Welcome back to 25YL’s analysis of Sharp Objects. “Ripe” left us on a cliffhanger, with Camille frenziedly racing after her younger sister, Amma. Camille feared she might be next in line to be murdered by the local serial killer after having had a vision of her toothless corpse in the creepy hunting shed. “Closer” begins with the same sequence, but this time the visions come in a dream. Was this always a dream? A premonition? Maybe even a fantasy? With Camille spending the majority of her time stably intoxicated it is hard to say for sure. This episode doesn’t bring us any nearer to finding out who the killer is, but it is a brilliant insight into the dark and disturbing traditions that the townsfolk of Wind Gap keep, and I have no doubt that the killer will be discovered in these details.
The words projected into this dream sequence read WRETCHED, TRASH, BITCH, CRY, NAG
The stage is set for Calhoun Day: the yearly event where Adora Crellin gets to show off her importance in the town by draping her vast gardens with Confederate flags and inviting everyone to celebrate Wind Gap’s original sin. As Allan zips up Adora’s blush pink dress, he tells her, “Today celebrates what is unmovable about this place.” Wind Gap celebrates a story in which the pregnant child bride of a Confederate soldier protects her husband even when she’s brutally raped and beaten by Union Soldiers, losing her unborn child in the process. At Calhoun Day, the town has the latest generation of teenagers reenact this scene on stage in all its glory.
This year, Amma takes on the leading role of hero-victim Millie Calhoun, which Adora admires gleefully. Imagine that: watching the albeit staged act of your daughter being gang raped and beaten and feeling pride. How could any loving mother feel that way? Perhaps because it may be similar to Adora’s own story? Does she see that girl as a survivor against all odds? How people deal with the trauma inflicted upon them is a theme running throughout the story.
Camille’s version of Millie’s story is more realistic. For her, Calhoun was the “founding paedophile” and she refers to Millie as her “great-great-grandvictim.” We are starting to sense that history has been repeating itself in Wind Gap and the reenactments of the events have been taking place for real, for generations. Camille has never shied away from telling this truth. While taking Detective Willis on their glamorous date to the town’s past crime scenes, she willingly informed him of the ritual gang rape of the local cheerleaders, herself included. Camille appearing to suffer the same fate as Millie Calhoun, just a few generations down the line—a familial inheritance of the very worst kind.
Camille has a bit of a spring to her step for now, though. The blossoming relationship between her and Willis gives her a reason to smile. But while passing her mother’s bedroom she accidentally drops her water bottle and is faced with a flash of the past, and we finally learn why Camille will not step onto the opulent flooring. While Adora and a photographer from Southern Style magazine were setting up a photo shoot, young Camille crept in to take a photograph of her younger sister Marian. Marian strikes a death pose, which is telling, and dirt from the woods falls onto the polished floor from Camille’s pocket. The framed magazine article reads, “Legacy & Ivory,” which pretty much sums up this episode. Adora is pictured with Marian in the article; Camille is absent. Whether this was a punishment for the dirt or if she was never going to be invited in is not known, but I am guessing the latter.
Camille never steps into that room, presumably because Adora banished her from doing so and never dropped that punishment. On Calhoun Day, Adora gives Detective Willis a tour of her grand home, which is distressing to Camille because she doesn’t trust her mother. Adora invites Willis into her bedroom—a place that Camille knows she cannot enter—and looks out of the window at her daughter to show her that she has control. Adora certainly still holds very real power over her daughter, no matter how much Camille rebels.
Why is the floor so important? Why does it have to be so clean? During the house tour Adora tells Willis that the ivory floor of her bedroom was a wedding gift for her great-great-grandmother. Everything in that house is both beautiful and a reminder of a painful past. Notably Gayla, their maid, is charged with helping set up the party but remains inside and out of sight. Being a black woman, Gayla is presumably not fitting into Adora’s ideals for her big show—not that Gayla would have any desire to celebrate the Confederacy in the first place.
With everything today being about appearances for Adora, she was not going to allow Camille to attend the festivities dressed head-to-toe in black as usual. Instead she takes her two girls dress shopping, an act for Camille which must have felt almost motherly. But that’s all it was: an act, a cruel tactic to expose Camille in front of her younger sister. Adora makes her try on dresses—sleeveless, knee-length, pastel-coloured silks—that she knows perfectly well Camille could never wear. In taking away her everyday clothes, Adora puts Camille in a state of panic, forcing her to reveal her scar-covered body to them both. Some of the words shown are: WHINE, OVEN, WRONG, RIP, AFTERTHOUGHT, PROPER, FUCK U, FUCK OFF, BLADE, PLEA, OBSESSION, TEETH, GIRL. Many of her words seem related to the serial killings, but can they really be? The words are upright for an audience to be able to read clearly. Was this the point? Did Camille make all the cuts herself?
Adora tells her it’s worse than she remembered, and Camille replies, “You weren’t there at the end.” By this point, it has become clear that Camille does not know anything about her father, but it is something she’s asked Adora about before. Adora’s eyes flicker over the words carved on Camille’s skin and says, “You’re ruined. All out of spite. You want to know who your father was? That’s who he was—all spite. I am glad Amma saw.” And so history repeats itself. Adora keeps the identity of the man who may have raped her and got her pregnant at a young age. Does Adora then see herself as the hero of her own story? A strong and silent heroine just like Millie? Who exactly is she protecting? After all this time, is it still someone living in the town? I have a feeling Police Chief Vickery may have the answer to that.
In a sense, Adora’s plan backfires. Amma feels remorse for the way she instigated the trouble at the dress shop in response to Camille’s news article, in which she stated that the murder suspect is likely a town dweller. Amma offers her a gift—a dress that will cover her scars—and Camille is now ready for action. She spies her love interest outside and smiles. Finally someone is bringing her some joy.
Calhoun Day is awash with lingering glances; people are keeping an eye on each other. The police watch the two murder suspects, Bob Nash and John Keene. Vickery clearly has an eye for Adora, and even his wife knows it. Jackie watches everything and her comment about the Preaker women having an eye for men with badges is telling. Is there more to Adora’s relationship with Vickery than just being two of the town’s leaders?
We learn through a well-timed flashback that Kirk Lacey, Amma’s teacher, is one of the teenage boys who raped Camille. They bump into each other whilst Camille is looking for Amma, and Kirk curiously tells her that he’s glad she’s back in town. Clearly there’s more to the story here than meets the eye. His wife glares at the two of them talking across the garden. She also notices the way Kirk and Amma look at each other. There is a quick flash of a moment of rejection from the cheerleading squad. We don’t know why Camille was ousted yet, but I wonder, did Camille ever tell? Did she keep it quiet like she was meant to by the rules of the town, or was she a threat to the secret legacy? If this is the case, then why is Kirk glad she’s back? Is there really some kind of ritual at play here? How does this tie into the deaths of Ann Nash and Natalie Keene? And why the removal of teeth?
Amma and her crew get ready to reenact Millie’s story by taking some pills, either to shake the stage nerves or just to play with fire and enjoy the moment that little bit more. The risk of being caught in front of the whole town is a thrill for Amma, her eyes like saucers, but as she sees a fight break out between Bob and John, she panics and runs off into the woods. Adora is vocally distraught at her daughter’s disappearance, worried that she’d be the next murder victim, at least that’s what it was meant to look like. I can’t help but feel everything she does is staged. Camille is tricked into believing her mother is pleased with her for once since she was the one to find Amma hiding in the hunting cabin. This place is so creepy and disturbing, why would these three girls find it a safe haven? Or should the question be: if this place is welcoming, how awful is home?
Lured into a false sense of security, Camille accepts Adora’s invitation to join her for a drink on the veranda. She admits to her mother that she can’t get close to Willis, and in a sentence laced with spite Adora tells her, “You can’t get close. That’s your father. And it’s why I think I never loved you. You were born to it, that cold nature. I hope that’s some comfort.” To hear for sure that your mother never loved you—not ever, from the moment you were born—has to cut deeper than any knife.
Camille battles a storm and rushes into the arms of Detective Willis at his motel room. She uses sex out of a desperate need to prove that she can get close to another person, but it is heartbreaking. She feels she cannot reveal her true self to him, and it means that she must conceal the parts of her that need the most attention and give up the touch of his hands and lips on her skin. Camille cannot experience the true intimacy they should share and she forces him to take her like she has been taken by others before. If she knew that he’d been warned off her twice that day—first by Vickery (“good tree, bad apple”, “watch yourself”), then Adora (“She’s delicate, a rose but not without thorns”)—but that he took no notice, would she be able to let him in? Or is this really as close Camille will ever get to finding a person that loves her unconditionally?
My thoughts now return to Amma. Despite her and Camille’s sometimes sour relationship, Camille is fiercely protective of her. Is Camille scared of losing another sister, or is there more to this? What secrets does Amma know about her sister, her mother, and the men of the town? Could these become the death of her or is she the one with the true power?