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Could you figure out why a 13-year-old would murder his parents?

Everyone has seen the classic “who-dunnit” television shows where the characters use their best detective skills to figure out who the killer is, but what if there was a different type of crime show you could fall in love with? USA Network’s “The Sinner” just debuted the second “why-dunnit” anthology-based miniseries. The mystery is not who committed the murder, but the psychological trauma that leads to this killer instinct.

Season 2, Episode 1 made a splash with its premiere on Aug. 1. The series will feature eight chilling parts, unraveling the mindset of the teenager who murders his folks. Every Wednesday at 10 p.m. the audience will tune in to the mystifying tale of Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) digging inside the mind of the adolescent killer.

Both produced and starred in by Jessica Biel, her character, Cora Tannetti, who was a young mother and wife, drove the first season through her show-stopping scene in which she spontaneously stabbed a man in front of her family and a hundred horrified beach-goers.

The whole first season enraptured viewers and strung them along to finally learn how this young, happy and ordinary woman could fly into an unprovoked fit of rage that resulted in a knife thrusted in Frankie Belmont’s throat. The plot line was based on the German novel by Petra Hammesfahr, but the second season is an offshoot curated by Derek Simmonds.

Detective Ambrose, for now, is the only connection between this season and the first, and he is hurled back into his hometown in Keller, New York.

Exploring the mind of a child killer, “The Sinner” will awe audiences. (Image via CNN)

If you watched the first season, you would know that Cora’s childhood trauma mirrors the detectives own nightmares. Fans try to grasp on to the wispy flashbacks fleeing Ambrose’s psyche, even in the first episode there is hope that the viewers will learn more about the man behind the gold shield.

The storyline begins with a family road trip to Niagara Falls and, unlike the McCallister’s in “Home Alone,” every family member was accounted for, as far as we know.

Season 2, Episode 1 opens up with a couple and their son driving down country highways, but the car unexpectedly breaks down a few miles short of the nearest lodge or gas station. The threesome walk the extra miles and take rest at the local Keller lodge before making a pit stop in the morning at the local mechanic. The family seems relatively content with each other and eager to make the most of this little vacation, but there seems to be a dark cloud looming over the Lowry’s.

“The Sinner,” has the ability to soften the darkness of the characters without undermining the foreboding mystery. Despite understanding that there is a bit of tense relations amongst the family, the show does not overindulge on the suspense but lends only as much as the audience needs.

Once the morning comes, the boy Julian goes to the motel’s breakfast and brings back the parents licorice tea laced with the deadly jimson weed. A few minutes later, he bears witness to his mother and father asphyxiating on their own vomit and collapsing to death by poisoning.

The 13-year-old cleans up the bodies by wiping off the puke from his mother’s mouth and tending to his father’s head wound from bashing it on the bathroom floor during his shower. He then lays them out in a ceremonial fashion, covers them up and puts rocks on their eyes.

When the Keller Police Department detective, Heather Novack, arrives on the scene, she finds Julian in the forest without his shoes and urine-stained pants. Detective Novak calls her father’s old buddy, Detective Ambrose, who lived in Dorchester, New York, to help understand the reasoning behind this double homicide.

The story follows the childhood trauma of both Julian and Detective Ambrose with alluringly, vague flashbacks and close-knit framing of all the characters, with an affinity for sinister secrets.

The introspectiveness of Julian reveals a woman, played by Carrie Coon, who delves into the meaning behind the boy’s fear of his alter ego. He is intently scribbling on paper with a fine tipped pen during his conversations with the woman who seems to be calming his inner demons. The mood of the intervention shifts when she tells him to let Shadow Julian in when he comes knocking.

Demons do not seem to only linger around the juvenile. The same, old nightmares arise for Detective Ambrose: A house bursting into flames as a little boy yells and scours for his mother, who is sitting amongst the fire.

With seven more parts left to form the whole story, what else can fans expect to happen during this miniseries?

Focusing on “why” instead of “who” has separated “The Sinner” from the typical crime show. (Image via Vox)

If you are hoping for Biel to come out of the woodwork in this season then you are sure to be disappointed. The first season was the actress’ first television appearance since “7th Heaven,” and she plans on sticking to the behind-the-scenes antics.

But do not let that fool you. “The Sinner” will have you nail biting with this riveting cast. The series is the type of crime show that messes with your head in the same manner as a horror movie would: By introducing filler characters and conflicts that can distract fans from cruel intentions and bewildering associations.

It is only fitting to assume that the plot will thicken probably three or four times until the truth is finally revealed. If this season is anything like the previous one, then the motives will transpire in the last minutes of the finale.

Part two is almost already knocking on the door with its premiere on Aug. 8. Waiting each week is truly a struggle because this captivating story is truly binge-worthy, but the interlude between episodes enable the churning of mental gears that further lend to the suspense.

There are more police-oriented killer dramas than I can honestly think of at this very moment, but there are maybe a handful of shows that feature the “why” rather than the “who.”

From the variety of crimes shows I have witnessed, figuring out the bad guy is usually a walk in the park once all the clues are collected. This type of narrative is simpler because there are so many people in the show with the appetite for blood, but there are more possible reasons why someone would kill rather than just naming the killer.

“The Sinner” amplifies the exhilarating norm of detective shows by peppering in a spicy bit of horror into the mix. Audiences, despite knowing the culprit, will question if the killer is really the killer and formulate thousands of plausible scenarios that bred this aptitude for death.

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Shaina Lapuebla

Central Connecticut State University

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