Previously on Sharp Objects, “Fix”
There’s no shortage of teenage girls painted as seductresses in literature and film, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling when you encounter it. Amma has ticked all the boxes for this type of character: she has another side of herself that she hides from her parents — a side that is born from her rebelling against the side/role her mother makes for her; she appears to be the leader among her girlfriends, and clearly considers herself smarter/better than they are and has moments of extreme meanness towards them; and she thinks she’s smarter than she actually is. I was hoping Sharp Objects would avoid this trope with Amma, but that’s not the story they’re telling.
Wind Gap hurts girls. Those girls hurt themselves and grow up to be women who hurt other women. That hurt manifests in different ways. They pluck their own eyelashes. They drink a lot. They cut into their flesh. They gossip and lie. And sometimes they have/try to have sex they shouldn’t.
Amma tries to impress her theater teacher with a musical number for the town’s upcoming Calhoun Day celebration. It involves the story of a woman who began the first all-female militia when their husbands were off at war. It’s lie; it never happened, and when the teacher — a fairly young, rugged man — points this out, Amma challenges him on the accuracy of history. After all, her mother said, history was written by men and they tend to make themselves look better than they are. But he pushes back and says history can’t be changed, but you can learn from it. She takes one of his hands in hers and asks if his past is why he’s so sad. What isn’t clear is if this is a first attempt to act on a crush, or the latest encounter in an illegal and inappropriate relationship. His reaction — he stares at her for a few moments before pulling back his hand and walking away — leans towards the latter.
More receipts on how the women of Wind Gap conform to sexual pressures are provided by Camille when she spends the day with Detective Willis. He agrees to go on the record about the investigation if she’ll walk him through, literally, the town’s infamous crime scenes. She starts with the spot where two young women were found dead of an apparent murder/suicide; they were lovers. One left behind a daughter who became a classmate of Camille’s and slept with all the boys to prove she wasn’t a lesbian like her dead mother.
Another spot turns out to be where the high school football players take turns having sex with one cheerleader, a tradition that goes back before Camille’s school days. A quick flash of memory reveals young Camille, in her cheerleading uniform, at the spot in the woods playing with a bug in the dirt while boys behind her disrobe. Willis points out that this could be seen as rape, but Camille says that to some, it could be seen as consensual. She refers to the double-standard of boys being cheered on for having sex with lots of girls, while girls are demonized for the same behavior. Is Camille justifying her own actions as a teenager?
Their tour ends at the desolate hunting shed, which Camille refuses to enter. Willis boldly asks if something happened to her there and she responds by sticking his hand down her pants. It’s hard to view this as a woman having agency over her own sexual wants and desires. It feels more like the act of a traumatized person.
Little movement is made in the investigation. This is mostly due to Chief Vickery’s obsession with Adora and her daughters. He pays Adora a visit and wants to talk about her daughters — one is dangerous and the other is in danger. The implication is that Camille is dangerous because she’s sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong — a.k.a doing her damn job — and Amma is in danger because she doesn’t know how to keep her ass in the house after curfew. But what if it’s the other way around? What if Amma is the danger because Vickery sees the side of her that skates through town breaking the rules, and Camille is in danger because she’s asking questions and not content to let local gossip define the case? It’s probably the former since Vickery is a bit of an asshole who flirts with another man’s wife in his own home.
Speaking of poor Alan, a heartbreaking flashback reveals how he and Gayla tried to celebrate Camille’s birthday when she was a teenager, but she coldly cut them off. She wanted her mother’s attention, but Adora couldn’t get out of bed. Alan is still desperately seeking Adora’s attention and finally calls her out for not recognizing he lost a daughter, too. Adora, a master of deflection, wonders why he’s trying to hurt her. When that doesn’t work, she blames Camille. We’re left with an intense scene when Alan, drinking and fresh off staring at a gun, marches into Adora’s bedroom and leans over her while she’s in bed.
Perhaps the scene of the episode occurs when Camille returns home after spending the day with Willis. She finds Adora waiting up in the parlor. She asks Camille about the brunch she attended earlier. After Camille answers, Adora says, “You were always so willful.”
Wait. What? Oh, we’re doing this now.
How quickly she goes from curious, polite mom to mom who makes her daughter feel like garbage. She goes on to say that even when Camille cried as an infant, it was to punish Adora. She misremembers an occasion when Camille cut off her hair to spite her, but doesn’t allow Camille to finish when she tries to correct her. She then explains that she thought Camille would love her, and in turn, Adora’s mother would love her — women in Wind Gap get hurt and turn into women who hurt other women.
Finally, she stands in front of Camille and starts to say what it is she sees when she looks at Camille now. Camille prompts her to finish. Adora leans in close, sniffs, and whispers, “You smell ripe.”
Now, I grew up using that term to mean someone smelled bad; specifically, sweaty. The only thing in Wind Gap more oppressive than Adora is the heat, and Camille does walk around in dark, heavy clothing to hide her scars. But considering Adora had just spied Camille kissing Richard Willis outside, and lecherous men have used “ripe” as a particularly scuzzy way to describe young girls, it feels more sexual in nature.
Or maybe this episode — with its intro music of a man talking about a girl he’s taken with and describing her “Cupcake Kitty Curls” — has just put my head in a really weird, depressing space.
When Camille learns from John Keene that his sister and Ann were actually close to Amma, and that the three regularly hung out in the hunting shed, this sends Camille rushing home to check on her sister. She clearly fears Amma could be next. The news only served to bump Amma up my list of suspects.
Add to that list: Ashley, John’s girlfriend. She spies something under his bed after he storms out. She rushes to clean there and herself. It could be seen as an act to cover up something that might incriminate him… or her.
Viewers have given Camille a lot of grief for being a shitty journalist, and we have seen her make some pretty careless mistakes. But this week I particularly liked her exchange with John Keene. He knows he’s a suspect because he’s spotted Vickery tailing him and Adora had him fired from the slaughterhouse. Unlike their first conversation, John’s talk with Camille at the bar is not about clearing his name. He’s just a guy whose family is falling apart following his little sister’s murder. He needs a drink or two and someone to listen. He noticed that Natalie’s pet spider was missing (Camille set it free during the wake) and went out into the woods to replace it. Sitting next to Camille, he asks if she knew Natalie collected spiders. She lies and says she didn’t. This is a small lie that serves to encourage him to continue sharing. It was smart.
What’s with the random people having nasty attitudes around Camille? There was a guy at Natalie’s funeral and wake who shot her dirty looks at both places. This week, the waitress is slow to tend to Camille’s table when she meets some of her mother’s friends for brunch. They have to request menus and the waitress slams them on the table. The hostility could be directed towards the table as a whole or someone other than Camille, but it stood out considering the stink-eye from the man at the services.
My lower-than-usual plot line score below is due to the fact that very little forward movement seems to be happening on any front, and it feels like each episode contains the same thing: flashes of bad memories, snark and mischief from Amma, Adora remains the worst, and Camille goes out late to drink and drive.
Sharp Object S1E4 Review Score
Starring: Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Miguel Sandoval, Sophia Lillis, Matt Craven