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SHARP OBJECTS “Ripe” (S1E4): Hearts Race As We Hit Series Mid-Point

Emotions are fraught in Wind Gap as we reach the midway point of Sharp Objects, with its fourth episode exposing the dangers of gossip and toxicity of the rumours that are defining the lives of the citizens in a town eager to blame. After last week’s Fix strayed from narrative development to place the emphasis on character, Ripe returns to the murder mystery that is making our characters tick, beginning to align the pieces to puzzle before dropping a killer ending that provides the series with a renewed sense of intensity, energy and direction.

By walking Richard through Wind Gap’s crime scene, Camille re-opens some old wounds that may be key in solving the current spate of murders haunting the town. Meanwhile, Chief Vickery visits Adora to express his concern about her children; ‘one of them is dangerous, and the other one’s in danger’, he warns as tempers between the Preaker women bubble over. Even at this stage, it’s hard to know which daughter he is referring to.

Some of the starkest, boldest, most visceral imagery on screen

It really struck me during this episode just how easily the slow-burning storytelling could give way; it is frenzied, so very nearly to a fault, as bursts of the past so jarringly interrupt the present at irregular and unpredictable intervals. If it wasn’t for the quintet of talented editors keeping us so relentlessly hooked, Sharp Objects wouldn’t be the compelling, enthralling and hypnotic piece of work that it is.

SHARP OBJECTS “Ripe” (S1E4): Hearts Race As We Hit Series Mid-Point
source: HBO

To typically outstanding effect, Ripe excels as more of Camille’s memories bleed into the current, with a particular forest rummage providing some of the starkest, boldest, most visceral imagery to hit our screens in quite some time. All heightened by the fantastic, surreal cutting and slicing on display, a series has never rested so crucially on a group of editors mastering the volatile timelines so perfectly – and they all succeed tremendously.

Meaning in the detail and answers in the intricacy

Vince Calandra’s screenplay does a terrific job of gradually dialling up the intensity over this, the shortest episode yet. Bolstered by impressively nuanced dialogue that slowly peels back the layers of the characters and their relationships with each other, the writing has occasionally been overlooked for the more ostentatious elements of the series; let this end here. Packed into every conversation is a great deal of insight and intrigue, no more so than during Camille and Richard’s murder tour.

It is an exquisitely-written exchange that reveals just as much about Camille as every one of the sudden flashbacks does. If you really take a moment to consider the language, you will find a great deal more depth to these characters than ever before, and it’s a testament to the quality of Gillian Flynn’s source material.

SHARP OBJECTS “Ripe” (S1E4): Hearts Race As We Hit Series Mid-Point
source: HBO

As reliable as ever, Jean-Marc Vallée is mightily impressive and imposing as director. Last week I commented on, and commended, how powerful the concluding five minutes were; compared to this week, that was child’s play. In a sequence that forces you to hold your breath as it powerfully shreds your nerves, the cliffhanger will lead to a week of head scratching and persistent examination and, again, a lot of the clues lie in the details that may not necessarily present themselves immediately; from the juxtaposing red and yellow lighting to the reappearance of characters who have no right to occupy the timeline they do, Ripe is packed with astonishing flourishes that may hold the answers to the persisting questions – it’s just a case of breaking them down and that’s easier said than done in a series so intricately crafted.

Amy Adams betters herself week-in, week-out and Ripe continues that astonishing trajectory. She is yet to put a foot round and, with four episodes to go, I suspect that she won’t. Her descent in the episode’s closing moments are a masterclass in nuance and come what may, my reckoning is that the second half will allow her to flex those acting chops even more dramatically. Patricia Clarkson’s sharpness continues to cut deep, with her scathing dialogue piercing in its ferocity; Clarkson utterly nails it and the mother-daughter dynamic continues to be one of the most appealing elements of this series.

SHARP OBJECTS “Ripe” (S1E4): Hearts Race As We Hit Series Mid-Point
source: HBO

Taylor John Smith demonstrates a commanding vulnerability as John Keene, one of the prime suspects, while Elizabeth Perkins’ Jackie continues to fascinate in a supporting capacity. By far, she is the most engrossing character outside the Preaker Three and every moment she is on screen, she threatens to steal the entire scene with a well-calibrated, almost intoxicating turn that flits between a friendly warmth and foreboding unease with ease.

In Conclusion: Sharp Objects’ Ripe

Some may argue that Ripe, as with the previous three hours, takes the idea of ‘show, don’t tell’ a little too far; sometimes you just want to hit pause and truly take in these characters, rather than being drip-fed the information slowly over-time. But that very concept is what ensures that Sharp Objects is the most compelling, enthralling and hypnotic piece of work currently on television.

The hour ends with the most compulsive sequence in the series to date but everything that came before is just as important to the development of the character and the narrative. Like the ECG lines covering the road in the episode’s opening scene, Ripe is another episode that sets your heart racing for the duration of its mercurial pacing.

How is Sharp Objects working for you at the series’ mid-point?

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