In “Ripe,” the perspective shifts to teens of Wind Gap — both in the past and in the present. Camille’s formative years in the small town bring her pain and pleasure, as her own prolonged adolescence continues to bleed into the gripping narrative of Sharp Objects.
The first moments of this week’s episode show what the start of a new day means for each character in the drama. For Camille (Amy Adams), one day merges with the next like waking suddenly — her past and present are porous, and her perpetual reveries yield to reality with harsh jolts. “Ripe,” the fourth episode of Jean-Marc Vallée’s murder mystery mini-series on HBO opens with Camille retrieving the phone she impulsively threw into a field at the end of last week’s show. The memories of self-harm and suicide are still fresh in her mind as she turns the car around and heads back to Wind Gap, the setting of so may of her nightmares. The flashes of memory and visual hallucinations that haunted her as she sped away from town continue to flicker in her rear view as she returns home. In flashback, Camille finds her mother sobbing on her dead sister’s bed, the morning of Camille’s own 18th birthday. Camille is now long-haired and wearing a cheerleader uniform.
Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) awakens in his motel room and as though voicing Camille’s own thoughts he says “Shit. Still in Wind Gap.” Detective Willis is disappointed and impatient at the prospect of another day working on an investigation with no leads. The police chief’s morning ritual isn’t interrupted by a stalled case — Vickery (Matt Craven) awakens to a typical breakfast made by his wife, and an atypical act of vandalism. On his way into the office, he happens upon a stop sign with what appears to be a bullet hole in it. Willis is also an unwelcome surprise, already waiting in Vickery’s office when the chief arrives. Willis plans to meet up with Camille later, who he believes knows something pertinent to the case. Camille is also working Willis — she tells her editor (who calls her while undergoing chemotherapy) that she thinks she can get a story out of Willis. He’s agreed to answer a question on the record for every crime scene Camille shows him.
Amma’s (Eliza Scanlen) morning is spent cyberbullying — she and her cohorts are creating mean memes of John (the brother of one of the murdered girls). Amma briefly leaves her mean girl clique to apologize to Camille for her behavior the night before. Camille brushes her off and heads out to brunch with her mother’s gossiping friends. They’re all convinced John — the brother of Natalie, murdered — had something to do with the murders. Later at school, Amma rehearses for an upcoming town celebration — Calhoun Day. She improvises a new section about arming women with guns in Wind Gap. Amma clearly has an impulse to protect herself, and why not when girls her age keep getting murdered? She is acting on it (no pun intended) by imagining an all-female militia Her accompanist/teacher Mr. Lacey is disproportionately pissed off by her performance, and storms out for a cigarette. Amma grabs her older teacher’s hand. It’s unclear whether Amma has done this before, but it is evident that she exudes the kind of confidence — real or put-on — that could provoke such a gesture.
Sex precipitates discovery in “Ripe”. On a tour of Wind Gap crime scenes, Camille and Willis discuss ancient Wind Gap history and the potential whys and hows of its latest murders. Camille is the sounding board that Willis doesn’t get from the Vickery, who is busy back in town flirting with Adora (Patricia Clarkson) right under her husband Alan’s nose. Willis, meanwhile, coaxes Camille to reveals that she may have been one of many girls who may or may not has been raped by a member of the football team. Then, Camille shows him the hunting shed seen as the set of a sexual fantasy in Camille’s flashbacks. There are pictures of naked women in compromising positions on the walls. Willis develops a theory that the two girls were both murdered or at least initial apprehended at this creepy shed where they used to play. The sexual tension between Camille and Willis nearly culminates with a kiss, but Camille refuses his mouth and instead pushes his hand into her pants. Her mind flashes to the disturbing images of blood and corpses that excite her sexually. It isn’t until later, back at the house that Camille lets him kiss her. Even this elicits memories of a day in the woods back when she was a teen. Adora calls her out when she returns to the home. “You smell ripe,” she tells her daughter, before stalking up the stairs. Elsewhere that night in Wind Gap teens Ashley and John are fooling around, but John isn’t interested. Desperately, Ashley offers herself to him to try and get him to stay, but he heads out for a drive anyway. When he leaves, Ashley discovers a red stain under the bed where she knelt before, and frantically bleaches the carpet and her arms. John catches another spider and replaces it in the jar Camille emptied days earlier.
Camille speeds out to the bar, and John arrives not far behind her. “Do you ever get over it,” John asks her, “losing a sister?” The pair have both felt the grief of losing a sibling, and drown their sorrows in whiskey served by a bartender with a spider tattoo on his arm. Natalie, John’s deceased sister, loved spiders. John reveals that apparently Bob Nash believed that Natalie was a bad influence on his daughter, Anne. But the final piece of information John shares is most significant — Amma too was close with these two murdered girls, and used to play in the very hunting shed that Detective Willis believes connects the murders.
The final moments of Ripe accelerate quickly, but because Vallée has trained viewers to glean so much from half second flashes of visual information, the events unfold somewhat coherently. Alan blasts “I Will Wait for You” from the 1964 musical Umbrellas of Cherboug while drinking whiskey. He rips of his headphones and charges up the stairs to confronts Adora about flirting with Vickery earlier that evening. Camille grips her steering wheel and speeds down the road towards the hunting shed, visions of a murdered Amma on the floor propelling her forward. Amma skates down the road, followed by the headlights of a car whose driver is unseen. Other images (a gun, more dead girls, a surprised Willis) are less intelligible. Four episodes remain for the secrets of Wind Gap to unfold.
Ripe was written by Vince Calandra, Gillian Flynn, and Marti Nixon and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
Photos and video credit courtesy of HBO.
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