This Sharp Objects review contains spoilers
Sharp Objects Episode 6
“Dead girls everywhere,” Jackie muses into her drink (alcoholic, of course), but nobody seems particularly bothered any more: at least, not about the idea that the right person needs to be caught and punished for those murders.
The town has made up its mind that John Keene, the brother of one of the victims, is to blame, and they’re exacting their own punishment through social exclusion. We watch him and his girlfriend Ashley (played with such false, wary sweetness by the excellent Madison Davenport) being driven from a house party to shouts and jeers. Wind Gap dispenses a weird justice of its own.
In episode five the town reminded me of a prison; this time around it reminds me of some crumbling royal court from history, with everybody firmly in their place and those at the bottom suffering without voice. There are two queens in this court: Adora and her daughter, Amma. The more we get to know them, the more obvious it becomes that they seek to rule everyone and everything around them.
There are plenty of examples to choose from: Adora engineering the expulsion of Camille from her house by manipulating her husband Alan, for instance. “I believed she’s outstayed her welcome,” Adora says when Camille commits the ultimate crime of parking her car on the front lawn. It seems that everything Adora does nowadays confirms that she’s a deeply controlling and unpleasant person. Even Alan’s speech defending her because of her terrible childhood feels unreal – is that what she’s told him about her past? How can we believe anything she says when her only goal is to remain as ruler of her domain?
Amma, on the other hand, feels most believable in those moments when, filled with drink and drugs, she dreams of running away. How transparent she seems, as she tries so hard to bind Camille to her. She has such a cruel, vicious streak that we see each time she lashes out at people, even those closest to her. Could she learn to be kinder, under Camille’s influence, or could they help each other to combat their destructive urges? Much like with the other relationships established within the boundaries of Wind Gap, I can’t see it working. But it is mesmerising to watch the two sisters together, sizing each other up, growing closer, and then pulling apart. Both Amy Adams and Eliza Scanlen are incredibly watchable.
These obvious expressions of power are not the only efforts at control. The scene between Jackie (who cheers me up every time she appears, looking dishevelled and slightly amused by it all – thank you Elizabeth Perkins for adding an easy smile to this series) and Detective Richard Willis is intriguing. Sitting side by side in the bar, he tries to get information out of her with his charm and good looks on display. It’s a great reminder of the tension between the sexes in the town.
In contrast, Camille being asked to forgive one of the members of the football team for her gang rape was a truly dark moment. His ability to corner her and bring up memories of something unforgiveable in order to make himself feel better about it is difficult to watch; her brittle rebuff was a perfect example of how Camille has learned to respond by walling off her emotions. As usual, the characterization of the main characters is deep and sometimes contradictory, but never easily sympathetic. Its layers are what make it so watchable.
But all this focus on the personalities has continually led to tension with the crime elements of the plot – a tension that has served Sharp Objects well in other episodes. I’m not sure episode six is as effective in this regard.
By this stage in the action I was hoping to have been really gripped by some serious strides forward in the business of finding the killer, but all we have is the usual gossip and suspicion. There were intriguing small clues peppered throughout, but something meaty to chew over would have been very welcome at this point. Instead Richard turns his detective skills to prying into Camille’s past, learning things we already know. Surely with only two episodes to go, it’s time to move forward, and not get stuck on repeat.
Another element that feels a bit repetitive is Camille’s time with her old school friends; we’ve already know that they’re false and gossipy so did we really need yet more time in their company? Their extreme bitchiness coupled with crying over weepy movies struck a rare false note this time around.
Overall, episode six is a mixture of great small details of crime and character interspersed between some scenes of the townsfolk socializing that felt too broad and clumsy to persuade me of their mob mentality.
The older women are unpleasant, the kids are wild, everyone drinks far too much: all these things are already established, and done so much better when Sharp Objects concentrates upon them with fierce accuracy. But there are dead girls everywhere, as Jackie has pointed out. Let’s hope the final two episodes concentrate on finding some real justice for them all.