ByEmily Browne, writer at
Twitter: @emrbrowne
Emily Browne

As usual, the promise of an A-list star and bloody violence are enough to secure decent ratings for a brand new show — and USA Network's The Sinner is heartily capitalizing on this. Yet viewers of the new eight-part thriller have had a hard time sitting through its premier, thanks to one truly savage moment which certainly isn't for the faint-hearted.

Starring (the latest A-lister making a foray into TV), The Sinner follows young mother Cora Tannetti who is overcome by a bizarre and violent fit of rage for no reason whatsoever, leading her to brutally murder a stranger on a beach in the middle of the day. turns the murder mystery on its head, exploring the psychology of the "why," rather than the "who." As we discover more about Cora's upbringing, viewers must asks themselves: was the murder was truly random, and did Cora actually know her victim?

The harrowing scene in question is the main thing that viewers are having a hard time getting past, yet it's the driving force behind the narrative. Taking to Twitter, viewers expressed mixed reviews of the moment where Cora is overcome with fury by a young couple on the beach, resulting in the stabbing of a man repeatedly in the neck and torso, seemingly for no reason at all.

Despite some claiming they couldn't finish the episode, the show is receiving rave reviews. It has been "certified fresh" with a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and is sitting pretty with a 7.7/10 on IMDB, which is incredibly strong for an episode of the show that has just hit the airwaves. Yet violence on is nothing new, so why are viewers having such a hard time with this scene in particular?

Unexplained, Unexpected Violence Is Sometimes More Horrifying

Violence on TV is nothing new — just take a look at shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Dexter, and Santa Clarita Diet, all of which have used enough shock tactics and red food coloring to fill a corridor at the Overlook Hotel. Yet the violence on each of these shows is explained, justified, and used in such quantity that we become desensitized quickly.

The lead up to the scene in The Sinner shows Cora looking after her son, possibly attempting to drown herself in a lake, and innocuously slicing up a pear. The outburst she experiences is something many of us fear — that we'll come face-to-face with this kind of psychosis, and there'll be nothing we can do to stop it. Vulture's Matt Seitz summed it up perfectly in his review of Episode 1:

"If you’ve ever witnessed real violence, the kind that seems to erupt from the dull fabric of everyday life like magma from the earth, and that is as clumsy as it is shocking, you’ll appreciate how this moment has been executed. It rattles the viewer as well as the community within the show, and that makes us invested in the police’s attempts to figure out how something like this could have happened."

As Seitz says, it's a testament to the strength of the direction to summon such adverse reactions to something we've seen on TV a hundred times before. With such a strong opening episode and seven episodes left to go, there are sure to be tons of twists and turns on the way to keep us locked into Cora's story and the reason's behind her bloody outburst.

Have you seen Episode 1 of The Sinner? Did you find THAT scene hard to watch? Let us know in the comments!


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