There are so many things that are good about Sharp Objects that I’m worried some of them might get overlooked in reviews like this. It’s tempting to mention once again how brilliant Amy Adams is – and she really is – but I’ll leave that to others this week, and instead write about something else. Something that gets used with incredible precision and meaning in this episode.
Music is so important to many of the characters. For instance, Alan Crellin – Adora’s husband and Camille’s stepfather – lives for his record player. He spends all his time with his top of the range system, putting on soft, slow tune after tune to drown out real life, which makes me wonder if a stylus can also count as one of the dangerously sharp objects of the title. Alan (played with quiet understatement by Henry Czerny, leaving this character as a real enigma right now) is escaping into music – escaping from what? We know so little about him, apart from how he seems to genuinely care for Adora, to the point of doing anything to please her. Is he really as weak as he appears to be? It’s going to be very interesting to find out.
He’s not the only escapee. The excellent flashbacks in this episode focus on Camille’s time in rehab, trying to leave behind her self-destructive behaviors. Her roommate, Alice, is a younger girl who only wants her music player; listening to it takes her away from her problems and that place. But her access is limited, and she is struggling with such desperation. Camille becomes a big sister to her, and persuades the staff to give Alice extra time with her music player. “Let’s get out of here,” Camille says, as they lie together on one of the single beds, the music player clutched between them. The only place to go is into the music.
It’s not enough, though, to escape in this way. Alice’s suicide is so awful that it makes perfect sense to us when Camille is then wary of her sister Amma’s sudden affection. How could you ever want to be a big sister again, after experiencing such losses?
Amma, as well, likes to listen to music as she roller-skates around town, and we know she wants to escape Wind Gap too – but the town is making her cruel, and unpredictable. There’s no character as untrustworthy and full of strange secrets as Amma right now. She looks like she’d betray Camille or hurt her without a moment’s thought, in order to get her own way.
And then there’s Camille, riding around town with Led Zeppelin playing from her broken phone. Is that music taking her back to the past? The close relationship between music and memory dominates this episode, and sometimes these songs aren’t an escape after all, but a trap that closes and brings back all the worst thoughts.
There must have been a temptation for director Jean-Marc Valléeto overplay the musical element, and exploit these emotional connections, but instead there’s a subtlety to its use that draws us in further to thinking, rather than simply feeling, about what’s happening. Sometimes the music is barely audible, and we strain to hear it. At other times it’s turned up loud, and we watch Camille sing along with abandon, trying to find some freedom in these songs she knows so well.
Okay, I’ll stop going on about the music now and instead concentrate on the plot. Who killed Natalie Keene and Ann Nash? Are we any closer to finding out? The investigations of Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) are underway, but nobody else seems to think that a local could have committed such murders. “I know this is a crime of passion,” Willis says, but the only person listening is Camille, who tries to turn on some flirtatious charm at the bar. Although he tells her she’s not his type, there’s definitely chemistry there – although possibly it relies too much on alcohol. However, since the whole town relies on alcohol at all times I’m not going to hold it against them.
With the faint possibility of a detective duo team-up dangled in front of us, there’s a chance that in the next episode we might move on from suspicions and start making sense of some of the details that have been building up along the way. Meanwhile, there’s still the ongoing power struggle between Camille and Adora to keep our attention. It feels as if the two of them are locked in combat, each attempting to dominate the other. Adora is determined that Camille will not be a reporter while in Wind Gap, and certainly won’t embarrass her in front of the townsfolk; Camille has a strength of will that refuses to submit. It’s such a destructive relationship that I can’t see how any peace could ever be reached, which means only one of them is going to be left standing by the end of this series.
I really hope it’s Camille. She’s survived so much, and I want her to have some happiness, although I doubt it could be found through either her family or through Detective Richard Willis, who seems to belong to a much more conventional thriller so far.
But that’s what I like about Sharp Objects: these different elements and genres jostle against each other, creating all kinds of unexpected, powerful moments. Adora is in her own melodrama and Amma is a tragi-comedy of teenage hormones. Camille and Richard might even manage to make this a romantic thriller for a little while, in defiance against a town straight out of a horror movie. And no matter where this all leads, there’ll be songs for these characters to try to hide behind. The music, inevitably, plays on.