Can You Watch ‘The Sinner’ Season 2 Without Seeing Season 1?

The Sinner

The Sinner | USA

The Sinner, one of the biggest television surprises of last summer, is returning for its second season tonight on USA. But Season 1 was presented as a miniseries, and Season 2 features an entirely new storyline. So does that mean it can be watched fresh without having seen Season 1?

As it turns out, the answer is yes; you can watch The Sinner‘s second season even if you haven’t seen the first. This isn’t a 13 Reasons Why situation, where a show that was meant to be a miniseries returns for a second season but you still need to have seen the first in order for the new episodes to make sense.

Instead, Season 2 is an entirely new storyline with mostly brand new characters, including one played by Carrie Coon. Even so, it does take place in the same universe as Season 1. According to Rolling Stone, Season 2 features a few references to the events of Season 1 and to the character of Cora Tannetti, played by Jessica Biel.

None of these references are key to your understanding of the story, though. Critic Alan Sepinwall writes for Rolling Stone, “Season Two is completely newcomer-friendly. I was able to follow everything despite having lost interest in the original story midway through.”

It seems, then, that The Sinner is essentially following the Fargo model. That FX series is an anthology, and you can watch any of the three seasons in any order and still follow along with what’s going on. However, all of the stories do take place in the same universe, and there’s some connective tissue between the seasons, including characters that reappear.

The Sinner

The Sinner | USA

In the case of The Sinner, the primary connective tissue between the two seasons is the character of Detective Ambrose, played by Bill Pullman. In Season 1, he tried to figure out why Jessica Biel’s character committed a murder, and he’s back for Season 2. This time, he returns to his hometown after an 11-year-old boy confesses to killing his parents. Like Season 1, then, this is another “whydunnit” story, where the mystery is not who committed a murder but rather why they did it.

When The Sinner first aired, it was presented as a miniseries, and Jessica Biel has even been nominated at the Emmys in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. However, when the show was an unexpected hit, USA decided to order another season, turning it into an anthology series. This has become a fairly common practice over the past few years; some other shows that were presented as miniseries but continued after Season 1 include True Detective13 Reasons WhyBig Little LiesAmerican Vandal, and Fargo. Fargo was able to successfully follow up the first season with an equally great Season 2 and 3, while True Detective and 13 Reasons Why struggled.

However, it looks like The Sinner isn’t having any issues following up the first season, as Season 2 is receiving great reviews thus far. In fact, many critics have hailed it as being even better than Season 1. The first episode airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time on USA.