There’s a duality at play here. It’s one that might define Wind Gap, but it’s far from exclusive to this small corner of Missouri. I’d wager that anyone who grew up in any small town anywhere in the world would have similar feelings about the differences between what people in insular communities say and what they think. Often, it can take getting out to be able to see how poisonous some of these places can be, not for everyone, but definitely for someone like Camille. And nothing gets the vipers stirred like the return of the one who got out.
Director Jean Marc Vallée used the back-stabbing chinwaggers of Monterrey incredibly effectively in Big Little Lies, colouring in the backstories of the main characters with their gossip, while simultaneously saying a lot about the place and the people themselves. That tactic is employed similarly here. Camille is barely through the door at the (casket-less) memorial for Natalie Keene when her old school ‘buddies’ descend, and not a one of them has anything good to say about anyone, especially not the deceased and her family. Camille quickly frees herself from their grip, but not before they share their opinion that it was Natalie’s brother John who killed her.
Amma and her friends aren’t much better. When Camille stumbles across them in a convenience store, buying a bottle of Sprite that they’ve spiked with booze, she warns them that someone is out there killing little girls. “Not the cool ones,” Amma smirks quietly, knowing the rules enough to keep her voice down. She’s another example of how this town prefers to keep reality and appearance very separate. Wind Gap, after all, holds manners and decorum in high esteem. Hence the outsider status of those who play by different rules: Camille, Bob Nash, Detective Willis, the mother of the boy who saw Natalie get taken. But appearances are deceiving on deeper levels, especially in Camille’s unravelling mind, a place where ‘sacred’ and ‘scared’ and her living and dead sisters appear to be interchangeable.
The veneer of decency is stretched tightest at Camille’s home. When Camille writes notes at the memorial service, her mother reacts as if she was a child playing with toys in church. Her desperation is that of a mother who doesn’t know how to protect a child that is no longer a child. It’s undeniably sad, but when she says that she just wanted to protect Natalie because she reminded her so much of Camille, I’m hesitant to take it at face value.
After all, Detective Willis is convinced Natalie’s killer (and Ann Nash’s – if it is indeed a serial killer) is a man. It would have to have been a man to be strong enough to pull out Natalie’s teeth. But the boy who saw Natalie disappear says she was taken by the ‘woman in white’, a piece of local folklore drummed up to terrify kids. But if anyone is going to appear to a small boy as a ghostly female apparition, it’s the woman who glides around her house like a phantom in chiffon and silk.
- Bob Nash – Already on the list after reacting strangely to Camille’s questions, this week we see him aggressively removed from Natalie’s memorial and his car being tampered with by Detective Willis. Certainly appears to be the prime suspect.
- John Keene – Tagged by Camille’s old school friends as “queer” and too attached to his sister, probably likely to have killed her in some impassioned frenzy. We’re yet to discover much about him first hand, but would be foolish to rule him out.
- Adora Preaker – Doesn’t fit the profile but that “woman in white” thing would certainly raise a red flag.