Sharp Objects Episode 4 Review: Ripe

HBO's Sharp Objects has reached the halfway point with another excellent episode.

This Sharp Objects review contains spoilers.

Sharp Objects Episode 4

The town of Wind Gap has character.

It has become a memorable place in the first three episodes of Sharp Objects; we’ve learned that drinking, gossiping, and hog-slaughtering are all ongoing activities. The townsfolk and their troubles are now firmly set in our minds. It’s time to get on with the business of solving their mysteries.

With our sense of place established, episode four really needed to make some headway in the plot of who killed Natalie Keene and Anne Nash to hold our attention, and it eventually did just that. But it didn’t take an easy route to unravelling secrets; instead we were given a meander through Wind Gap’s past and asked to make our own decisions about how that affects the future, leading to a cliff-hanger moment when several threads pulled together to suggest some frightening conclusions.

Ad – content continues below

But the meandering build-up was both interesting and revealing. It started with Adora trying to organise Calhoun Day, a celebration of a local hero, and being warned against it by Chief Vickery, who is played with a tired self-assurance by Matt Craven. His measured performance leaves us room to either see him as a safe pair of hands or a blinkered fool when it comes to investigating these crimes. His closeness to Adora is perhaps a weakness, too; they treat the town as their baby, between them, deciding what’s right and what’s wrong. And Adora is never above threatening someone to get her own way. She becomes more dictatorial each time we see her.

Calhoun Day, meanwhile, is being rewritten by Amma, who has taken a shine to her drama teacher while she stars in a play about Calhoun’s wife that doesn’t necessarily follow the accepted folklore. Instead she decides to make Mrs Calhoun into a warrior figure. The teacher, Mr Lacey, looks less than impressed with her attempts to get everything her own way. “History is history,” he tells her. “You can’t change it. You just learn from it.”

You have to admire her for trying to change history in a place that seems so stuck in the past, but apart from that there’s little about Amma to like. She lies, steals, tries to seduce and then turns cruel in a moment. I think actor Eliza Scanlen is doing a brilliant job of portraying all that wilful, dangerous teenage energy in a persuasive way.

Of course, the heart of Sharp Objects continues to be Camille, who is revisiting a different side of local folklore by showing Detective Richard Willis around famous crime scenes of the town, including the hunter’s cabin that haunts her own memories. In these woods horrible things have happened, and they always seem to happen to teenage girls, although nobody’s too bothered to get the exact details right. A suicide pact or a double murder? Camille shrugs and smiles at the inexplicable events. In the same tone she tells Richard about an event she says could be called Friday night fun by some, and gang-rape by others. Was she the cheerleader in question? The flashbacks of young Camille, watching insects in the dirt in her cheerleader outfit while the football team stands behind her, are painful to see, and very effective at making us realise how much she’s keeping hidden, and is only able to bear thinking about for a few seconds at most. When her flirtation with Richard turns to action, she keeps him at an emotional distance, refusing at first to be kissed, and only allowing herself to be touched in the way she wants. She shows him nothing of her body, and very little of herself. All of his questions are met with evasive answers; she runs like the insects she once watched, back into the shadows.

Speaking of insects, there are plenty of them in this episode. Natalie’s emotional brother John captures another spider and puts it in a jar in Natalie’s room, to replace the one that Camille set free earlier. He also reveals that Natalie had anger issues, and once stuck a pencil in someone’s eye; it’s yet another sharp object to add to the collection. Anne and Natalie were always together, John muses – he describes them as “two weirdos.” And Amma made three. Why has Amma never mentioned this? Is this another example of her revisionist take on history?

And so these events lead to a tense finale. Adora has pushed her husband away for too long by refusing to recognise his own despair for years and then confiding in the Chief instead, and we’re meant to suspect that Alan’s jealousy extends to murderous rage… But I don’t buy it. It would be hard to picture him as capable of killing, perhaps because of the small acts of kindness he has long extended to Camille. Although if there’s one thing Small Objects is teaching us, it’s that humans are incredibly complex collections of their own experiences, so I’m not ruling it out.  

Ad – content continues below

Amma being in peril, revealed as the third of a possible trio of murder victims: now that I can believe. As Camille raced to the hunter’s cabin, believing she might find Amma’s body there, we were given one final fleeting image from her head – but this time it was not a flashback but a flash-forward to what might be. Amma, dead, sprawled on the floor of the cabin, her teeth knocked out. Is this what we’ll see at the beginning of the next episode, or is it only to be taken as proof that Camille’s imagination is as powerful as her memory?

Whatever the answer is, it’s created a very strong cliff-hanger at precisely the right moment. This is the halfway point of Sharp Objects, and we know Wind Gap’s past and present. Now we can start to unfold its future.

Read the latest Den of Geek Special Edition Magazine Here!