Sharp Objects 5th Episode “Closer” Reveals the Power of Words

Tensions between mother and daughter come to a head in "Closer," the fifth installment in the Sharp Objects mini-series on HBO.

Camille (Amy Adams) exposes Wind Gap and Wind Gap reciprocates in this week’s installment of Sharp Objects, the HBO murder-mystery mini-series from Jean Marc-Valéee. It’s Calhoun Day. This celebration of the town’s founding revolves around the story of a women being tied to a tree and raped, ultimately losing her unborn child at the hands of Union soldiers. She is celebrated for her silence, for using her body to distract from and facilitate her husband’s escape.

After last week’s terrifying final moments, it is a relief to see both Amma (Eliza Scanlen) and Adora (Patricia Clarkson) alive and well, dressing up for the Calhoun day festivities. Camille’s over-zealous editor is, like Camille, drinking well before noon  (though later in front of his wife he admits he’s “not allowed to drink” and inquiring about another installment in the Wind Gap series. She ignores a call from Richard (Chris Messina), instead sulking in another reverie from her childhood where Adora mistreated her.

Richard, unable to connect with his new paramour, stops by the barbershop for the latest gossip on the murdered girl case. The police chief Vickery (Matt Craven) warns him that if he stops by Calhoun day, he’d better not come “dressed like a Yankee solider”. Adora also has issues with Camille’s wardrobe, and forces her on a downtown shopping trip in an effort to get her daughter to wear something less black to the festivities. It’s a “girls trip” so Alan sits amicably in the car while Amma serves serious attitude, quoting from Camille’s second less-than-sympathetic article about the town. A clueless shop girl holds up sleeveless pastel options that would do nothing to hide the words carved into Camille’s skin. Refusing to listen to her daughter’s wishes, Adora humiliates Camille by forcing her to show the reason she can’t wear spaghetti straps in front of Amma. Camille has scars that cover her from head to toe, etched words like “loser,” “fuck,” and “vanish”. The words are personal, a self-loathing lexicography of the constant, cruel inner monologue Camille endures. Later, dressed in a modest white gown supplied by Amma, Camille begs her editor to let her return to St. Louis. “Whenever I’m here, I feel like a bad person,” she admits, breaking down.

The Preaker’s backyard is swarming with townspeople, some dressed anachronistically in long gowns with parasols, and others in modern sundresses wielding iPhones and strong drinks. Everyone has something to say about Camille’s article, including Ashley who feels that Camille didn’t include enough to exonerate her boyfriend, John. “You don’t to burn this bridge,” Ashley threatens, “I know things.”

Adora steals Richard away to give a tour of the palatial Southern home, complete with ivory floors installed long before people used words like “endangered.” She’s trying to show him the “good” in Wind Gap and in her own home, which of course is simply surface level, the beauty from and hiding more insidious things. In an unusual moment of compassion for her own daughter, Adora tells Richard her daughter is “a rare rose, but not without thorns.” Outside, a group of middle-aged mean girls hunt Camille down and inspire flashbacks to high school gossip, the rumors that plagued these adults back when they were adolescents.

As the Calhoun Day performance begins, for a brief moment it appears that a sign reads “Shallow Day,” instead of Calhoun Day. The youth of Wind Gap act out the town’s sordid history of sexual violence, while a creepy Mr. Lacey looks on lustily (his wife notices). A fight breaks out between the two prime suspects per Camille’s article. In the hubbub, Amma disappears. Camille finds herself running through the woods to the old hunting shed, herself and Amma both now “women in white”, the very image a child described earlier in an earlier episode as leading one of the murdered girls into the woods.

In a strange attempt to apologize to Camille, Adora admits “I never loved you.” Of course distraught by hearing that her own mother never loved her, Camille races over to Richard’s motel, desperate to be wanted, to be loved. The cutting words of Adora moments before mix with the words Camille cut into herself in the darkness of the detective’s hotel room.

Closer was written by Scott Brown, Gillian Flynn, and Marti Nixon and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

Photos and video credit courtesy of HBO.

Missed the previous episode? Read the recap here.

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