Cherries have always been a ripe, red, round fruit with a devilish connotation. Popping a woman's cherry is a euphemism for when a woman loses her virginity. Cherry red is a colour used to describe a seductive, lustrous hue — or the stain of blood. Tying a cherry stem in a knot using one's tongue has long been a sign of an experienced kisser, most memorably portrayed by Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) in Twin Peaks, a series that so heavily depended on the sexualization of that pitted red snack that the word is used 16 times in the 1990 Rolling Stone cover about the show's female stars.
"Cherry" is also the title of the week's Sharp Objects, which also means it's a word written on Camille Preaker's (Amy Adams) body. Cherry is written on Camille's inner right thigh — possibly the first word she ever wrote into her skin — high enough on her leg that when it bleeds during a high school cheerleading practice in one of Camille's flashbacks, most of the girls mistake it for period blood. Only one girl notices, Becca (Hilary Ward), who Camille sees for the first time in 15 years during a gathering at a "friend's" house that she reluctantly agrees to attend to get some boozed-up scoop (instead, the women cry about the plight of modern feminism).
After the event, when Camille is pretty drunk on bourbon, white wine, and general unease, Becca tells her she knows about the scars. She personally knows how tough Wind Gap is for young girls who are different, Becca having grown up in this town as a Black woman. "That made sense," Becca says of the hidden word. "We were so shiny, and luscious on the outside, but inside is that dark, hard pit." That "pit" is what makes these beautiful young Wind Gap women the most alluring and dangerous. Right there we realise that the episode isn't called "Cherry" just because it is another word written on Camille, it's called that because each of the women we're learning about — Camille, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), and Amma (Eliza Scanlen) — are all cherries with a different dark secret, being hidden by a shiny facade. The men — Alan (Henry Czerny), Detective Richard Williams (Chris Messina), Chief Bill Vickery (Matt Craven) — aren't. They are too soft, spineless, and sentimental to understand the complexities of their girlfriends, wives, and children. They're lacklustre, and pit-less.
Amma's already caught onto the fact that women can use their perceived innocence as a tool to manipulate and tease men, and Adora lives and breathes this truth. Camille is the one resistant to embrace the word and its connotation because she is haunted by the memory of her sexual assaulted by the football team (an attack that has been all but confirmed through flashbacks and a half-assed apology from one of the guys, now a father of daughters. Instead of feeling the power of being a woman in Wind Gap, Camille feels that the pit inside of her has rotted her to the core.
After learning that Adora does not, and has never, loved her, Camille's starting to be free of her mother's charms (but not free of the sickness she feels whenever she's with 'momma'). Camille's settling into a "No Fucks" attitude, and it's pissing Adora off. She instructs Alan to dismiss Camille from their home because she's making her "ill," but Alan chickens out of a full confrontation (of course). Camille makes it clear that she wants to leave just as much as Adora wants her gone, but she isn't going anywhere until the real murderer is found, which could be sooner rather than later after a bike is discovered in a pond on the Preaker pig farm property. The bike belonged to Ann Nash (Kaegan Baron), as identified by her father, Bob (Will Chase), and was allegedly dropped there by John Keene (Taylor John Smith), according to a witness. He is now the top suspect. Despite this evidence, and an awkward moment spent eavesdropping on John telling Amma that he is "always watching her" and promises that "it will be your day, soon," Camille doesn't see John as a threat.
This wouldn't be Camille's only run-in with the local drug-taking, beer chugging, rule-breaking teens. She also interviews Ashley (Madison Davenport), who says whoever killed those girls did it to become popular. "What other reason is there?" she asks. In a place like this, being popular or dead are really the only two options. Camille also notices that Ashley has a chunk missing from her ear (she even sketches the ear out with the word "Bite?" written next to it, which is a new thing our investigative reporter is trying out), and confronts her about it at a party. Ashley clams up and promises that there's a lot more she doesn't know. Well tell her, please, we are all dying to know! Ashley and John are soon boo-ed out of the party by the wicked kids chanting, "Baby killer!" in their direction.
Beyond this ear, we need to talk about this party where Camille finds herself. After her day spent drinking with the mean moms, aka Camille's former clique, she finds herself at her home away from home: the gas station that sells liquor. Amma spots her there and somehow ropes Camille into taking Oxycodone, attending a high schooler's blow-out house party, popping ecstasy, dancing to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," roller blading home, and rough housing in their front yard until they're both dizzy and bleeding. (It's been a day for Camille since waking up in bed that morning to the sight of Richard's very nice butt and very large back tattoo.)
Amma continues to escalate things. She calls Camille her sister, her "soul mate," and even remarks that she wants to write a "C" for Camille on her arm (to which Camille grabs her and tells her to never do that). All the while, Camille cannot stop thinking about Marian (Lulu Wilson). She hasn't stopped thinking about Marian since she died all those years before, but today it's especially bad. It started when she saw Marian and Alice (Sydney Sweeney) in the woods while she was looking for Amma in the woods at the end of episode 5 (both are wearing white dresses, which feels significant), and now whenever she looks at Amma with her guard down (or while rolling and high on drugs) she blurs the images of her sister, her roommate, and her half-sister in her head. All the memories of these young, ripe women collide and compete for her attention. Gone is the obsession with sharp objects. Instead, it's replaced with something more sinister: ghosts from her past.
Back inside, when Camille allows Amma to lay in her room with her, Marian's ghost watches them climb up the steps, acting silly together. And so does Adora. She quietly opens the door to stare at her two daughters, collapsed on a bed together, with an expression of utter disdain. Amma asks Camille if she can go back to St. Louis with her, and we finally know why Adora feels threatened by Camille — she's terrified Amma will like her more, and steal her away.
But really it's Camille who needs to be careful, ghost Marian warns. "It’s not safe here for you," she whispers to Camille while holding her hand. Not safe, how? Is Camille in danger of being killed? Is she onto something when she begins to insist on the phone to Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) that the killer is definitely a woman? Is Adora the one to fear? Or is it...Amma? Adora threatens where Amma rambles, but she could at least know something we don't, especially based on her Amma's conversation with John. That hostility was palpable. She has also subtly been using Camille's sympathy towards her as a tool for manipulation. In just this episode she says the following remarks that feel very ominous:
1. "I get funny ideas sometimes."
2. "We have a dead sister like John Keene, and she’s never dealt with it."
3. "I know I can be a little off."
4. "Sometimes you need to be mean or hurt."
5. "Do you ever feel like bad things are going to happen to you, and you can’t stop them? You can’t do anything. You just have to wait."
Whatever's going on, Amma's not as innocent as she seems, and there are only two more episodes left to reveal why.
- Adora's tendency to make her daughter feel unloved deviates from her own strained and joyless relationship with her mother, Joya. Alan calls her a "witch" who only smiled at Adora's peril (sound familiar?). "She just liked to hurt people," Alan tells Camille, not realising that she knows more about that than he ever could.
- Our handsome detective is getting nosey! Even though the murders aren't solved, Richard’s spending his afternoon poking around Camille’s past, asking for hospital records tied to her because he can't stop thinking about Adora's comment about Camille's "episode." He learns that Camille spent time in a hospital, and that her roommate drank poison and died. In the process, Richard learns that being friends with Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) is the best (and fastest) way to get information. The two get drunk at a bar together, which made me realise that we need so many more Jackie-Richard moments in the final two episodes. They have the best rapport.
- I'll never get sick of The Acid's trippy "Tumbling Lights." It so perfectly encapsulates Camille's enchantingly demented hallucinations.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please get help. Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463.