We know the who, but not the why.
That’s the gist (and tagger) behind the new USA thriller, “The Sinner,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Wednesday on Spectrum channel 27.
Jessica Biel is Cora Tanner, a young wife and mother who inexplicably commits a horrendous, violent crime. She appears to have no motive.
Or does she?
Detective Harry Ambrose (played by veteran actor Bill Pullman), who is a bit unhinged himself, believes she does. By the end of the pilot, viewers may believe so too, with flashbacks from Cora’s past and the crime itself offering early hints.
The eight-episode series is based on Petra Hammesfahr’s book of the same name, with Derek Simonds as creator and executive producer. Among the cast is Nebraska actor Abby Miller, who plays a police officer who interacts with Cora immediately following Cora’s crime.
Biel, who also is an executive producer, is a revelation here, playing a woman who’s lost her grasp on reality, walking through life in some kind of a fog. Her performance leaves the viewer feeling uncomfortable. And Pullman, as usual, is perfect, totally believable as the gruff and extremely flawed detective.
“The Sinner” is a procedural. But unlike most others that are obsessed with the “who,” this gets at the “why.” Talk about intriguing. Grade: B+
News and notes
* Just ahead of “The Defenders” Aug. 18 premiere, Netflix announced the season two renewal of “Iron Fist” despite its lackluster reviews. “Iron Fist” is part of Netflix’s Marvel family, with its other offerings already having been renewed: “Daredevil” (season three), “Luke Cage” (season two) and “Jessica Jones” (season two). “The Defenders” is a team-up series featuring the lead characters from the previous shows.
* HBO’s first season of “True Detective” was stellar, and the second, well, not so much. The premium channel is working on a third season, with Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) attached to it. That gives me hope. I’ve been a fan of Ali’s since his breakthrough role on USA’s “The 4400” (2004-07).
* USA will shorten “The Shooter’s” second season from 10 to eight episodes in the wake of series star Ryan Phillippe’s injury. According to reports, Phillippe broke his leg in an accident while off set on July 16. He required surgery to repair it, making it impossible for him to work. Episode three airs Tuesday at 9 p.m.
* Cable series receiving recent pick-ups include “Angie Tribeca” (fourth season,TBS), “Wynonna Earp” (third, Syfy) and “Animal Kingdom” (third, TNT).
* Tom Welling, who starred for 10 seasons as Clark Kent on The CW’s “Smallville” (2001-2011), is returning to television. He’ll be a series regular on and rival to “Lucifer,” which begins its third season Oct. 2 on Fox.