Last week, after a preview screening of Sharp Object’s debut episode at the ATX TV Fest, star Amy Adams told the crowd that “television is in such a Renaissance right now. It’s such a great place to tell stories. It’s a great place to tell this story.”
Even a show that starts off with a startling dream sequence, Sharp Objects manages to really get under your skin. While it definitely falls outside of the horror genre, it’s still deeply unsettling. It picks away at the barely-healed scab, covered with a bandage depicting an idyllic, Rockwellian illusion of small-town life, eventually revealing a world of secrets buried well below the surface.
At the heart of the story is Camille Preaker (Adams), a St. Louis reporter who’s sent to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to investigate a missing teen girl. Prior to her disappearance, the body of another teen girl had been found. Camille’s not only hesitant to take the assignment, she’s hesitant to reveal any meaningful details about Wind Gap to her editor. He asks her what the town is like, and she responds with a knee-jerk reaction describing its geographical location and a rundown of its local economy.
“What’s it like,” he pushes, before Camille eventually relents. She describes it as a town filled with either “trash or money.” When he asks which one she is, she answers “trash,” before adding “with money.”
Reluctantly, she takes the assignment, but her reservations about the homecoming are apparent from the beginning. Her first night there, she stays at a cheap motel instead of with her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson). While in her room, she dumps out her bag, carefully sorting out a half-dozen airplane bottles of booze from an assortment of candy bars, before lining them up on the rim of the bathtub and knocking them back, one by one.
It’s the first hint eluding to Camille’s alcoholism, one that’s made increasingly clear throughout the show’s first episode. Her drinking, however, is just the tip of the iceberg, slowly revealing a much deeper, unresolved problem she’s stored away in her psyche.
Camille, like the town she left years before, has plenty of secrets of her own. And, like Wind Gap, she’s willing to do anything to keep those secrets buried. As the show’s plot slowly unfolds, it’s intercut with flashbacks from Camille’s childhood. Some are obvious, while others are woven in so seamlessly into the background you start to question what you’re seeing on screen — another of the show’s truly unsettling aspects that regularly reminds you of its ability to shake viewers to their core.
While Adams leads Sharp Objects’ impressive cast with her tour-de-force performance, as an executive producer, she’s joined by an equally impressive roster of talent behind the camera. It’s based on the debut novel by Gillian Flynn, who penned the equally unnerving novel Gone Girl. Showrunner Marti Noxon has worked on Mad Men, Grey’s Anatomy, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Finally, helming the eight-episode limited series is director Jean-Marc Vallée, fresh of HBO’s Big Little Lies — which is currently shooting its second season.
With such a jaw-dropping debut episode, Sharp Objects is poised to become your next great TV obsession.
Sharp Objects premieres Sunday, July 8th on HBO