When the detective miniseries The sinner First premiering in 2017, the series was primarily a vehicle for Jessica Biel, whose role as a mysterious assassin earned her an Emmy nomination. The show was originally supposed to be a limited series, but was subsequently renewed for three more seasons with Bill Pullman playing Detective Harry Ambrose, a veteran investigator who is occasionally haunted by past cases. Now available on Netflix, the show’s fourth and final season features Pullman in his prime, gray-haired and determined to find out what happened to a young woman who seemingly vanished into thin air.
Opening shot: Retired detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) stares into a watery abyss from the deck of a ferry, a grim expression on his face. Is he dizzy? Or does he just have a premonition that this trip aboard a ferry, which is taking him and his girlfriend Sonya (Jessica Hecht) to Maine’s picturesque Hanover Island for a remedial vacation, is actually getting him into another world? murder mystery?
The essence: Bill Pullman played detective Harry Ambrose for four seasons on The sinner, the USA Network show that is now available in its entirety on Netflix. In this final season, Ambrose goes to Maine for a summer in an attempt to relax. He’s been retired for a year, but he’s still traumatized by the events of season three, in which he and his girlfriend Sonya were nearly killed by the deranged Jamie Burns (Matt Bomer, who appears in flashbacks this season).
Suffering from PTSD and insomnia, Harry struggles to relax on this holiday, but on his first night he can’t sleep, so he takes a walk around town. There he notices a young local he met earlier that day, a woman named Percy Muldoon (Alice Kremelberg), who seems desperate to get away from someone as he walks toward a cliff by the water. A dazed Ambrose follows Percy to a cliff where he looks back and then appears to throw himself over the edge. Ambrose is the only witness to this and calls the police to report what he saw.
As the divers search the water below, they find no sign of a body. The police do not believe that Percy is dead, instead suggesting that he is still at large. Percy’s family, the Muldoons, is run by Percy’s grandmother Meg (Frances Fisher), who also doesn’t think Ambrose saw his granddaughter commit suicide. Everyone is skeptical of Harry, and the police are completely inept, questioning Harry when he brings them clues from the scene of Percy’s disappearance.
Eventually, after Meg learns that Harry is an experienced detective, she softens her stance and asks for his help with Percy’s disappearance. Meg reveals that Percy has been keeping certain things from her, and that Percy recently got into some spiritual things from Mother Earth, none of which Meg claims to understand.
Perhaps the strangest thing of all is the crying. The night Percy disappeared, Harry heard the sound of someone screaming or wailing in the woods nearby. And since then, he hears these strange sounds when he is away from home, unable to sleep in the middle of the night. It turns out that a mysterious ritual is taking place on the shore, and this haunting wail is part of it. What does all this mean and how does it connect to Percy? We have seven more episodes to find out.
What shows will it remind you of? The sinner is a detective anthology series where the detective remains the same, but each season features a revolving door of supporting cast, not unlike ABC big sky. Both shows are based on popular detective novels where the protagonist’s personal baggage becomes an important part of the story.
The sinnerThe final season of takes place on a remote island off the coast of Maine, an island where fishing is the lifeblood, and the town’s residents are isolated and often mysterious, and for those reasons, there’s also a bit of Midnight mass atmosphere, although there are no vampire bloodbaths to speak of in The sinner.
Our take: The sinner is a mystery show that spends more time exploring the how and why of the crimes, rather than finding out who did it. In the first season, we saw Jessica Biel’s Cora stab a man to death, and we spent the rest of the season trying to figure out why. In season four, we know that Percy Muldoon has disappeared, but the questions that loom are whether she is alive or dead and what caused her to disappear.
On paper, the character of Henry Ambrose reads like a stereotypical retired detective. He doesn’t know what to do with all this free time, his brain is full of memories of old cases, he can’t help but get involved in an investigation that he literally has no jurisdiction over. Pullman interprets him as exhausted and unable to do anything but solving crimes, but he’s not pushy or a know-it-all, he just resigned himself to the fact that detectives have to detect, and here it works. His quiet search for the truth is likable, even noble, and helps keep him calm, especially when he’s up against the secretive and volatile Muldoon family.
This season’s mystery is engaging, buoyed by strong performances from Pullman, Fisher and Neal Huff. If the series really has come to an end, it’s a solid way out.
Sex and skin: Harry Ambrose has always had something to go wrong in this series. He may seem like an LL Bean catalog normie, but early on this season, he’ll learn that he likes sex with a side of suffocation.
Parting Shot: As a result of Harry’s insomnia, he has started playing with the broken gas grill in his rental house and trying to fix it at 2 am every night. While he is outside, he hears a mysterious sound, as if someone is crying or singing, and when he walks towards the nearby shore, he sees a naked woman, with twisted hair, performing some kind of ritual. She looks back at him as if she’s in a trance and doesn’t seem to recognize him. When he returns to his house, Harry sees a vision of Percy, a figment of his imagination, but she sits across from him and begs, “Please. Find me.” Dude, whuuuut.
sleeping star: Frances Fisher’s character, Meg Muldoon, is intriguing. At first she appears to be the gruff matriarch and salt-of-the-earth of the most powerful fishing family in town, but clearly she’s hiding something herself.
Most of the Pilot-y line: When Sonya realizes that Harry has purposely left his antidepressants at home while they are on vacation, she questions him and learns that he has been skipping the medications his therapist prescribed to help him with all his trauma. Sonya warns Harry that his stress and insomnia will only get worse as a result, to which he replies, “He’ll be fine!” Reader, it’s not right.
Our call: BRING IT! The sinner is a solid mystery series that has proven to be a low-key, low-key drama with an excellent cast each season. The first episode sets up a lot of what we need to know going forward, giving us a lot to unravel with both Percy’s disappearance and everyone’s life on the island.
Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer based in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she earned on the game show. Chain reaction.