The complaints I’ve read about Sharp Objects mainly revolve around how goddamn slow it is. I won’t refute that – it is almost contrarily slow – but I truly believe that the languid pace is one of its strengths. If you’ve ever been to Missouri (or its environs in the southern reaches of the Midwest) in the summer, you’ll know how hot it gets – swampy hot. It’s like you can see the air parting in front of you as you try to wade through it. There’s an effort to everything in that kind of weather and that’s how Sharp Objects feels to me, like everyone is having to try too damn hard just to walk about. That kind of energy-sapping heat can make you cranky as hell, which might go some way to explaining why everyone in Wind Gap is so moody all the time.
The heat especially seems to get to Adora and Richard. Adora is eternally draped over some plush surface, exhausted as much by the burden of maintaining her family’s name as she is by the soupy summer heat, while Richard’s back is constantly drenched with the sweat of a man who is under genuine pressure and also not dealing well with the weather. These two have been kept apart so far, but their first meeting results in one of Sharp Objects’ best scenes yet. Adora could so easily be reduced to a boo-hiss villain, likewise Richard to an earnest do-gooder, but Patricia Clarkson and Chris Messina are both doing exemplary work with their characters. When Richard accepts a tour of Adora’s home, it’s natural to fear the worst, that she’ll somehow get her claws into him or “accidentally” let slip some nugget of information that destroys his fragile bond with Camille.
But that’s where Adora underestimates both Camille and Richard. He’s not fooled for a second by her concerned mother routine or her attempts to impress him with the morbid eccentricities of her home. Nor is he surprised by her revelations about Camille. Adora couldn’t imagine divulging awful personal details to anyone, another way she crucially misunderstands her daughter. This resurfaces later when Adora “apologises” to Camille, blaming Camille’s inability to get close to anyone on her father, again Adora seeing Camille’s struggles only in how they affect her. It’s no surprise that Camille’s reaction is to run straight to Richard’s motel room and straight into his bed.
Adora and Richard’s meeting happens against the backdrop of the Calhoun Day festivities that Adora was so dead set on preserving. We learn a little more about what Calhoun Day is, essentially a celebration of the day that a pregnant young Wind Gap woman (Millie Calhoun) was tied to a tree, raped and brutalised by Union soldiers – losing her baby in the process – rather than give up the hiding place of her Confederate husband. How appropriate that this town would celebrate the suffering of a young woman, setting the re-enactment of Millie’s torment against a backdrop of heavy drinking and barbecued animals. After a fight breaks out between Bob Nash and John Keene, Amma runs off into the woods, and is eventually found by Camille, traumatised by something she won’t speak of. It feels as if a genuine bond is forming between Amma and Camille, as much as there is between Camille and Richard. The final scene, of Camille in bed with Richard, lingers on one word carved into Camille’s body: ‘closer’. To what though?
I’m doing away with this now. The show has moved so far beyond a whodunnit that weekly speculation as to the killer’s identity just feels like missing the point. However, while I have your attention, I’d like to give a shout out to the show’s music supervisor Susan Jacobs. Her work on every episode is incredible, elevating the music beyond mood-setting and into an integral element of character and scene. Ending this episode with Hurray For The Riff Raff’s ‘Pa’lante’ was inspired.