throwaway comment from Detective Soto might be the reason. Blackberry’s are easier to encrypt and Nick may have had something to hide. It turns out there is something to that and the market for them persists even today. What Nick had on that Blackberry will come out.
Season 3 of The Sinner is on track to be an intriguing one. Creepy threats, innocent bystanders, dogged cops, and nervous artist combines to whip up a recipe of weirdness and riddles. As the credits roll and we pull back from Nick’s ruined body he accepts his fate and we the audience accept that Jamie isn’t the staid family man he presents. There are more secrets in this tiny rural town and Detective Ambrose is just getting started. Let’s hope finding the truth doesn’t kill him this time. New episodes air each Thursday at 8:00 CST on TNT. Come back each week for our continuing coverage.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.