At the starting point, The Sinner was presented as an anthology. This is obviously not really the case, since we find each season the detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) for a new investigation.
In the third, it is about a road accident that led to the suspicious death of the driver of the vehicle. At least suspicious of Harry. He was right, of course. The sympathetic professor Jamie Burns (Matt Bomer) is responsible for the death of his friend Nick Haas (Chris Messina).
The mystery in The Sinner is never the identity of the murderer, but his motives. This season 3 is then quite explicit when it comes to the crimes committed by Jamie. The more Harry Ambrose is interested in him, the more he commits. The detective and the murderer quickly embark on a complicated relationship fueled by a shared existential quest that will plunge them into terribly dark areas from which they emerge ever more changed.
If this works, it’s mainly because the show is indeed not an anthology. The whole dynamic that is set up between Harry and Jamie is based on our familiarity with the detective. We know that he is able to invest himself more than reason in a business to the point of losing himself. This is what makes him such a fascinating character. It makes each season more and more tangible on an emotional level.
In a way, that’s both what makes some tracks in this Season 3 brilliant and others end up being a little less so. The idea of The Sinner is to explain to us what prompts people to commit the irreparable. This is pretty much spelled out with Jamie and, when Harry exploits his suspect’s faltering psychological state to secure an arrest, history has given us all it had.
What follows is no less captivating, but the writers make the final quarter of the season a long epilogue to lead Harry to an achievement he could have achieved more directly. It almost gets vicious, as it’s no longer about the killer’s motives, but about Harry’s inability to deal with the evils of his existence.
The season ends up spinning on itself, pushing its psychological analysis of Jamie more than necessary in an effort to justify actions that depend on what Harry can still give us. The fascination becomes confused and disconcerting.
In this direction, The Sinner seems to have reached the end of its concept. At least, in its current form. Bill Pullman is more brilliant than ever in the skin of Harry Ambrose and once again finds a strong opponent with Matt Bomer who delivers one of the best performances of his career. The actors put on the show, captivate and disturb.
That’s what makes this Season 3 consistent throughout, despite a storyline that puts too much emphasis on making a point that was fully explored almost too soon. Jamie and Harry face their mortality and loneliness, but perhaps should have seen a psychiatrist before it was too late.
At the end of the race, The Sinner delivers us a season 3 which is overall very good to follow, but which did not know how to find the perfect balance of the preceding one between the quest for truth and the exploration of the roots of evil. She was trying to follow through and deliver what she promises, but ends up puzzling what she was actually trying to say in the end. That would make a good conclusion for Harry Ambrose. It would certainly be interesting to explore the concept with a new protagonist at this point.
Already published in April 2020, this article is being brought forward again today when this season 3 of The Sinner is posted on Netflix.
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