HBO’s Sharp Objects
Episode 5: “Closer”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Scott Brown
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ripe” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Cherry” – click here
Despite the danger of a killer on the loose, Wind Gap is gearing up for Calhoun Day. Everybody’s doing their part, as Adora (Patricia Clarkson) keeps the town running. Making sure everyone knows what is “immovable” about Wind Gap. Faithful Alan (Henry Czerny) supports wife every step of the way. At the same time, Camille (Amy Adams) is digging into her old hometown trying to come up with new instalments for the paper back home— Frank (Miguel Sandoval) can’t resist the thought of photographs of a Southern backyard “filled with Confederate flags.” The latest instalment’s already pissing people off. Like Chief Vickery (Matt Craven), as usual.
Camille lives in a liminal space between past and present, unable to shake the memories of a time before when she was a child because she is still that child inside those walls. She co-exists with the current version of Adora and the Adora of the past. Not that they’re all that different. Most of all, she has to live in a South that hasn’t crawled its way out of the past yet. Much like today in the US, where people continue clinging to the Confederacy while inexplicably believing it’s patriotism. Calhoun Day celebrates a Confederate child rapist, indicating Wind Gap’s history of misogyny is ancient.
Eventually, Camille talks to Amma (Eliza Scanlen) about Ann and Natalie, after discovering they were friends. The stepsister says the memory of them “scares” her now. When they were kids, they hung around the creepy hunting shack. She doesn’t get much else before someone sends Amma the latest article she wrote, creating further tension. Things get worse after Amma brings it up to their mother.
When the ladies go shopping for dresses, the situation boils over. Adora tries forcing a style of dress on Camille that won’t cover up her shoulders. When she’s pushed too far, Camille bursts out of the dressing room in front of her mother and stepsister. Then mom goes even further, calling her oldest daughter “ruined” for all the scars across her body. So intense it’s almost painful to watch. An incredibly powerful moment.
Calhoun Day gets going. Detective Willis (Chris Messina) subtly keeps an eye on the fairgrounds while the entirety of Wind Gap roams the vast Crellin grounds. At the same time, Camille is debating leaving, and Amma hopes to convince her to stay. She likewise gets reinforcement from Frank, whom she calls in a moment of crisis.
On the veranda, all the high class Southern belles gossip and drink, where they’re eventually joined by Adora for some sassy talk. Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) clearly actually does not like Adora, given that she purposely brings up Camille’s article just to make her angry.
Then there’s Bob (Will Chase). He thinks Willis is following him and gets a bit unruly for a minute. The detective tries reassuring him: “There‘ll be justice.” No comfort to a grieving father. Nash continues to believe John (Taylor John Smith) is the culprit. John’s girlfriend Ashley (Madison Davenport) is also mad that she wasn’t included in Camille’s article, making threats by suggesting she knows things about the reporter’s past.
The past, in so many ways, surrounds this Calhoun Day. Men from Camille’s past taunt her and Dt. Willis. Camille has to deal with the Confederate celebrations, bitchy women who grew up in Wind Gap and know all her secrets, and everybody’s talking about that article in some way. We see there’s serious history between her and teacher Kirk (Jackson Hurst)— that’s still part of the larger mysteries of her youth.
Soon, Adora takes Dt. Willis inside for a little tour by themselves. She takes the detective right upstairs, where they have a drink and she asks about his relationship with her older daughter. Adora talks about lots of things. Including a mention Camille is “delicate” and recovering from a “recent episode.”
Onstage, Amma takes part in the reenactment of the events which inspired Calhoun Day. Involves a scene where she’s fake raped. Although it’s actually child-like, there’s an eerie quality to the town watching, Adora watching, and everybody taking part as if it’s a shining moment in Southern history. All so very creepy. More so because of the young girls being killed in Wind Gap.
In the midst of it all, Bob attacks John prompting the police to try breaking them apart. Some idiot men from town cheer it on like assholes. Amma runs away while everyone’s distracted. The choir keeps on singing. Because everything’s normal, right? Not in the slightest. Never in Wind Gap.
The crowd disperses after a bit, then Adora’s left wailing, worried for her daughter. Everybody heads out into the woods to begin looking for Amma together. Off on her own, Camille goes to the weird shack where she finds her stepsister alone, crying— luckily unhurt, too. But when Amma’s home she wont explain anything, she just passes out for a nap.
That night, Adora asks Camille to have a drink on the veranda with her. They talk frankly about Amma. Camille believes she’s “scared of something” and it’s why she’s acting irrationally as of late. After so many years, Adora also admits: “I never loved you.” She blames it all on her former husband, Camille’s father, and also, essentially, on Camille herself for being like him.
This drives Camille straight to Dt. Willis at the motel. She wants to be close to him— something she’s mostly unable to do. She has to turn off the lights with him, afraid he’ll see all those scars. It’s also part of regaining control. Clearly, Camille has been the victim of sexual assault, or outright rape. She bears all kinds of markers of this type of abuse. So, though the lights off is to conceal her body, having things her way is partly a way of taking back power, too. Glad to see Willis doesn’t object.
God, I love this series. So intense. The pacing’s perfect, we get tiny glimpses of the past and never too much expository dialogue to ruin things, it’s all visually represented. Dig it. “Cherry” is next time. The connotations of that word in the context of Sharp Objects makes me worry it might get rough.