Sunday, July 15, 2018

REVIEW: 'Sharp Objects' - Wind Gap Gathers for a Funeral Which Proves Insightful for Camille's Investigation in 'Dirt'

HBO's Sharp Objects - Episode 1.02 "Dirt"

Camille searches for clues at the funeral and wake for Wind Gap's latest victim, and clashes with her mother over her presence in the town. Richard finds a surprising way to arrive at a conclusion about the murderer's profile. Camille pays a visit to the working-class home of a young boy who says he witnessed the abduction, and confronts Chief Vickery about why he ignored the boy's claim.

Everyone is trying to tell Camille who she should be. No one truly understands who she actually is and the pain that she carries with her everywhere she goes. It's difficult for her to be back in Wind Gap where there is so much bad history for her family. And now, Adora simply wants to have a nice, normal relationship with her. But that comes with the expectation that Camille will act as a quiet, private woman who won't disrupt the world by bringing up the most personal tragedies experienced by the families in town. The central murder case drives so much of the story forward. But it's also important to highlight how Chief Vickery just wants Camille to go away because he only sees a foolish woman who thinks she knows better than him while Detective Willis just wants to use Camille as a translator for everything that happens in this community. Meanwhile, Amma just wants Camille to serve as her validation for her rule-breaking spirit. She wants someone to see and understand that she too has a rebellious nature. And then, Frank wants to pull a great investigative reporter out of Camille by making her face her traumatic past. Even the peers she grew up with only want to put her in the box of being a wife and mother because that's what defines their lives. But no one truly understands the pain that Camille is in. Every second she spends in this place is just a dark reminder of all that she lost here. It wasn't Marian's death that created tension between her and her mother. Adora always neglected her while coddled Marian simple because Camille wasn't what she believed a woman was suppose to be. Camille continues to push back by furthering this investigation. She is embarking on her own path in this town. But she is also faced by the painful history. She is flirting with self harm. It's so ugly and destructive to watch. And yet, that's a component of her coping mechanism. She believes it's what she needs to do in order to feel something in this world. She doesn't want to have any secret sham about being drunk at a funeral because she believes everyone in the town had been drinking before the ceremony. She believes she knows this community so well. She understands those who belong here, those who were shamed and those who are actually ostracized. But there's still so much that is surprising her in returning to Wind Gap. She wants to believe she's making a difference. But at the end of the day, she may just be reacting after the latest attempt by Adora to rile her up for being a bad member of this family.

Adora sees the funeral as a time to mourn. The people of this community have to gather in order to support the family touched by tragedy. They need the love during their darkest days. She sees it as ghastly for her own daughter to just use the service as a way to investigate and gather more clues about the case. It's shameful and so embarrassing. Adora is of the generation where families kept to themselves and the communities respected the history of the town. She doesn't condone what her daughter is trying to do by making these deaths into a big story. And yet, two murders in a small town is a big deal. Camille wants to ensure that the story is heard so that people understand what is actually happening in this community. Right now, everyone is scared to let their children go outside and play. They worry that their daughter will be the next one targeted by this deranged killer. That doesn't scare Amma though. She's tempting fate believing that it's not a big deal whatsoever. She isn't going to stop living her life because of something that might happen to her. She views it as being brave even though she's also choosing to keep it a secret. She continues to appreciate having a sister in her life who is supportive of her rebellious ways. Camille understands just how difficult and overbearing Adora can be as a mother. But there's also so much distance between the women as well. Camille and Amma aren't close at all. Adora and Amma just have their own picturesque views of the other without truly buying into those identities completely either. Finally, Adora and Camille have always had their problems. Adora just wants to have a nice relationship with her daughter. But Camille makes it so difficult because she's simply at the age where everything she does reflects back on how she was raised. So, it seems like no matter what Camille is an embarrassment to her mother.

Of course, the families of the murder victims don't really mind being interviewed by Camille. Sure, they are annoyed by all of these questions being asked of them. They don't understand what happened to their daughters and sisters. They want answers and justice. But the show continues to highlight the stark realities of people in families not truly understanding and knowing each other. The community of Wind Gap doesn't really know the Keene family very well. They had just moved here from Philadelphia. They kept to themselves and didn't really fit in with the rest of the citizens. As such, that allows the rumors to be swirling about John and Natalie actually having an incestuous relationship. That's easier for the town to believe than actually having empathy for a young man who has just lost his sister. Seeing a man show so much emotion like that is completely foreign to these people. They simply don't understand it because they expect men to act a certain way. The show isn't making it easy for the audience to understand it either. It still wants us to see John as a suspect in this case. He is a mysterious presence who hasn't offered up his side of the story yet. We don't fully understand what his relationship with Natalie was really like. Of course, it also seems likely that he knew her better than their parents did. Their mother is able to deliver the eulogy that is appropriate for the town. She talks about how beautiful, opinionated and adventurous her daughter was. She casually leaves out the darkness and eccentricities that also defined her. She kept a spider in a jar in her bedroom. Her favorite color was black. She lived a life that her parents and this community don't want to talk about. As such, that's such a disservice to her memory. It makes all of this feel like nothing but a performance in order to help everyone grieve and cope with the tragedy that happened. This world is yet to accept the reality of their lives. They don't want to break up their picture-perfect existences.

That's dark and brutal to watch. It especially makes Camille's final action one of pure defiance. She wants to blow the lid off of this community to make them accept the darkness in their town. She wants the world to understand that women are complex individuals who deserve to be remembered for how they lived instead of some fantasy orchestrated by the people left behind in an attempt to cope with the unimaginable. Camille is investigating this community in order to get a better understanding of what it is like now. She is still putting in the work to try to solve this case even though the official investigation has proven more than cumbersome to navigate. She still wants to be respectful of the dead. She has had a lifetime of her mother telling her what is prim and proper to do in the world. That's the nagging voice that is in her head. It is manifested now through her mother actually being a present part in her life. Adora is almost always there to take away the pens or scorn Camille for going into Natalie's bedroom. And of course, Adora was broken by tragedy too. She has never been able to move on following Marian's death. That was a tragedy that has forever shaped this family. It's made it so that Adora is often speaking for Amma instead of actually listening to her. That once again proves that the generations of this family often have such difficulties trying to understand and listen to one another. Adora would rather just put words in Amma's mouth about being so upset about the deaths of her friends even though she wasn't very close with either Natalie or Ann. Adora wants her youngest daughter to be in shock while also protecting her from the harsh realities of seeing the town mourn at the funeral. But it's through being shut down by her mother once more that Camile decides to take the more aggressive approach with her first article regarding this murder. She didn't want to rile up this community. But now, she is forcing them to see that none of them truly understand what's going on. She is painting a bleak picture. And yet, that's exactly what things are like right now.

However, Camille having the confidence to send in that draft of her article also comes paired with her decision to actually start hurting herself again. Things are only going to intensify the further she digs into this investigation. Right now, she is only tempted to push that pin deep into her skin. She has the scars to reveal that this has been a lifelong struggle for her. One that she chooses to keep private because she doesn't believe that anyone can understand. She's still an opinionated and active person. She is writing this story with purpose. She is fulfilling her assignment. But she also understands that she needs to speak up when she sees a young boy with a gun. That's such a horrifying image for the show to present so casually. But it also highlights just how stubborn and irate people can become whenever a newcomer questions the decisions they make - especially when it comes to parenting. Camille sees this as further evidence that this town is absolutely horrifying and comprises the worst people of this country. Those who simply don't understand the real dangers of the world. Camille believes in this young boy's story about seeing a woman in white who took Natalie. It's a possibly farcical story that the police don't take seriously because he has told many imaginative tales in the past. But that shouldn't be the thing that immediately disqualifies his testimony - especially if it is wildly known that he and Natalie played in that park regularly. But Camille is still just making her way into the investigation. She wants to know why the police are so certain that the killer is a man. The show demonstrates that by proving it takes a great deal of strength to pull teeth out of a mouth. But again, that could all just be a red herring to prove that sometimes the most personal stories are the ones that surprise us and force us to reflect on the true horrors of the world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Dirt" was written by Gillian Flynn and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
  • Right now, it seems like the police are only investigating Bob Nash and John Keene as people of interest in this case. They are still of the mindset that these were crimes of passion that happened within the individual families. And yet, the cases are connected in some major ways even though the girls died in different ways as Willis articulates here. The police are also working with the assumption that it was one killer in both cases. That's possibly because they don't want to entertain the notion that there is more than one depraved individual in town.
  • Adora removes an eyelash during funerals. That's such a small detail that is incredibly personal and informs so much about who she is as a women. It's something that Camille notices. She remembers it after Marian's ceremony. And now, she sees it again during Natalie's. It's a detail that could seem strange and foreign. Camille certainly doesn't understand the reasoning behind it. But it's also one of the many small details that build up to better inform this character and her attempts for regal dignity.
  • Willis just casually goes out and buys a pig's head and pliers in order to see just how strong a person has to be to remove teeth from a head. He is very practical in this investigation. He is willing to put in the work to prove that his assumption about the killer being a man is correct. And yet, there also has to be so many practical questions about this purchase. Was it easy for him to buy a pig's head? Where did he buy it? Did no one think it was strange? What should the audience's reaction be to seeing him actually doing this?
  • Frank continues to keep his secrets from Camille as well. He is doing his best to encourage her into becoming a great writer. He sees so much potential with her. But his wife is cautioning him not to take on more than he can handle right now because he is still sick with some unknown disease. That is time-consuming and exhausting for him. But he still gives Camille the angle that she ultimately decides to pursue with the story.
  • Of course, is the assumption that the killer is a male just one big red herring? The show is presenting the evidence for why the official investigation feels that way. It certainly presents a strong case for only the men in this town having the strength to remove teeth in the way that Natalie's were. But that could also be limiting to the suspect pool because the audience is currently guessing as to who in this community committed these crimes. Speaking of which, any new guesses this week? Alan and Jackie still seem too quiet and minor as characters so far.