This story discusses theories for HBO’s Sharp Objects, and not Gillian Flynn’s 2006 novel that inspired the series. Please don’t reveal any book spoilers in the comments!
Between all of those beautifully edited flashbacks and the dynamic duo of Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson — plus the music, swoon, the music! — it’s easy to forget that Sharp Objects is, in fact, a pretty disturbing murder-mystery. With Camille Preaker (Adams) sent back to her spooky hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to investigate the murder of two teen girls, it’s becoming clear that both the “old money” and “trash” inhabitants of the Bootheel town all have motives to kill. Three episodes into the limited series, here are the most prominent murder suspects on our list thus far.
Don’t even think about loading up another virtuosic classical arrangement into your incredible $80,000 stereo system, Alan! Everything is stacking up against the Crellin “patriarch” and his tasteful pastel sweaters at this point, which was amplified at the end of episode three when he let out a silent, muffled scream into his fist during a bought of frustration. (Out of sight from his wife and child, of course.) We still don’t know much about the intricacies of Alan’s life, and that’s probably for the best. But his home life doesn’t look so great, huh? He gets no affection from his daughter Amma (Eliza Scanlen), even less affection from his wife, Adora (Clarkson) — they’ve been sleeping in separate bedrooms for a while now — and he seems to only get enjoyment when he’s sitting alone in his music room, ears blissfully cocooned in headphones. He needs a catharsis for his emasculation, he needs a release, and perhaps it comes in the horrific form of torturing and killing teen girls. Think about it: The killer is targeting girls around Amma’s age who have healthy, enviable relationships with their own fathers — something that’s unattainable to Alan. Personally, I’m waiting for our onscreen Eureka! moment when Alan’s unveiled as the psycho killer and he changes out Paris Jazz Piano to Talking Heads: 77.
Chief Bill Vickery
To put it lightly, Wind Gap’s reigning king of one-liners doesn’t seem good at his job. He’s incapable of believing anyone other than an “out-of-towner” or “Mexican” would do such terrible crimes, eschewing the reasonable theory from Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) that both murdered girls are connected by crimes of passion from people they already knew: “Passion doesn’t always have to equal sex,” Willis (Matt Craven) argues. “This type of thing can scratch a different kind of itch. Power. Control.”
The simple version of Vickery’s aversion to thoroughly investigating all angles of the crimes, or using Willis and Camille as useful assets in the investigation, is that he’s the murderer himself and trying to cover his tracks. The more complex version is that he’s genuinely a lazy cop who can barely be bothered to emerge from his cozy police chambers. But lest we forget, the chief is quite handy when it comes to pliers — the same tool used to remove Natalie Keene’s teeth, implying only a man with incredible strength could succeed in such an act.
The “woman in white” comparisons aside — yes, she likes to wear a lot of chic white outfits, but is that a red herring? — Adora’s constant exasperation at Camille doing the basics of her job and investigating the murders couldn’t be owing to her repressive nature, but rather to the fact that she committed the murders and doesn’t want anyone to find out. (She goes so far to say Camille is “embarrassing the family” as a reporter, which, huh?) We already know Adora had maternal relationships with both slain girls, but perhaps the relationships had a more twisted, sinister edge that ultimately led to her snapping and killing them. Or, who knows, Adora could be an accomplice by knowing about her husband’s crimes and covering for him. She sure loves playing Chief Vickery like a gas-lit fiddle.
Amma Crellin and her roller-skating girl gang
Never underestimate the brutal strength — psychological and physical — of a teenage girl. Or three teenage girls. Being raised in such a repressive Southern Gothic household, it’s not outrageous to think Amma might choose to rebel in ways that are … not normal, in order to assert her dominance, especially when her devoted posse of friends are willing to do anything for their queen bee. Take this bit of dialogue between Camille and one of Amma’s pals in episode two, when the elder sister gives the teens a few bucks for their vodka-Sprite combo:
“Amma, Momma wants you home and I want you home. It’s dangerous out there, people are killing little girls.”
“Not the cool ones.”
Is this the voice of a stupidly delusional teen, or one who let slip that they’re out of harm’s way because they’re the ones doing the harming?
Sure, this one is really out there in terms of likelihood — we did see Marian’s funeral after all — but if we wanted to fully lean into the potential of Camille being an unreliable narrator thanks to her alcoholism and mental-health issues, why not consider the chance that Marian never actually died and Camille is conflating her flashback memories with another dead girl? What if Marian, knowing full well that her half-sister is a scoop-hungry journalist up north, begins killing girls in the hopes of luring Camille to find her? If we’re totally going down the rabbit hole here, perhaps Adora and Alan are aware of her existence and violent tendencies, and try to hide it from the town? That’d one be one hell of a third-act twist.
Everybody in Wind Gap
Bless this Reddit user for adding a bit of levity to an otherwise very gruesome murder-mystery. What if the town, in an act of Hot Fuzz–esque defiant behavior, banded together to rid themselves of its most “undesirable” — to them, those who don’t live up to their high southern standards of decorum — young people? It would provide easy alibis for everyone if the townspeople had a constant carousel of murderers, that’s for sure.