Still catching up? Read our review of episode 4 here.
Wind Gap, Missouri. It is, it’s pretty safe to say, an odd little town. It’s a creaking southern relic that eyes outsiders with suspicion and distrust, while pretending to itself and everyone else that a community built on the casual slaughter of pigs and humans is perfectly fine, even while the toothless corpses of teenage girls litter the streets. Thankfully it’s not a real place and merely a figment of Gillian Flynn’s imagination. The trouble is it’s now been realised in the minds of anyone who’s read Sharp Objects and now anyone who’s seen HBO’s powerful but slow-moving new Amy Adams-starring adaptation. And the unpleasantness of the place kind of sticks with you.
Not only is there an air of bizarre flippancy around the murders of children in Wind Gap, there’s also an inherent casual violence and odd approach to brutality about the place. Camille’s dealings with old school ‘friends’ often trigger memories of abuse or violence, be they sexual with men she used to know as a kid or emotional when dealing with the bitchy, passive-aggressive ex-cheerleading crew. It shouldn’t come as a major surprise to anyone that Wind Gap is a town historically steeped in savagery and sadism.
Episode 5 (‘Closer’) is easily Sharp Objects‘ best yet. It’s a tightly focused fifty minutes of cinema, almost. The fractured nature of the show to this point has made for something of a disorientating viewing experience, with jarring scenes and flashbacks intentionally stopping the flow and seemingly making episodes merge into one another. But ‘Closer’ gives us a clearer definition of a day in the life of this unpleasant little town and its inhabitants.
That day is Calhoun Day, a fictional event designed to celebrate the history and heritage of Wind Gap. Many American towns and cities observe these kinds of ritualised shindigs in order to tip a hat to the past and, generally, glorify some horrendously brutal historical event or other. Calhoun Day, we discover, is all about honouring and commemorating a young woman’s stoic reaction to being violated by a group of men during the Civil War. The place effectively puts on an annual festival honouring gang rape. It’s little wonder the place is so messed up.
Calhoun Day takes place on the grounds of Camille’s family home. Her mother, effectively the matriarch of the town, is only too pleased to host proceedings and watch down over her extended family from afar. She’s either matriarch or a sinister puppet master, depending on your viewpoint. Adora glides through the day, as she has the entire series to date, manipulating the townsfolk to her will and own personal narrative. Just when you think you might be seeing a chink of light coming from her, she says or does something awful. Whether she’s teasing Camille with a show of love she never produces or forcing her to show off her scars during a dress fitting in the series’ most powerful and arguably best scene to date, she really is a quite dreadful woman.
Tensions are high this week. Camille’s latest article has gone live and it’s upset the whole town. She’s unrepentant but her suggestion that the killer is among them certainly stirs tensions – especially between the two main suspects, John Keene and Bob Nash who, rather inevitably, come to blows during the beer-drenched festivities of the day.
The two warring stories here – the old tale of the sexually assaulted young woman and the much newer story of the murdered girls – have quite obvious parallels, yet the townsfolk treat them as polar opposites. Perhaps the reaction is determined by the fact that the online news story was written by Camille, a woman, while the story of Millie Calhoun was, as it’s pointed out was ‘written by men’. Sexual politics and gender dynamics being principal themes to Sharp Objects the television drama.
Where are we with the actual investigation? Well, again, not very far. There are technically only two actual suspects, though Camille hesitates over Amma knowing both the girls, and Amma’s reaction was slightly suspicious. Could the killer be female? Given the issues at the heart of the thing, it can’t be ruled out. Or should we be looking more traditionally and logically for the killer? The majority of perpetrators in crimes like this being male, of course…
Is Sharp Objects about the violence of men towards women and the effect it can have? Or is it really about how true evil transcends gender and how women are also capable of great acts of cruelty and barbarity? Readers of the book will already know. For everyone else, the next three episodes should reveal all.
Did you tune in for Sharp Objects episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!