Watching the first episode of
a second time, it's easy to pinpoint where the show's lingering feeling of unease begins. It's the very first scene. A pair of girls - one a teenager, the other probably 9 or 10 - rollerskate down an empty rural road, arrive at an old mansion, take off their skates and run towards the house. As they run, you can't help but notice: their backpacks are dangerously unzipped.
It's a sight that evokes a visceral response. You start screaming internally, unable to look away. Things could fall out. In a way, that one bit sets the tone for the whole show. SoHo and Neon's latest must-see drama, an adaptation of the debut novel by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), is a compelling yet uncomfortable watch.
That opening scene, it turns out, is a childhood flashback in a dream being had by Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), a mid-level newspaper reporter who, it's clear, has been through the wringer. It's about to get worse: her editor wants her to go back to her hometown, the evocatively named Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on a missing child case with links to a possible serial killer.
"I'm not gonna win a Pulitzer out of Wind Gap," she scoffs. "You're not winning a Pulitzer," her editor responds flatly, "because you're only half-good at writing." Never mind Spotlight, this is a truly accurate depiction of journalism.
No one in Wind Gap is particularly pleased to see Camille, least of all her own mother (Patricia Clarkson). She is mortified at the thought of her daughter going around asking "horrible, morbid" questions of her neighbours and acquaintances. "Everything you do," she lectures her in the kitchen, "comes back on me." Camille counters: "But, I'm an adult now." Nope. "Not in Wind Gap."
Camille is our relatable figure, and she's living an all-too-relatable nightmare. You can hardly blame her for necking tiny bottles of booze all day, suffering frequent flashbacks that hint at unspecified childhood trauma. Everyone she talks to in town is cagey and guarded, although you can't really tell if that's more to do with the past or the present.
Adams pulls off the psychologically precarious lead character with a full-bodied (and if you're the betting type, probably award-winning) performance. Making this an eight-part series, rather than a two-hour movie, absolutely seems like the right call, allowing it to wring every drop of dread as a seemingly normal hometown is inevitably revealed to be a full of sinister characters and dark secrets.
It's the usual scene: everyone's a suspect, and the fear and speculation is eating the town alive. Camille at least has an old friend in the barman, with his generous pours, and maybe an ally in her half-sister Amma.
She must be the same age Camille is in all her flashbacks, and leads a double life to escape the clutches of their controlling mother. "I'm incorrigible too," she tells Camille, ominously. "Only, she doesn't know it."
Sharp Objects is on SoHo and Neon.