This post contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Sharp Objects.
Three episodes in, it’s still not clear what HBO’s Sharp Objects is about, exactly. A string of murders in a small Missouri town? The secrets of Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), a journalist addicted to booze, self-harm, and flashbacks? The ominousness of swivel fans? The creator/writer Marti Noxon’s elliptical storytelling and the director Jean-Marc Vallée’s wandering gaze make for an immersive trip, but one in which you can’t guess at even the next mile.
One thing is clear, though. This is a show about music. The title sequence opens with a needle descending on a record player, and the accompanying song changes week to week. Camille is the hyperactive DJ of her own life, queuing up tunes on her cracked iPhone when on drives, in bed, and in the bath. Her stepdad plays piano, and the town’s social life revolves around a karaoke bar. Almost always, the soundtrack is diegetic: Viewers hear the same thing as the characters do.
Which isn’t surprising given the show’s pedigree. Last year, Vallée brought his alternately gauzy and jittery sensibility to Big Little Lies, another female-led murder-mystery miniseries that, in a very real way, revolved around songs. The children on the show had an eerily deep knowledge of David Bowie, and the parents conducted their skullduggery while humming to the Temptations. Most of the music was diegetic, and the concept of listening was, itself, thematic: a proxy for how people dwell on their own frequencies but can connect by sharing what’s in their heads.