Sharp Objects does, in fact, hail from a different era: It's adapted from Gillian Flynn's 2006 novel, her first, before she became a sensation thanks to Gone Girl. When I started digging into the series, it had been a while since I had read Flynn's Gothic narrative. But as I found myself drawn deeper into the sweaty muck of Wind Gap, Missouri, I remembered with whom I was dealing: Flynn is a master at peeling back our expectations. And her collaborators here -- Vallée, Marti Noxon, and Adams -- have figured out ways to do that cinematically so watching feels like picking at a scab until the raw skin underneath is revealed. Or waking up with a terrible hangover trying to remember the night before.
Camille's editor at a St. Louis newspaper sends her to investigate the murder of a local girl after another goes missing in the small Missouri town where Camille grew up. Almost as soon as Camille arrives, the other victim is found dead, her teeth ripped from her mouth. What follows is a hunt for the killer, yes, but also an excavation of Camille's scars both figurative and literal. By going to Wind Gap, she must confront her estranged mother, as well as the lingering presence of her dead sister.
Immediately, Sharp Objects is playing with fragments of memory. At first, these glimpses of the past -- in which IT's Sophia Lillis plays young Camille -- are difficult to parse. What exactly are they depicting? But as what Camille has repressed starts to bubble up, those fragments become clearer. The experience begs rewatching -- not to parse out clues of the case, but to fully understand the slow burn character study.
Though the book is written in the first person, Adams and Noxon managed to unleash Camille's cynical, unsparing viewpoint without the use of voiceover. In turn, they've translated the most shocking element of the text -- the words Camille has carved all over her body in an act of self-harm -- sensitively. That's not to say that the reveal is not devastating, but in other hands, it could be prurient rather than painful. Adams almost always finds a way to top herself. She finds an uneasy balance between Camille's swagger -- watch the way she walks -- and her masked grief.