The Sinner

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Sinner TV Poster Image
A woman's dark past leads to a sudden, bloody murder.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Cora is married to a kind man from a loving family that spends a lot of time together, which sometimes makes her uncomfortable. She calls her husband a "mama's boy" because they have dinner with her mother-in-law every night. Her own family of origin left her with deep scars. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are complicated and have dark secrets in this drama, like a mother who blames her young daughter for her sister's illness. Main character Cora is far from a role model: Her troubled past leads her to suddenly murder a man in front of many people, including her own 4-year-old son. 

Violence

Expect moments of startling violence, like when a woman stabs a man to death on a public beach on a sunny day, with blood, screams, and stabbing noises on the soundtrack. As others try to revive him, he breathes and gulps in agony, and then dies. Later, we see his dead, bloody body with stab wounds, pictured repeatedly, while his murderer is shown many times drenched with blood. A woman has a very sick baby; we see the baby with a bruised and blackened face and raspy breathing, wrapped in a blanket. 

Sex

A married couple has sex with moaning and thrusting (no nudity); a man grasps his wife's hand and pulls it to his crotch saying "See what you do to me?" A couple kisses on a beach while a man strokes a woman's backside in a bathing suit. A woman is visible nude from the rear when taking a shower. A man is having a consensual BDSM relationship with a woman -- we see her stepping on his fingers before removing her pants and pushing his head into the lower half of her body. 

Language

Occasional cursing: "s--t," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman takes (prescription?) sleeping pills at night; one night when she's unable to take a pill, she begs for one and says repeatedly "I need it." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sinner is a dark drama about a troubled woman who suddenly commits a bloody murder. That murder is a stabbing on a public beach, in front of witnesses including the woman's 4-year-old son. We see a man being stabbed, with blood and gore; afterward, we see his dead body with stab wounds and the murderer drenched in blood, images that this drama flashes back to frequently. Other disturbing imagery includes a desperately ill baby/young child and a man in a consensual sadistic/masochistic relationship with a woman who steps on his hands as a form of foreplay. Characters flirt, kiss, and have sex with moaning and thrusting; no private parts are visible, but a man does pull a woman's hand to his crotch to display his erection. A woman is visible nude from the rear while showering. Cursing is infrequent: "s--t," "hell." A woman takes (prescription?) sleeping pills at night; she begs for them and says "I need them" when she can't get them. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byVanessa J. July 24, 2018

Harrowing look at shame and trauma

Season 1 of “The Sinner” is an adaptation of a German novel and explores the results of one woman’s trauma from childhood and early adulthood. The premise isn’... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bykatiesmith January 4, 2018

Sex stuff

Even though the sinner was great, it had a lot of sex scenes not for kids or even teens. Too hot and I would even consider it porn. Up to 18 in mu opinion. I t... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byha374x December 3, 2017

Five stars

It’s an excellent and very well executed show with mild swearing on occasion and a few references to drugs for example a woman takes sleeping pills and becomes... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the eight-part drama THE SINNER, Jessica Biel is Cora, an average mom and wife who commits a sudden, brutal murder on a public beach. Her husband, Mason (Chris Abbott), is as mystified as everyone else: Why would his calm and loving wife, mother of his 4-year-old child, suddenly snap and murder what seems to be a complete stranger? As police sift through the scant evidence to explain Cora's crime, Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), a complicated cop with a complicated personal life, is drawn to uncover the secrets in Cora's past. 

Is it any good?

Unique, intriguing, and complicated, this dark drama will have viewers eager to find out what secrets each of its compelling characters is hiding. Why would a "friendly mom who volunteers at the Y" suddenly stab a total stranger to death on a crowded beach? What's the story behind the childhood flashbacks she keeps having of her sick little sister and angry mother? Why does the detective investigating her case stop by a woman's house to be hurt? Is it punishment or pleasure he's after?

If we were granted access to the inside of Cora's head, this series would be over in 10 minutes. Instead, we're left to draw conclusions from the way the characters interact -- what they reveal to each other, and what they keep private -- as well as teasing flashbacks that reveal just a bit of the backstory each time we see one. The Sinner is a slow burn -- and thus some may find it a bit balky -- but as the twists are slowly doled out, patient viewers are rewarded with compelling answers in what USA is calling a "whydunit" instead of a "whodunit."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why dramas about murder like The Sinner are such an enduring staple of network television. What types of ongoing possibilities for plots do they offer? Why would this be compelling for a television series? 

  • How would the events portrayed in The Sinner affect a real-life community, and how accurately and thoroughly does the series explore that? How would your community handle the death of a man at the hands of an unexpected killer?

  • What role does bullying play in this series? What different forms can bullying take? What's the difference between bullying and conflicts between characters? 

TV details

For kids who love mysteries

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate