Sharp Objects Episode 2 Review: Dirt

Sharp Objects lives up to its title in an incisive, painful second episode.

This Sharp Objects review contains spoilers

Sharp Objects Episode 2

“This could be your big break!” says Camille’s editor, proving that – as in episode one – he has no idea what he’s dealing with, however much he’d like to fix his favourite reporter. The idea that anything that happens in Wind Gap could lead to a person’s big break is laughable. But at least it’s a laugh, and that’s a rare thing to find in that town.

Everybody is drunk and desperate in Wind Gap. The funeral and wake of Natalie Keene dominates the first half of this episode, and there’s not a person who seems to be able to get through it without the aid of a ‘sweet tea with a kick’ or some other alcoholic concoction. 

The drinker of all that sweet tea in particular is Jackie, played by Elizabeth Perkins, who manages to look breezy, welcoming, and wasted to the point of not being able to remember what’s happening from one day to the next, just by delivering some bland conversation about the locals. As a character, she offers us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a different side to Camille, who might even smile once or twice in her presence; there is a genuine affection between them. That’s a lot to convey in a few scenes. Elizabeth Perkins does a wonderful job of it.

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Back to the plot: the terrible business of grieving and drinking is broken up by the search to track down the murderer, and the expansion of our interest to include Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina), an outsider who gets stuck into legwork that includes pulling the teeth out of a pig’s head to see just how much strength that would require. (The answer is: a lot.) 

“Can we save the Silence of the Lambs routine for another time?” police chief Bill Vickery (Matt Craven) asks Richard. But even before that reference, the influence of Thomas Harris is scored through the show. It’s in the macabre attention to detail and the sense of small clues slipping past us – a teenager casually drops the information that the ‘cool kids’ are never killed, and it’s hard to know how important this information might be. Does it reveal a key psychological insight into the murderer?

Detective Willis, striding around town, has a dedication that’s also a great counterpoint to the relationship-driven nature of the story so far – and the establishment of a both flirtatious and exasperated camaraderie with Camille gives us another intriguing element. Are they going to become a detective duo? It would make for an interesting development, but somehow I can’t see Camille managing to play well with any other person. 

Camille is made up of so many different things that should be difficult to reconcile. Some of her actions we can genuinely like and others are far more difficult to accept, and yet Amy Adams makes it all into a whole, believable character. She’s prepared to sneak into the bedroom of a dead girl to get the story she’s after. But she also sets free a trapped spider, determined not to see it starve when she can prevent it. 

The most uncomfortable aspect is the pain she inflicts upon herself; I can think of few things that have made me wince as much as the way she sat in her car and calmly slid a needle under her fingernail before entering the wake. And her body is covered with the proof that she has been causing herself pain for a long time. When we get a glimpse of her scars they are both fascinating and challenging. We want to look, but her body feels like such private territory that it’s almost enough to make us avert our eyes.

Almost… but then, we do love to look. And this is where Sharp Objects lives up to its title. There are lots of sharp objects, all causing pain, and director Jean-Marc Vallée turns our attention on to them with intense focus. It’s not just the needle from the sewing kit or a razor on the side of the bath; there’s a great moment early on when Camille reaches for a knife to cut up an apple, only to have it taken from her hands by her mother, Adora. It’s a foreshadowing of a later power struggle in the funeral, only this time the object in question is a pen, as Camille tries to make notes in order to write her article. Is the pen another of the sharp objects in the title? Could it bring pain to Adora, or to other residents of Wind Gap?

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Adora admits at the end of this episode, as we watch her other remaining daughter Amma cry and scream in emotional pain, that she just wants things to be ‘nice’ between her and Camille but she doesn’t know how. There’s a long way to go before we find out if that’s possible, or if either mother or daughter will inflict too much pain to ever be forgiven. There are so many sharp objects littered about in the past and in the present when it comes to this story. Camille has just submitted her own story on the murders to her newspaper; now we’re all waiting to find out exactly what kind of damage it will do.