REVIEW: Sharp Objects (S1 E3/8)


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.

Paul Hirons



Professor Moriarty: The Hound Of The D’Urbervilles optioned for television

Only last week we reported that GS Denning’s Warlock Holmes novel was getting the TV treatment, and now we hear of yet another riff on the Holmes legend getting the TV treatment.

Deadline reports that Kim Newman’s Professor Moriarty: The Hound Of The D’Urbervilles has been picked up.

Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles purports to be the memoirs of Colonel Sebastian Moran, the trusted lieutenant of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty. It tells the story of the wily, snake-like and fiercely intelligent criminal mastermind Moriarty and the violent, politically incorrect, debauched Moran, who run crime in London, owning police and other criminals.

The short story presents the pair as the dark mirror of Holmes, most recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC One series Sherlock, and his assistant Dr Watson. They have adventures that echo the detective’s famous cases.

More news etc…

Kelly Macdonald to star in Humans writer’s BBC thriller

Kelly Macdonald has always been a fantastic, underrated actress, so it’s with excitement we heard that Macdonald has signed on to star in Joe ‘Humans‘ Barton’s new series for BBC One/Netflix co-production Giri/Haji.

Here’s what Deadline reported:

Macdonald will play Sarah, a London-based forensics lecturer and policewoman who forms an unlikely friendship with a Japanese detective searching for his brother who has become entangled with the Yakuza.

First announced in May 2017, Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) hails from Humans writer Joe Barton, and Jane Featherstone’s Sister Pictures. BBC One will air in the UK with Netflix handling globally.

The eight-part series follows middle-aged Tokyo detective Kenzo who travels to London in search of his wayward younger brother Yuto. Once thought dead, Yuto is now believed to be posing as a Yakuza gangster in London and wanted for the murder of a Japanese businessman there.

It is described as a dark, character-driven crime story which cuts between London and Tokyo, exploring the butterfly effect between the two cities, and asking: How do we live with our actions when the prisms they’re viewed through can seem to change so drastically depending on where we are or who we talk to?

The series will be shot in English and Japanese. Production begins later this month in the UK and will also take place in Tokyo and London.

Sounds very intriguing, and if it’s going into production around now, this could be a biggie for next year.

More news etc.

REVIEW: Unforgotten (S3 E2/6)


Who was it who partied like it was 1999 on the night of teenager Hayley Reid’s murder?

Having identified the remains found under the motorway, and established that the cause of death was strangulation, our intrepid tecs now have to settle on some suspects.

Journalist-turned-TV-quizmaster James Hollis (Kevin McNally), who has an ego the size of Jeremy Paxman’s, is infuriated that his ex-wife hadn’t tipped him the wink about his conflicted gender-fluid son Elliot (Tom Rhys Harries). He sneers at her for not getting ‘over him’ since their divorce 17 years previously.  A bit rich, since she’s played by gorgeous Sara Stewart. Their son is ‘experimenting with his identity’, which seems to mean slapping on a layer of Boots Number 7 and a trenchcoat.

Poor old artist Chris Lowe (James Fleet)in Bristol is having a tough time; just as he’s getting his lady friend Jamila to consider marriage, his mobile home is turned over and their flat deposit is gone – as is his dog – what has he done to deserve this? Did they see him coming? Just when he thought he was home and dry? It’s a sin. OK, that’s enough Pet Shop Boys jokes.

Chris’ descent into mental illness from a promising career as a gifted artist now looks set to go from gentle slide to plummet. Poor guy – even his mobile ringtone is melancholy. On the bright side he could get quite a bit for his classic WV campervan – even with a broken window.

He pours his heart out to old friend GP Dr Tim Finch (Alex Jennings), who’s in Manchester facing a General Medical Council hearing. Although he’s the calm one of the quartet as the professional among them, he also seems to be the one who stands to fall further than the others. He’s being interrogated about abusing an elderly woman with Pick’s disease – a particularly distressing form of dementia. (Comedian David Baddiel’s stage show ‘My Family:  Not the Sitcom’ offers something of a masterclass in this condition).

The fact that Finch is so attentive to Lowe’s problems – to the extent of getting a load of ‘lost dog’ notices printed, and subbing him until he sells his next masterpiece, appears indicative that there is a pact between them that goes beyond Finch’s Hippocratic oath (or its modern equivalent anyway). And what’s Lowe’s aversion to banks?

Reflecting the world of pain, Cassie (Nicola Walker) and Sunny (Sanjeev Bhaskar) travel down to meet Hayley’s parents – or rather the shells that are left of them, says Hayley’s identical twin sister Jessica (Bronagh Waugh). She warns the cops that they won’t be welcomed by the pitchfork-wielding, unfriendly locals of picture-postcard Middenham, which lost its tourist USP because of Hayley’s murder, sparking wall-to-wall bankruptcies in the village because of the ensuing media circus.

Cassie has problems with her plumbing (perhaps that’s why she looks so depressed)  and her dad (Peter Egan) has a new GF whom he takes to Harvey Nicks. Cassie is almost playing the mother to her father’s recalcitrant child. She really needs a bloke. In fact, the partners both need good home lives if they don’t wish to burn out soon.

Sunny’s personal life though seems to be on an upward trajectory with new squeeze Sal (Michelle Bonnard), who is helping him get down with the kids – or at least his own kids. “You knew who Stormy was,” he gushes over the phone – out by a Z, but he’s trying, bless him.

Staying over at a hotel in the rural idyll of Middenham, Cassie and Sunny meet retired DCI John Bentley (Alistair Mackenzie), second-in-command on the original case. He blames his late boss for wasting time by following a theory that Hayley had run away from home to London. The investigation, he says, was flawed from the start. He tells them that Hayley’s boyfriend at the time, Adrian Mullery (Gerald Kyd), had been the prime suspect, but he although he was a few years older than the victim, he was an unlikely perpetrator and was never charged.

Bentley points out that on Millennium Eve almost everyone had been in a very public place. After touring the village, Cassie sees holiday let cottages in an estate agent’s window and the cogs start turning; could Hayley have been murdered in the village by an outsider, and taken the 80-odd miles back to London for disposal on the M1 at Hendon?

Having Cassie and Sunny sitting on a bed might seem provocative given his previous cack-handed romantic approaches – it was  certainly difficult to concentrate on her line of reasoning for the murder, because of Sunny’s diverting green pyjama-top with the bear print – not a very effective aphrodisiac, but very Sunny.

Once the news of the reopened investigation hits the streets, our suspects begin to go to pieces – Hollis blowing his lines during the sign-off to his show (writer Chris Lang makes a cameo appearance as the studio floor manager).

The good doctor’s malpractice case starts to look a bit more hopeful for him when it transpires that his accuser Alison Pinion (Gabrielle Glaister) is a serial doc-botherer, and has tried to extort cash from four other GP practices by alleging malpractice.

But Pete Carr (Neil Morrissey) is still in lumber; the daughter of his scammed pensioner wants to cancel his cash ISA within the cooling-off period. And just after he’d he’d cashed the cheque. And it’s been spent on a broken boiler already. And what does his wife Maria (Indra Ove) mean about his delayed adolescence in Hong Kong?

At a fraught press conference, the journalists act like animals – why are journalists always portrayed in this lazy, contentious way, particularly post-Leveson when they would actually be on their best behaviour?

Hayley’s best friend Kelly (Lauren Drummond, who looks a good ten years too young for the role), who worked with her at a cleaning company, comes forward to admit that Hayley filled in for her on a cleaning job at a holiday let, The Spinney, while Kelly met a boy – she’s kept quiet all these years, but now realises these facts may be vital.

DS Murray Boulting (Jordan Long) finds out that Paxman – sorry, Hollis – was the person who rented the holiday home, with the others on the form being Carr, Finch, Lowe plus their families.

But how could this involve Hayley’s then-boyfriend Mullery, now working in a London girls’ school? And how is news blogger Sandra Rayworth (Tori Allen Martin) involved, and why does she blame the parents?

Hollis, (‘the thinking woman’s muffin’ according to Cassie’s late mum, as opposed to Joan Bakewell’s description by Frank Muir as the ‘thinking man’s crumpet’) makes Cassie go all fan-girly on his doorstep, but he lawyers up instantly, perhaps not the actions of an entirely innocent man. But then he probably has much to hide apart from the 17-year-old murder. “It’s happened sweetheart – they’ve come – the police – about her”, he says to his son Elliot. Does this imply some degree of guilt?

Though the full facts have not entirely been established, we can assume from what we have been given that the investigation will reveal stories of drunkenness, bad behaviour and sexual indiscretions at the Millennium celebrations. But which of the four suspects – or, let’s be even-handed, their families – will turn out to have the least plausible alibi?

Deborah Shrewsbury