The beguiling Sharp Objects has been TV’s highlight of the week for the past month, and the fifth episode certainly doesn’t let the HBO drama down. Set during the atmospheric Calhoun day celebrations, Camille (Amy Adams) tries to stay afloat, which proves difficult, as she finds herself drowning in her past – primarily due to her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson). It’s another short instalment for Sharp Objects, but one that pays off much more than the previous episode did.
The episode, entitled “Closer”, begins where we left off last week — after that intense cliffhanger. As we suspected, Camille’s younger sibling Amma (Eliza Scanlen) isn’t actually dead. In fact, much about the cliffhanger — including the unsettling bedroom confrontation between Adora and Alan (Henry Czerny) isn’t explained. The following morning, Camille awakes to find her mother preparing the house for the Calhoun Day celebrations. Camille has published another article, and Amma is furious with its content, but she doesn’t tell their mother — not yet anyway — although, Adora scolds Camille for a very different reason: her usual black attire. She insists that her eldest daughter wear something more appropriate. This leads to a stunning scene in Wind Gap’s local boutique (I use that world lightly because, well, Wind Gap). As Adora selects a series of sleeveless outfits for her daughter to wear, Amma tells Adora about Camille’s article. The tension is great, and the conflict even better, as everything comes to a head. Adora is fuming, and she (allegedly) hurts her hand in the process.
Camille is apprehensive to wear a short-sleeved dress and chooses something with long sleeves instead, but while she’s getting changed, Adora swipes her daughter’s black clothing. Camille is naked — figuratively and literally — here and, for the first time, we see fear in her eyes. She begs for her clothes back, insisting that Amma go back to the car. When Adora doesn’t comply, Camille exits the dressing room in a fit of rage with all her scars on display. Amma drops her sarcastic tone, shocked at what she sees. Adora is momentarily stunned, then tells her daughter that she’s “ruined”. Camille is understandably heartbroken, re-entering the dressing room and screaming — hoping for release. It’s interesting because up until now we didn’t know how much Adora knew about what her daughter was going through. Clearly, she had some idea, but not enough to care, unfortunately. The hurt on Camille’s face pretty much sums up why she doesn’t want to be in Wind Gap. Adams’ performance is glorious here.
I have a feeling that HBO will submit this particular episode for Emmy consideration next year because Adams would be a shoo-in to get a nomination based on this episode.
The Calhoun day celebrations feature a fight between Bob Nash (Will Chase), John Keene (Taylor John Smith), and Adora tries her best to inform Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) of what Camille is really like. Thankfully, he takes no notice of Adora and continues his flirtatious behaviour with Camille. Amma goes missing, but Camille finds her in the dreaded shack, overcoming her demons to rescue her sister. Again, there’s much ambiguity about what happened in the shack — both in regards to Amma and Camille — so we might learn something about this next week. Or, because it’s Sharp Objects we’re talking about, perhaps we never will. One of the best scenes in the episode comes after Amma’s disappearing act. Camille and Adora have a drink out on the veranda, and it appears that Adora is softening. She even apologises for her behaviour in the shop, and blames Camille’s father for her daughter’s darker side. Camille thanks Adora for not saying anything to Willis about her scars, but Adora suggests that if Camille is going to get closer to him, she’ll have to be straight with him about what she went through. They’re bonding for the first time since the show began — perhaps for the first time ever. It finally looked like Adora’s relationship with her daughter was on the right tracks, but she ruins it all, telling Camille that she never loved her. But perhaps the most shocking thing about this scene is Adora’s nonchalant delivery of this revelation. It’s as if she expects Camille to be aware of the fact that she didn’t love her. But we can tell from Camille’s expression that this is the first time she’s hearing this. We feel for our protagonist, who clearly has commitment issues, and now the very cause of this problem has been highlighted. Everything bad in Camille’s life is a direct result of her relationship with her mother.
Camille heads straight for Willis’ motel, and once she enters, she throws herself on him. They kiss, and she strips him but remains fully clothed herself. Eventually, she sheds her jeans but turns off the light so he can’t see her scars, asking him to leave her top on. They have sex. It’s clear in this scene that Camille is attempting to overcome her commitment issues. She’d previously told Amma that she doesn’t do boyfriends, but perhaps this is no longer the case. In these closing moments, she’s proving to herself that — regardless of what her mother thinks — she can get close to someone. She is loveable.
While not an awful lot happened in this episode on the surface, there was a lot going on underneath — specifically where Camille is concerned. As always, Jean Marc-Vallée’s direction is top-notch, the cinematography is spectacular, and the colours of the Calhoun day celebrations pop throughout. Sharp Objects is still the most atmospheric show on television and, as of right now, the most compelling.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Sharp Objects is simulcast at 2am on Sunday nights or shown in a more regular slot at 9pm on Mondays on Sky Atlantic.