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 disturbing murder-mystery. With Camille Preaker (Adams) back in her spooky hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to investigate the murder of two teen girls, it’s now clear that both the “old money” and “trash” inhabitants of the Bootheel town have motives to kill, even if it seems, with one episode to go, that Adora is Suspect No. 1. Ahead of the Sharp Objects finale on Sunday, here are the most prominent murder suspects on our list.
Don’t even think about loading up another virtuosic classical arrangement into your incredible $112,000 stereo system, Alan! Although the stronger case can be made for Adora after the penultimate episode, too many incriminating things have stacked up against the Crellin “patriarch” and his tasteful pastel sweaters to go unnoticed. Think about Alan’s role in the household and how that can relate to the two murdered girls: His home life isn’t great. Abysmal, even. He only gets rare 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. But most importantly, he’s aware that Adora has been poisoning their daughter for awhile now — “Go listen to your music,” Adora coos when Alan sees her concocting that “medicine” in the kitchen — yet turns a blind eye to it.
Alan needs a catharsis for his emasculation, he needs a release to feel like a man in control of his life, and perhaps it comes in the horrific form of torturing and killing teen girls. The killer is targeting girls around Amma’s age who have healthy, enviable relationships with their own fathers — something that’s unattainable to Alan, at least so long as his wife keeps poisoning Amma. 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,” a “Mexican,” or John Keene 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. 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 he’s trying to cover his tracks. The more complex version is he’s in cahoots with Adora, who’s blackmailing him to assist with depositing the girls’ bodies in a way that puts any blame off her. Lest we forget, the chief is quite handy when it comes to pliers — the same tool used to remove Natalie’s teeth, implying only a man with incredible strength could succeed in such an act.
There’s no use of skirting around the issue here: Adora sure looks guilty, huh? She slowly poisoned her daughter Marian to death, and it looks like she’s doing it again to Amma now, too. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a serious mental disorder, and there’d be nothing better than seeing the Princess of Wind Gap brought to justice for killing her daughter after all of these years. But we have to consider the other issue: Just how involved is she in the deaths of Ann and Natalie? We already know Adora had maternal relationships with both slain girls, whom she took an interest in thanks to their outsider, Camille-esque nature. But their deaths definitely don’t follow the Munchausen by proxy playbook, and it’s doubtful Adora could muster up the strength to rip out Natalie’s teeth with a plier. Our bet is if Adora is indeed involved in the killings, she has a strong-armed accomplice helping her. Whether that accomplice is willing or blackmailed is another story.
Amma Crellin and her roller-skating girl gang
Never underestimate the brutal strength — psychological and physical — of a teenage girl. Or three teenage girls. Even though she’s currently being, uh, poisoned by her mother and unable to hang with her friends, Amma was raised in an incredibly repressive Southern Gothic household that can account for her schismatic behavior. It’s not outrageous to think that when free from the constraints of her mother’s “care”, Amma might choose to rebel in ways that are … abnormal, 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? It doesn’t help that Amma admitted she was friendly with both murdered girls, especially since they didn’t fit the profile — yes, looks and behavioral — of her other friends. But the most reasonable theory is this: If Amma is the killer, she’s continuing the circle of trauma brought forth by her mother.
We initially passed Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) off as a boozy, quasi-spiritual presence in Wind Gap, who’d much rather kick back a dozen gins and don the finest muumuus than float among the town’s drama. (Why get directly involved when you can just gossip about it, anyway?) Her pill-roulette meeting with Camille changed all of that, though. And quick. Not only did we discover Jackie had personally investigated the death of Marian and knows the truth about Adora, but she did nothing about it, owing to the odds stacked against her going up against the town’s golden woman. (“Who the fuck was gonna believe me?”) But wouldn’t someone have believed Jackie in another town, another police jurisdiction, or another hospital, if she tried to get the word out? A life of isolation and alcoholism in her empty home — with no apparent family in the immediate area — coupled with years of harboring this dangerous secret could’ve lead her to lash out against teenage girls of Marion’s age, teenage girls who were developing special relationships to Adora, no less. Don’t you believe she could wield some pliers if she put her mind to it?
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.