It’s starting to feel like whoever killed Ann and Nancy is fading in importance. I haven’t read the book of Sharp Objects, so forgive me if I’m a little late in realising this, but Jean Marc Vallée presented the first two episodes as a slow-burning, slightly surreal whodunnit, only for it now to seem like that was just a ruse to get us here. That’s what makes Sharp Objects so interesting, in the same way that season one of True Detective was about much more than who was abducting and killing all those Texan children.
Still, there’s a pre-existing story to adhere to, or at least the framework of one. As I said, I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel but those who have suggested that Vallée’s work is adding a depth that flatters the source material. The skeleton of the story is sometimes visible through the sweltering Missouri melodrama, like a body through silk. There’s certainly no shortage of red herrings, as we’ll cover in our gallery of suspects, the finger of blame publicly shifting from Bob Nash to John Keene and back again. But it’s the women of Wind Gap who seem the most dangerous, a fact that remains invisible to the town’s men. Nash, Detective Willis, Chief Vickery, they all at various stages dismiss the possibility of the killer being a woman.
If it’s not a woman, then Sharp Objects is going to a lot of trouble to put us off the scent. “Women round here, they don’t kill with their hands,” Bob Nash says. But we keep coming back to the young boy who saw a woman in white take Natalie, to Amma’s spiteful cruelty – one that goes beyond the standard teenage stuff – to John Keene’s intensely controlling girlfriend, to the coterie of Camille’s schoolfriends who would damn a man for being a little sensitive and different.
We’re often sold the same old cliché about how men bottle up their emotions, how they suppress everything until it erupts. In Wind Gap, it’s a little different. In Wind Gap, malicious gossip is whispered none too quietly, the smiles are permanently set, but nobody really seems to talk about anything. Amma behaves as the dutiful daughter at home, but tears through the night like cathartic fury on wheels, Adora can’t abide by anyone dwelling on anything that isn’t how it should be and Camille is lost in a nightmarish loop of the dead girls she couldn’t save. John Keene and Bob Nash display their feelings openly, anguish and anger respectively, and are damned for it.
We don’t often see women portrayed in this light. We’re accustomed to someone like Adora being touted as a killer, only for it to end up being someone like Bob Nash. We’re used to seeing emotionally troubled women like Camille and her young psych ward friend Alice go through torment but ultimately get saved, usually by the love of a good man, not tear their bodies apart with steel and corrosive chemicals. But Sharp Objects contains a warning to people like Chief Vickery, the kind of person who would sit waiting for their coffee at the table of a woman who fits the exact description given by an eye-witness. Underestimate women and nobody wins.
- Bob Nash – Downgraded from ‘probable’ to ‘unlikely’. Willis and Vickery have been sniffing around him from the start and haven’t turned up anything yet, which means they’re either incompetent (possible) or he’s innocent.
- John Keene – Certainly seems like a man on the edge and has no alibi for the nights in question, but there’s zero motive so far. Are those tears of guilt or grief? Or both?
- Adora – Is her constant interruption of Camille’s work born out of misplaced notions of propriety or is she trying to keep something hidden?
- Amma – Amma seemed like a bit of a tearaway in the last two episodes, but that’s given way to spawn of Satan this week. Both her and Adora link the two dead girls, although Ann did appear on Natalie’s hate list in episode two.