Sunday night’s airing of Dirt, the second episode of HBO’s tantalizing new miniseries Sharp Objects showed viewers that not only is there a lot to be unearthed in Wind Gap, but that all of its inhabitants, including our heroine Camille, have some dark secrets buried deep within themselves.
Sharp Objects Recap: Episode 2
If you have not yet watched Episode 1, Vanish, or Episode 2, Dirt, I suggest you hightail it back to the previous page as this is obviously going to include spoilers!
While Vanish fulfilled its purpose by laying down the important groundwork answering our main who, what, and where of the series’ plot line, Dirt really sets in the why intrigue.
Dirt introduces us to new characters, obvious potential murder suspects, and ups the ante on existing characters’ troubling idiosyncrasies. Like any good mystery, the more subjects exposed to the audience with as little exposition as possible, forces us unto to slip into Camille’s abused skin and hunt for the murderer along with her. Although this episode seems to move a little slower than Vanish, we have to keep in mind that every scene, every flashback, every character interaction, and every flash of a seemingly random word serves a purpose to this story’s ending.
“Dirt introduces us to new characters, obvious potential murder suspects, and ups the ante on existing characters’ troubling idiosyncrasies.”
Now that you’re familiar with the peculiarity of words and what they mean to not only Camille, but to the message of the story, pay attention to each one as they’re carefully selected by Gillian Flynn herself as she shared in her latest interview with Vanity Fair. Flynn details the influence words have on Camille’s psyche, emotional levels, and her relationships with those around her. Like a slight poke to the hip, the words we see flash so suddenly in the strangest of places can have the most literal of meanings, but most are more than skin deep.
Communication between Camille and her father-figure editor Frank Curry strengthens. Him being her only toe dipped in her Chicago reality while her standing relationship with her mother is slowly beginning to unravel down the Wind Gap rabbit hole. With the second missing girl, Natalie Keene, now found dead and propped up like a doll missing all of her teeth due to some force and a good pair of sharp-edged pliers, Curry urges Camille to push her reporting forward, to get the details – a perfect line for a series’ second episode. Here is where our big red content train leaves the station. The foundation is poured, Natalie is found, and the moving parts are now in motion.
Unlike the novel, viewers are able to watch relationships among the secondary characters expand. Whether it be a pissing match between Chief Vickery and Detective Willis, a drunken Jackie O’Neill spewing useful nonsense to Camille, or the backhanded comments courtesy of Wind Gap’s less sensitive citizens like John Keene’s attention hungry girlfriend, Meredith.
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A majority of Dirt focuses on the town’s adults and Camille, (much to her mother’s resistance) while attending Natalie’s funeral. Adora persists in fear of embarrassment due to her daughter’s proclivity toward reporting horrible, wicked things that unfortunately exist in the real world. The entire event is emotionally charging as we see Natalie’s mother gives a tearful memorial and her older brother John, so different from Natalie, torn apart over her death. Natalie is described as a “spitfire”, a “tomboy”, and a girl who loved to “explore”, having a lot to say when she believed in something. Sound familiar? It all resurrects harsh memories of Camille’s younger sister Marian’s untimely death and the neglect she received from her sterile mother once the ‘favorite’ passed away.
Following the service, the mourners gather at the Keene home for what could easily be mistaken for a neighborhood pot-luck. Here we meet Camille’s simple, shallow classmates like Katie Lacey, we get a deeper look into how much of an outcast Natalie truly was. We exploring her bedroom and belongings with Camille, and watch as community gossip begins the finger-pointing at who might have a possible motive to kill two young innocent girls. Natalie’s father, similarly to Ann’s has an alibi, yet comes off a little cold and defensive especially when Camille questions John’s whereabouts at the time of her disappearance.
Being the natural investigator she is, Camille turns her attention to Wind Gap’s youth for answers. She finds a compelling and eerie tale from a local boy, James Capisi, clearly born of a family of Have Nots in a town full of Haves. He is the last to see Natalie alive in the broad afternoon daylight in the park and when questioned by police he claims she was taken by a ‘woman in white’. Camille conjures up the image of a witchy woman in white silently beckoning the girl to follow her into the forest in a scene so out-of-place, it sent chills down my spine. We learn it is a bit of town folklore not to be taken seriously as James is a known storyteller spinning innocent lies to make up for his poor family life suffering at his mother’s debilitating illness. His penchant for pretend is written off quickly by a clueless, but desperate Vickery who is certain of only one thing – a man is responsible for the murders. While this situation rises and is quickly suffocated, Willis decides to test just how hard it would be to plug a tooth from a deceased pig’s head using domestic pliers.
“Camille conjures up the image of a witchy woman in white silently beckoning the girl to follow her into the forest..”
In Dirt, Camille’s struggle with self harm escalates as she toys with a sewing kit needle and temptation of the highest pressure. We can feel her internal battle being faced with bad memories, ‘friendly’ faces, and the emotional reminders of her own existence in Wind Gap. After coming to a semi you-show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine understanding with Willis, she returns to her mother’s home to find an indifferent Alan, childlike Amma, and borderline neurotic Adora playing house, while building a replica one, in the sun room.
Amma, fashioned like an inappropriate American Girl doll throws a tantrum in the manner of a four-year old that Adora claims to be due to Ann and Natalie’s deaths. Camille and Adora begin to get into it, with Adora cradling and fawning over Amma like an infant while telling Camille she wished their relationship could be better, but it just is not. It’s a pretty harrowing scene bouncing dependability and emotional stability off of the women in the room like an out of control racquetball. Amma comments wearily that Camille “can be good”, she “wants to be good” while relishing in her mother’s attention. Camille, though concerned and alarmed by this behavior, turns her back to it by retreating to the solace of her sepia bedroom armed with a sewing needle against a smooth patch of skin below her navel.
No matter what she can mask from Curry or what Amma whimpers into Adora’s arms, things for Camille and Wind Gap are not good, they are far from it.
Hopefully you’ve never had to experience a funeral or memorial for a well-known local who died a tragic death in a small town like Wind Gap. But if you have the nauseous musings of false modesty, distasteful gatherings, attention seeking strangers, and hushed judgments, they all may be rushing back to you upon viewing Dirt.
Thw second episode not only digs deep into Sharp Objects‘ characters, but it also sets the scene for a town that, for all intents and purposes, is a character within itself. The whodunnit mystery is more alive than ever and the list of suspects lengthens with each new scene. Who is to blame? The sad James Dean brother of Natalie? The eccentric drunk Jackie? One of the defensive, odd fathers? Alma and her rollerskating posse? The police chief in denial? The untrustworthy pariah, James Capisi? A supernatural ‘woman in white’? One of the Crellins? Have we even met the murderer yet? All is yet to be determined, but that would never keep the townsfolk from talking. Nothing ever does.
I want to save some insight into what living in a town that slightly resembles Wind Gap is like while being the ‘outcast’ myself. There is so much more to come from Sharp Objects that I can relate to and I’m sure so many viewers can as well. Of course, none of the social pressures I experience reach the intensity Flynn describes in Sharp Objects, but I do live in a small southern town and, from experience, it is easy to identify with Camille Preaker. Being a curvy, “edgy”, northern artsy lover of all things dark and spooky sometimes draws a fine line in the sand between me and the wholesome, fair, athletic, Christian girls and women I find myself surrounded by. Over time I have learned the ways of southern men and women, of judgments that can be passed by those less open-minded, and the hypocrisies many remain ignorant to all while ultimately loving and valuing myself.
When Camille tells Willis that when people in town say “Bless your heart” they really mean “F**k you” that is completely, albeit unspoken, truth. That common phrase can have a range of meanings from “poor thing” to “you are a legitimate moron and this is the only way I can say it to your face” and it comes in a variety of sympathetic tones and smiling expressions. Southern etiquette it sadly a psychosocial topic less explored.
Camille suffers that same atmosphere and in Dirt that juxtaposition and the creeping submergence Wind Gap possesses slowly comes to life. We are now fully aware that our leading lady is flawed and real just like me and you. Flynn and the show’s writers have created a modern world stuck in time where people, women especially, are expected to behave a certain way when others are looking. It maintains the ongoing theme that no matter how good we want to be, we’re always going to be a little bad no matter how many eyes are on us. Just because someone may be different or considered an outcast, like Camille, Ann and Natalie, the Capisi’s, and even John Keene, that does not make them any less valuable or important as an individual, a notion places like Wind Gap seem to keep buried. Camille makes mistakes, she relapses, she shuts off one minute and submits to her feelings the next and because of that we are just as vulnerable in this haunting ride through Wind Gap with her.
Why is all of this important?
At some point in most, if not all, of our lives we feel misplaced or different from everyone around us and the effects of that stigma can vary. If we look close at these nuanced characters it is easy to see who belongs, who doesn’t, and who pretends to be. Sharp Objects is just beginning to set up a very interesting, relevant angle within this seemingly typical story of murder in a small town here in episode two – however, we’re not going to delve into that topic just yet.
We are left with our anti-heroine still believing the biggest threat that lies in Wind Gap is a faceless serial child murderer. She can do her best to endure her family’s oddities and should be able to repress her past traumas before they become more than silent thoughts so long as she remains good.
Oh, bless her heart.
We’ll see if she can put that sewing kit to deliberate use before things unravel beyond control next Sunday with Sharp Object’s third episode, Fix – on HBO.