After two superb episodes, this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects continued with its most hallucinatory and desperately dark instalment yet. The way this series has been edited, we’ve already been treated to clever, subliminal jump cuts and flashbacks aplenty, which has provided a dream-like feel to its linear narrative in the foreground. Snatches and fragments of memory suggest significant events from the past, all triggered by sights and sounds in the present day.
In this third episode, the dreams became fully-fledged nightmares.
Camille is putting the heat on in Wind Gap and the current suspects. She publishes a colour piece for her paper, and then interviews Bob Nash (and is interrupted and admonished by her mother), and gains access to John Keene, brother of the latest murdered teen and a prime suspect. The way she gains access to John is thanks to girlfriend Ashley, a perky, perma-smiling young woman who’s keen to claw a piece of the spotlight herself. When the interview comes, she pretty much answers questions for him.
Everyone in this town is a manipulator and a spinner.
Detective Richard Willis, too, is frustrated at the idea that a random (Mexican) truck driver is responsible for these murders and he and Camille’s investigative partnership is edging ever closer to something different. It’s also interesting to note that the idea of a woman being the killer is dismissed out of hand – women can’t be capable of such monstrosities, right? And that extends to Camille herself: women can’t self-harm can they, they’re not capable. If anything, this episode affirms that women are capable of anything – from physical harm to terrifying psychological warfare. More on that a bit later.
Camille and Willis’s efforts are beginning to make the locals uncomfortable, and Vickery is hassling Camille as she tours the town, asking her to cease her questioning and telling her that she’s riling the residents. Her reply: “You got two mutilated girls on your hands, someone else is doing the riling.”
But really, the two major subplots here were between Camille and Amma. The youngster, already admonished by her mother for staying out late beyond curfew, once again acted strangely in Camille’s presence. She really began to push her buttons, gently and breezily jabbing at her. And then later, when Richard and Camille were drunk and chatting in a car park, up skated Amma and her pals, circling around them like vultures, spitting barbs at them and laughing. Amma then chided her step-sister, getting right up in her face and asking sarcastically whether she was as dangerous as her mother warned her. Go on prove it. Prove it. Prove it! Aw, Camille. Little Camille. Pulling her hair now. Prove it!
A line was crossed.
We’ve seen poisonous sibling and mother-and-daughter relationships in The Sinner and, in some ways, The Bridge, and this one between Camille and Amma reminds me most of The Sinner – there’s jealousy there, on Amma’s part, but also a desperation to be loved, because Camille hasn’t given her what she wants (Amma always gets what she wants) she’s turned, issued threats and increased the physicality. As I said: lines crossed.
It’s endlessly fascinating and disturbing.
But there was another story in play in this episode. We saw Camille begin to self-harm again last week, and in this episode we got to see some of her history of self-harm. Or at least we were shown in flashback how she used to use razor blades to cut herself. She admitted herself into a hospital, where she was put in a room with a young, fellow self-harmer. Together they bonded and even after Camille left, she went to visit her, cuddling up to her on the bed, sharing a headphone each while they listened to music. Telling her that the relationship with her family would never improve but she would find a way to survive as she got older. It was extremely touching, the older woman trying to reassure her that this compulsion, this addiction, would always be there, but there were coping mechanisms out there that she would find. This little, sad story ended in tragic fashion when the younger woman was found dead on the floor of the room after drinking a bottle of bleach. A pool of blood trailed from her mouth. When she saw this, Camille rushed to the toilet and threw up, and then grabbed a loose screw from the back of the toilet seat and dug it into her arm.
It was shocking, it was awful. Self-harm has always been almost a taboo subject, and in Sharp Objects we’re shown it in graphic detail. Shockingly graphic detail. Some would have flinched at the blood and the breathless, compulsive gouging, but we need to see it: a mental illness like self-harming is scary and swept under the carpet precisely because it’s a mental illness. It’s difficult to quantify and understand, is scarily unpredictable and, ultimately, very difficult to treat. This show doesn’t sweep anything under the carpet, and I think in this case that’s good – in order to understand it and empathise with the people who suffer, we need to see it and feel the depths of their pain, too.
The way this story – almost an episode within an episode – was told was interesting. It was shown to us in snippets, in the same way as a flashback, intertwining with the present-day narrative. Throughout the episode, we saw those little, quick jump cuts: an image of a janitor’s cart full of bleach and other cleaning equipment, a pool of blood, a red rose on a pillow. We also saw the same toilet seat Camille saw at the motel in episode one with screws on the hinges. Unsure of its significance then, we were certainly sure now: seeing the toilet seat triggered a memory. These images didn’t make much sense as they were woven in and out of the main narrative, but when it all came together you couldn’t help but admire the cleverness and the intensity it had built.
And that’s one of the many things I really like about Sharp Objects: it keeps you on your toes. Like any dream, there are seemingly random images that disorientate and make you feel uneasy, but the fragments are pieced together in the end.
And the big pieces in Sharp Objects are just beginning to come together.
FOR OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW CLICK HERE
FOR OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW CLICK HERE