The way to fix something broken isn’t always to put it back together. At least, that’s according to the third episode of HBO’s Sharp Objects, in which everything has fallen apart. The rebuilding process, it never quite works. You can see the seams; gluey trails, a spidery roadmap, connect pieces that don’t fit in quite the same way as before.
For Camille, the joins are the knotty scars where her body has knitted itself back together. She carved her pain into own flesh, as if to let the trauma itself bleed through the fissures. Now she drinks. In “Fix”, through flashbacks, we see the long-ago realisation that Camille couldn’t reassemble herself without help. Checking herself into an institution, she’s roomed with Alice, a younger girl, not unlike her sister, for whom music is the bottle, the knife, the salve. Camille persuades the staff to let Alice have more time with the player, which in one scene they clutch between them on a ratty single bed. The music is a door that opens somewhere, anywhere but Wind Gap, Missouri, where young girls are murdered, and no wound ever stays closed.
Jean-Marc Vallée understands music; that memories have their own soundtracks. He knows when to reduce it to a whispery suggestion or let it blare, through an open car window or from a broken phone. Sometimes, as with Alice and Camille, the music is a means of escape. But it’s just as often bait in a trap. It lures you down Memory Lane and strips away the bricks as you walk. When you turn around, there’s no way back.
Amma, Camille’s sister, is discovering this for herself, roller-skating around town, trying to outrun the crumbling pathways behind her. It’s never really clear if she’s running from her mother, Adora, or towards Camille; perhaps both. “Fix” reveals her to be unpredictable. How might anyone else know what she’s going to do next when she barely seems to know herself?
Truth doesn’t come easily in Wind Gap, least of all the truth of who killed Natalie Keene and Ann Nash. The investigation barely budged in “Fix”, which, along with Amma’s ceaseless self-destruction, might annoy those viewers who tuned into Sharp Objects for a murder mystery. There’s no shortage of intrigue, but all the threads seem to wind back on themselves. The tighter Camille pulls, the knottier the investigation becomes. The only person who’ll listen is Detective Willis, but is she attempting to find his ear through genuine concern for those girls, or because it’s simply the only one turned her way?
When Sharp Objects becomes a detective thriller, it isn’t a very good one. But it’s scarcely ever just that, which is why it continues to be so compelling, even throughout episodes like “Fix”, which in most similar shows would have felt aimless and redundant. Here, the lack of progress is mostly the point. Doors can’t open for all the secrets piled behind them. The Southern Gothic small town, plucked straight from a horror movie, is no place for justice. Not yet, anyway. Getting to the truth means peeling away the cracked façade, smudging the makeup of the face Wind Gap presents to the world. The bruises are underneath. The skeletons are tucked away. It just takes a while to find them.
“Fix” was the third episode of HBO’s Sharp Objects. Check out our full series coverage.