Sharp Objects (S01E01) Series Premiere: “Vanish”

Like most of the Sharp Objects’ inaugural episode, it’s shadowy opening sequence is more than meets the eye.

As we follow two girls rollerblading through their small town of Wind Gap, Missouri, we’re unsure whether this scene is in real-time or a flashback. Everything—from the music to the mansion the girls sneak into—feels dated. But the blur between these two timelines is a constant throughout the episode. Especially once it’s clear that one of the girls (Sophia Lillis) is a younger version of our protagonist, Camille Preaker (Amy Adams).

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Trash & Old Money: Welcome to Wind Gap

Camille has since moved on from small-town girl to big city reporter at the St. Louis Chronicle, although her past seems determined to catch up with her. What’s a rural town like Wind Gap have to offer, her editor (Miguel Sandoval) asks? According to Camille, only “trash and old money”. According to her editor, a story he wants her to investigate. Namely, looking into the disappearances of two young girls—one of whom turned up dead.

In case Camille’s disdain for this assignment isn’t made obvious, the full on mini-bar she acquires at the motel on the way might do the trick.

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For what it’s worth, Camille’s reluctance doesn’t feel misplaced: The dated Wind Gap of the flashbacks is virtually indistinguishable from present-day Wind Gap. We see bored teenagers rollerblading around as Camille joins the search for the current missing girl. She’s greeted with a frosty reception from local law enforcement, Chief Vickery (Matt Craven), but seems to intrigue outsider Detective Richard Willis (shout-out to The Mindy Project’s Chris Messina). The two strike up an interesting dynamic throughout the episode.

a not-so-warm welcome home

Finally, we get a glimpse at Camille’s elusive family. Would this Gothic mystery be complete without a dysfunctional family plotline thrown in? Camille’s stalling in going to see her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), gives us a hint of the strained relationship between the two. But the strange, chilly way in which Adora greets her daughter (“The house isn’t made-up for guests”) makes it almost painful to watch. It’s clear that Adora is more concerned with what the neighbors will think of Camille’s assignment.

The only new information we get about Camille’s half-sibling, Amma, is that she likes to go to bed early. And we’re not sure what happened to the other sister we keep seeing in Camille’s flashbacks, but we know it can’t be good.

No wonder Camille hightails it to the local bar as soon as she’s out of sight.

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‘sharp objects’  shows how sharp it can get

If nothing else, Wind Gap seems to have an abundance of teenagers just hanging out, rollerblading around.

The next day, the show ditches its subtlety for full-fledged horror—the kind only a dead child can provoke. The discovery of the missing girl, crammed bruised and bloody into an old alley, is grim. It’s enough to crack even the stoic Camille’s façade.

She’s further rattled when she returns home. Lo and behold, the infamous Amma (Eliza Scanlen) has finally made an appearance. Surprise! Turns out she’s been masquerading to as one of the rollerblading youths who spoke to Camille earlier. Does this make her shy, or manipulative? It’s too early to tell, but we do discover what happened to their sister Marian all those years ago. We don’t find out what mysterious illness took her life, but Camille’s damaged persona makes more sense now.

Just how deep that damage goes, though, is saved for the final scene. In a shot reminiscent of True Detective’s reveals, we watch as Camille strips down and shows what she hides in plain sight. Her body is covered in scars, words carved into her own flesh—including “Vanish” across her back.

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verdict

Marti Nixon’s Sharp Objects was off to a slow start, punctuated with gasp-worthy moments like the jab of a safety-pin. That being said, the dark palette and moody tone reminiscent of other HBO classics (Big Little Lies, True Detective) paint a picture of the show’s somber promise. I have a feeling safety pin jabs are one of the milder scenes we’ll be treated to.

Sharp Objects airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO