For 'Unabomber' and 'The Sinner,' Murder is: The Buzz
Manhunt: Unabomber Premiere Review: “I want you to think about the mail for a minute. Stop taking it for granted like some complacent, sleepwalking sheep, and really think about it. I promise you, you will find the U.S. mail a worthy object of your contemplation.” The US postal service is far from as relevant in today’s technological era as it was pre-internet. In the late 20th century, however, it was pertinent and in this case, dangerous. Discovery premiered the first two of its 8 episode miniseries, "Manhunt: Unabomber" this week. The titular subject is explored in depth through a close look into Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald’s investigation of domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski.
Starring Avatar’s Sam Worthington as Fitz and Avenger’s Paul Bettany as Kaczynski, "Manhunt: Unabomber" goes into Fitz’ unlikely, successful investigation of Kaczynski, while simultaneously exploring the relationship the two built following The Unabomber’s capture. Between 1978 and 1995, The Unabomber killed three people and injured dozens through his targeted, mail bombing campaign. The premiere mainly focuses on Fitz in 1995, in which he is a happily married and newly minted agent of the FBI. There are also flashes of a lonely, uncivilized Fitz in 1997, courted into assisting Kaczynski’s guilty plea. While Bettany does not appear until virtually the end of the two-hour premiere, the episode’s final scene between an incarcerated, sadistic Kaczynski and a bewildered, but intrigued Fitz, provides a strong taste of what’s to come.
In the same light as "Silence of the Lambs" and Fox’s "The Following," this series examines the unusual but justified connection between a serial killer and the leading agent responsible for his capture. The miniseries has great potential if it balances out the two leads of the show effectively. If most of the series consists of Worthington struggling to piece together clues on the case, with the help of Chris Noth’s Don Ackerman and Jane Lynch’s (yes, that Jane Lynch) Janet Reno (yet to be seen after the premiere), I see the series falling flat. Paul Bettany’s portrayal of Kaczynski is clearly the most compelling feature of the series and it would do the story justice if his interpretation of the notorious serial killer were given its due.
"Manhunt: Unabomber" airs on Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET on Discovery.
The Sinner Premiere Review: Back when Justin Timberlake was rocking frosted tips and singing, “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” I think we all knew he was going to end up with a murderer. No, not really; but his wife, Jessica Biel, stars as one on USA’s new drama, "The Sinner."
"The Sinner" is not your typical murder mystery. The mystery has nothing to do with who committed the murder because we see the murder take place within the first twenty minutes of the show. Biel’s Cora Tannetti is your typical housewife and mother in Upstate New York, yet she is clearly troubled. Troubled to the point where she swims far out into the ocean, seconds away from committing suicide. She doesn’t. Instead, she returns back to the beach where her husband (Christopher Abbott) and daughter wait for her. It isn’t before long, however, that she takes the knife she is cutting an apple with to repeatedly and very publicly stab an unarmed man. So the question isn’t who did it, but why?
I’m not a big fan of the USA network when it comes to scripted content. However, "Mr. Robot" gave the channel some credibility and momentum that it has been using to redefine itself. "The Sinner" is another example of USA’s shift toward quality-scripted content. This eight-episode miniseries really starts off strong and hooks you in through its almost immediate inciting incident. Understanding what set off a seemingly normal wife and mother into such a spontaneous, murderous rage is the underlying objective of the rest of the series. Was it really just an emotional outburst that resulted in the death of an innocent man? Or maybe the innocent man is not so innocent. It’s still unclear but it looks like there’s more than meets the eye.
Bill Pullman’s Harry Ambrose looks to be the man to help the audience find out these answers as he looks into the unusual and rare murder case. Biel appears to give her best performance in a long time, in her first return to television since her breakout role as Mary Camden on "7th Heaven." If her confused, neurotic and psychotic presence in the premiere indicates what’s to come, we should be in for an exciting series.
"The Sinner" airs on Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET on USA.
Upcoming: Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later: The satirical, outrageous, camp comedy is back for another installment. Following the cult classic "Wet Hot American Summer" (2001) and the original Netflix series, "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp," the new series, "Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later," follows the counselors of Camp Firewood, now supposedly in their 20s, in a reunion special for the ages. Stars Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni and Elizabeth Banks return and are joined by newcomers Adam Scott and Alyssa Milano in the Netflix original series, now available through the streaming service.