Sharp Objects has been unmissable viewing since it hit our screens several weeks ago, and the HBO series continues to beguile us with its fourth episode. Entitled “Ripe”, this instalment was deliberately misleading, taking us on all sorts of narrative paths, without confirming which one was actually real and what was just in Camille Preaker’s (Amy Adams) head. Running at a mere 47 minutes, it’s also the shortest episode yet.
The opening montage, which featured several of the leading characters awakening from their slumber, was a great way of highlighting that “Ripe” was going to centre on more than just Camille. Although, there is a bit of dodgy expositional dialogue from Richard Willis (Chris Messina) when he complains to himself that he is “still in Wind Gap”.
The investigation takes a backseat this week, as we’re given much more information (I use that term very loosely when talking about this show) about the main character. The scene where Camille and Richard take a stroll through the forest proves to be the strongest of the episode, as our protagonist revisits old wounds. It’s a character-building scene for both Camille and the detective, and the game in which she gives him information in exchange for an on-the-record question about the case is a genius way at relaying information to the viewers without it coming off as exposition. Moreover, the whole sequence is rife with subtext. But in typical Sharp Objects fashion, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions.
It’s revealed that murder victims Natalie Keene and Ann Nash were friends, and they hung out at a dilapidated shed — the same dilapidated shed from the flashbacks several we saw weeks ago.
Camille can’t enter the shed, which implies that something happened to her here. This is further backed up by the show’s wonderful editing, and we’re given flashback snippets of young Camille in the shed. Richard picks up on Camille’s resistance to enter, and questions her on it, before trying to kiss her. Camille resists the embrace, instead moving his hand from her face to her jeans. The detective pleasures her, and it’s an awkward scene to watch. And it’s a bit awkward for Willis too, as Camille seemingly detaches herself from the situation, instead thinking about her troubled past. The scene clearly implies that the two want different things out of this relationship.
Chief Vickery (Matt Craven) pays Adora (Patricia Clarkson) a visit at home, and he asks her to call off the Calhoun Day celebrations. Adora maintains her nicey-nicey attitude with Vickery, although she does imply that she’ll remove him from his position as chief. It does beg the question: how much power does Adora actually have? Either way, the chemistry between the two is off the charts, and Alan (Henry Czerny) clearly has a problem with their friendship. He vents to his wife about how he also lost a daughter when Marian (Lulu Wilson) died, but Adora puts up the shutters. These two share an interesting relationship. One moment they’re in love and the next they’re fighting. There’s definitely more too this.
Vince Calandra’s strong script reveals a lot about Adora’s past through a conversation with Camille. She tells Camille that she’d hoped she would love her, so that her own mother would, in turn, love her. It becomes apparent that she blames Camille for everything, and just when things couldn’t get any worse, she insults her daughter by telling her that she smells “ripe.” As Camille so aptly put it earlier in the episode: “In Wind Gap, every woman gets a nasty label if they don’t conform to the rules of engagement”. Camille isn’t the daughter Adora wanted, and as a result, Adora is punishing her for it.
While there was a lot to digest in this week’s Sharp Objects, it’s the conclusion that proves the most shocking. Camille gets into a conversation with John Keene (Taylor John Smith), who informs her that her younger sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) used to hang out with Ann and Natalie at the shed. Fearing for her sister’s life, Camille heads back to her home to check her sister’s whereabouts. She’s not at the house, so Camille heads to the shed. Sharp Objects has been notoriously slow — in a great way — so it’s odd to see the show ramp up the pace like it did here. However, the pacing of this scene is truly wonderful, and the accompanying music is terrifying, which only adds to the wonderful atmosphere created by Jean Marc-Vallée.
While Camille searches high and low for her sister, we also witness Alan undressing and heading into Adora’s room, where a frightened Adora sits up in bed. Is he going to force himself on her? During the montage, there’s one shot of a traumatised Camille finding her sister’s body in the shack, but then we’re back with Camille in the car. Was it just an image from Camille’s mind, or is her sister really dead? It’s hard to know. The montage is deliberately misleading, and we don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Having the episode end here was a little cruel. Just saying.
The fourth episode broke the trend of each episode getting better, as it wasn’t superior to its predecessor. That’s not to say it wasn’t great, because it was, and the beguiling ending certainly made us crave the next instalment all the more, but Camille did feel a bit under-utilised this week, and the significantly shorter running length impacted the story. However, the shocking conclusion suggests that next week’s episode could be game-changing for everyone involved. Regardless of what happens, we’re just hoping that Amma will be okay. Is it next Sunday yet?
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.