Sins of Our Mother on Netflix is super dark and loved by critics — should you watch?

(L to R) Lori Vallow and Colby Ryan in Sins of Our Mother
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix does true crime like few others (partially because it releases more). And Sins of Our Mother — the latest Netflix true crime docuseries that's currently heating up the charts — looks like its latest grisly must-watch.

Released this past Wednesday (Sept. 14), Sins of Our Mother jumped into the No. 2 spot on Netflix's top TV shows list yesterday (Sept. 15) and is still there now. What's just as interesting, though, is that it's not just the audiences lapping Sins of Our Mother up. Critics like it, too.

Not enough critics have reviewed the series to give it a consensus score on Rotten Tomatoes, but Sins of Our Mother isn't being ignored either — and all the reviews we've found are positive.

What is Sins of Our Mother all about?

Sins of Our Mother reminds us that happy family photos in Netflix documentaries are the biggest red flag. This three-part documentary series is filled with archival footage of Lori Vallow, a smiling mother surrounded by her family — but it quickly turns to the truth: Lori is awaiting her day in court as she, and one of her husbands Chad Daybell, are accused of the murders of two of her children and his wife.

Vallow's case drew national attention when she was unable to account for the locations of daughter Tylee Ryan and son J.J.. She and Mr. Daybell were later found in Hawaii, where they made off to. The two are seen as being driven by their own theology, a version of what they learned as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lori's son Colby somehow has the energy to tell his family's story to Netflix in this limited series. He explains how he grew distanced from his mother because of her belief about an impending apocalypse — which Colby's wife didn't agree with. 

You'll learn how the death of Daybell's wife was originally seen as being tied to natural causes. Your eyes will widen at the story of Lori kidnapping the two now-deceased children. And you might have to pause the series when they play the 911 call made after Lori's husband Charles was shot.

Sins of Our Mother reviews: What the critics like

While reviews are mostly positive (with some fair critiques), the consistent thing you read is that Sins of Our Mother is the perfect Netflix true crime series. At least by the standards audiences likely have. 

Rebecca Nicholson at The Guardian writes "Sins of Our Mother is about as Netflix True Crime as it gets. It is bombastic, tells a grimly fascinating, awful story, is expertly structured and full of twists and turns, and leaves that slightly grubby feeling of getting sucked into other people’s suffering for the purposes of entertainment."

(L to R) Charles Vallow, Colby Ryan and Lori Vallow in Sins of Our Mother

(Image credit: Netflix)

Joel Keller of Decider writes "Sins Of Our Mother is an intense retelling of an ongoing story, one that has more tragedy and twists and turns than even Shakespeare could come up with. And it’s all told in a very straightforward manner because with a story this intricate, there’s no real need for bells and whistles."

John Anderson at The Wall Street Journal doesn't judge the series especially strong in either direction, but we're sure Netflix would love the latter half of this quote, as he writes "Sins of Our Mother may not be the perfect nonfiction miniseries about American Western Gothic weirdness, but it does contain a kitchen sink’s worth of true-crime ingredients and wreckage: murder, insanity, adultery, religion, doomsday scenarios."

Sins of Our Mother reviews: What the critics don't like

As noted above, Sins of Our Mother isn't exactly perfect. Nicholson observed that this might be because of where we currently are in its story. She writes "The problem with this documentary is that there isn’t really an end point. Vallow and Daybell were arrested in 2020 after the discovery of human remains on Daybell’s property, but the legal process has been long and drawn out; they are currently due to stand trial in January 2023." 

She later notes "I couldn’t help wondering if it should have waited until its two chief suspects had stood trial – and a verdict been reached – to tell the story more completely."

Should you watch Sins of Our Mother?

Netflix's true crime-loving audiences are already voting a big "yes" for this one. And we can't blame them. But it seems like the best way to watch Sins of Our Mother is with the expectations that the story isn't complete yet.

While the lurid details of this series will leave you wanting answers, going into Sins of Our Mother knowing that this is essentially the first part of an unfinished story should be a way to watch it without getting disappointed. I mean, that worked for Game of Thrones (... until season 8).

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.