We opened last week talking about how the languid pace of Sharp Objects reflects the oppressive heat of a Missouri summer, but really that discussion would have been far more appropriate this time around. If Jean Marc Vallée and his writers were at all conscious that viewers would struggle with the lack of forward momentum, episode six seems to be where they decided to double down and see who sticks around. I can easily imagine ‘Cherry’ being the point where a lot of people checked out of Sharp Objects and if they already had issues with its disinterest in the murder mystery and its pacing, then I can totally understand that decision.
‘Cherry’ is indeed a frustratingly slow episode, one where major plot developments happen but are thrown out in a few lines or a short scene, before we go back to another extended scene of rollerskating at night and interchangeable dead girls. For instance, the discovery of Ann Nash’s bike in the poop lagoon (am I imagining things or is this a very similar bike to the one that the kid rode off on during last week’s episode?) happens early on but isn’t really treated like the break in the case that it is. Neither is Vickery’s revelation to Richard that a Mexican worker saw John Keene dump the bike in the lagoon. There are so many questions about both of these developments (how on earth did someone just ‘find’ a bike in a pool of pig shit?), but we’re not really given much chance to explore them as Sharp Objects tosses them out like annoying chores and gets back to the business of the growing bond between Amma and Camille.
I’ve seen Sharp Objects described as a ghost story without ghosts, but I’d question the latter half of that assertion. Camille might be haunted and stalked by plenty of things that aren’t literal ghosts – see the eerie way that Adora appears in the doorway towards the end of this episode – but there are more traditional definitions of ghosts aplenty. Marian’s presence is heavy throughout, appearing in Amma’s place as she and Camille, high as kites, spin each other around on the lawn. She’s also, most unsettlingly, watching from the hallway as Camille and Amma stumble up the stairs to bed. It remains to be seen if Jean Marc Vallée intends to treat Marian as a literal ghost, but it’d certainly be a bold move if he did.
One thing that disappoints me – but seems inevitable in hindsight – is Richard taking Adora’s bait about Camille’s past. He goes digging at the rehab clinic where she was treated – and where Alice died – and then gets Jackie drunk with the intention of dragging more out of her. Maybe it’s curiosity, maybe it’s related to the case, but whatever his motives, Richard’s snooping is a betrayal of Camille and one that is bound to come back to hurt both of them. If Camille’s response to Kirk’s apology (for being part of the gang that raped her as a teenager) is anything to go by, she’s not big on ‘too little, too late’, especially when it’s just designed to soothe the perpetrator’s troubled mind.
The women of Wind Gap haven’t been portrayed in the best light so far, but the men get their fair share this week. Camille’s stepfather Alan has been a background presence so far, listening to vinyl and staying out of the chilly exchanges between Adora and Camille. At Adora’s instigation, he tries to drive Camille out, telling her how she’s just like her grandmother – who used to pinch Adora while she was asleep and loved it when Camille refused to breastfeed – always delighting in Adora’s pain. It’s a clumsy, hurtful conversation and there’s a suspicion that it’s deliberately so and an attempt to put an end to the conflict by removing Camille from the house, rather than any genuine wish to do Adora’s bidding. Or maybe that’s the mistake everyone in Wind Gap makes with the town’s men: giving them too much credit.