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Sharp Objects: Episode 5 "Closer"

Previously: Episode 4 "Ripe"

by Chris Feil

This week’s Sharp Objects installment opened with its morphing opening credits turned into an ominous cooing, as if from the lullaby of a captor. And this week was similarly barbarous with its flailing comforts. “Closer”, its chapter title promises, describing both our discovery of the mystery and the shows encroaching brutal intimacy. This is the most contained episode yet, taking place over the course of a single day and mostly set on Eudora estate with all of the players brought together. It’s been a show built on a backbone of knowing glances, and “Closer” stacks several atop one another at once. Everyone has eyes on them, and no one feels fewer than Amy Adams’ Camille...

As if Wind Gap hasn’t already proven enough of a southern/midwestern hell, Camille awakes on Calhoun Day, the town’s festival remembering a moment of resistance against the Union during the Civil War. That celebrated legacy? A pregnant woman refusing to give up her confederate husband and violently and sexually brutalized for her defiance. Just another quaint small town American tradition, overlooking the insidious implications. The irony, the grossness, the hypocrisy is lost on everyone.

Eudora plays host to the festivities, with barbecue and barn yard animals descending on her home to entertaining the entire town. Instead of finding such a celebration gauche considering the dead girls on the town’s conscious, she thinks the tradition will help the town “blow off steam”, forget their current turmoil for a day by escaping into the past. Kind of the opposite of Camille, whose visit is forcing a reckoning with the family history she’s been repressing. No, Eudora’s more offended by Camille’s unsuitable wardrobe and demands a shopping trip.

Which forces Camille to reveal her scarred body for the first time to Eudora and Amma. “You’re ruined,” Eudora says to her defiant daughter, throwing Camille’s nonexistent father back in her face as if his characteristic spite was inherited and manifested in her self-harm. The cruelest aspect of Patricia Clarkson’s forever flummoxed mother is her weaponized shame, how she positions Camille as the vile perpetrator of her pain.

Adams is particularly adept at subtly externalizing deeply internal struggles, and her most honest and exhaustive moments as Camille have been in her quiet manifestations of enduring emotional abuse. She catches herself here, immediately reverting to a childlike wounded posture before she privately wails into the very pink dress that had been forced upon her. It’s a note of fury at her mother and her own inability to resist her, a necessary relief of the steam inside her, but hardly cathartic before she stops herself. She’s too smart to think she could let decades of pain go in an instant when there are only more bricks of abuse guaranteed to be added to the backpack she carries with her.

Back at the festival, Eudora dons an immaculate embroidered dress and massive hat to greet the guests, whiffing off questions of the piece Camille just published about the investigation. It’s an outdoor affair, the sole invitation inside granted to Willis, in the evident attempt to paint a dark picture of Camille. Meanwhile, Camille’s white flag is the linen dress she dons, but the two don’t speak. All of the suspects and plot lines are finally brought together before Eudora’s home, but the place to be is with Elizabeth Perkins’ Jackie, perched on the porch and keeping the most pointed watchful eye over all.

Everyone wants a piece of Camille now that her investigation has born ink on the page, from catty grown schoolgirls to former creeps that took advantage of her. The whole event is a cesspool of put upon airs and barely-coded bigotry, one that devolves as a stoned Amma stars onstage as the abused confederate wife and the unceasingly looks two the two prime suspects results in a brawl between them. Amma’s trip sends her in a panic into the woods, only to be rescued in the perv shed by Camille.

The rescue forces a half-reconciliation over booze on the veranda, with mother trapping daughter into an unexpected and fucked up apology. It’s not her dismissal that Eudora apologizes to Camille for, but the curse of a father who couldn’t get close and her resulting inability to love her daughter. “You were born to it, that cold nature. I hope that’s some comfort to you.”

Here is Clarkson’s most astute understanding of abuse: the pull she creates to perpetuate her wrath and her self-aggrandized vision of herself. Eudora knows the power she wields in a moment where she presents herself as apologetic, but Clarkson portrays her at once as conscious of her manipulation and deluded to the lie of it. Her vocal timber is soft and affectionate, as if she is a loving victim only to blame the emotional abuse on the recipient. Clarkson urges us and Camille closer, only to jab us away, propelling Adams’ performance into its darker, confused depths.

And the Civil War reenactment wasn’t the only display of yanks: Camille flees to Detective Willis’ hotel and things immediately burst into an onanistic display of primacy. One suspects this episode will rally a few new Messina supporters to the Best Chris debate. But for once, watchful eyes are wanted and desired.

“My way,” Camille demands as he grabs at her pants, and they stay on, her scars and mind still unknown terrain to him. It’s an immediate and bracing sexual moment, but also another of Camille’s acts of evasion. As we feel the show throttling toward its fate, Camille’s rescue from her own inflictions remains far off.

The central mystery remains no closer to answers, but one suspects revelations are about to come as hot and heavy as this week's closer. As the fallout comes, we'll be watching as intently as a vaping Jackie...

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Reader Comments (12)

Loved the intensity of this episode. This series is already far superior to the booth. Adams and Clarkson are just incredible.

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Sorry, far superior to the book...

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I still feel like this show is a failure. The murder mystery and the characters are all half baked. Eudora could never love Camille because her father was cold? Who talks that way? It all seems fuzzy and disconnected.

August 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

This episode was so intense and engaging! Amy , patricia and eliza crushed it in their shared scene. That dressing room scene was painful. I'm loving this show!

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterArghavan

Though the series is far too long I am still enjoying it. As fantastic as Adams and Clarkson are in Sharp Objects I feel Eliza is stealing the show. I expect Emmy nominations for Adams, Clarkson, Eliza, Perkins, Matt Craven, and Chris Messina.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Now that the show is no longer a lead-in to the addictive and fun Succession, I think I'm out. Even Adams and Clarkson can't make this compelling.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I’m committed to the end, but each episode takes “leaves you wanting more” too far.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

I definitely like the show way more than the book. The book just unfolds so quickly and easily...where the suspense and tension actually builds in the show.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Sorry to be Sally Schoolteacher, but Clarkson's character's name is Adora. I agree with whoever said the episodes seem to ask as many questions as they answer. Slowly I think we are zeroing in on what's important. Anyone have any idea how many more episodes? I read somewhere that they won't make a season 2 of this show.

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrrrich7

I think this would have worked better as a four-hour miniseries like CBS would do in the old days. So much of this feels like "hurry up and wait".

Still watching for the amazing performances. Elizabeth Perkins is KILLING it. I want to learn so much more about Jackie! How does she know everything about everybody?

The Calhoun Day thing is so odd because I live in Minneapolis and they renamed Lake Calhoun because its namesake was a slave owner and it was such a hullabaloo and now if you still call it Lake Calhoun people will be like, "You racist!"

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Is this the episode with Messina's erection?

August 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPerson of Interest

I would be surprised if that was actually Chris...most likely it was a prosthetic (plus it was concealed by his hand).

August 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTitsy

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