With the first hint of autumn in the air, it’s the time of year when a man’s mind turns to finding himself a suitably noirish crime drama to devour in one weekend, surrounded by snacks and pillows.
Fortunately, Sharp Objects fits the bill perfectly. A murder mystery set in a backwoods town dripping in modern-Gothic ghastliness, it’s a welcome dose of darkness after the sunnier summer scheduling.
From the powerhouse cast to a truly nightmarish plot, here are the five key ingredients that make Sharp Objects your next essential binge-watch.
1. The main character is hugely complex
Call off the search because this is it… 2018’s definitive TV performance. As troubled journalist Camille, Amy Adams will make you feel everything in what’s probably her juiciest role to date.
As her character tries to get to the bottom of a particularly gruesome string of child-killings taking place in her home town, Adams turns into a one-woman show reel, howling in anguish one minute, seducing a useful FBI contact the next.
Whether sparring with her nightmarish mother (Patricia Clarkson), or butting heads with local law-enforcement, grief, deep-seated trauma and barely-contained rage are never far away from the surface.
It’s a truly stunning performance, so don’t be surprised to see Adams cleaning up when awards season rolls around.
2. It’s visually beautiful
The subject matter might be pitch-black, but Sharp Objects is undeniably easy on the eye, right from the off. As the camera sweeps through the washed-out Americana of Wind Gap, Missouri, you know you’re going to be in for a visual feast.
Jean-Marc Vallée is the man behind the camera, a director best known for capturing the sprawling Californian coastlines of Big Little Lies. This one might not be quite so fresh-faced as that show, but it’s every bit as cinematic.
With fragmented flashbacks weaved into shot like a visual stream of consciousness, it’s a hypnotic, disorienting experience.
In a show where nothing is quite how it seems, and absolutely everyone seems to be hiding something, it’s a visual trick that suits the story to a tee.
You won’t be able to take your eyes off it.
3. The soundtrack is incredible
It’s nothing new to see HBO splash the cash on a killer soundtrack, but Sharp Objects has seemingly pulled off the impossible by featuring a whole bunch of Led Zeppelin tracks, music that’s notoriously difficult to procure the rights to.
Even Richard Linklater couldn’t get his hands on the title song for Dazed And Confused, so tricky are Plant and Page to deal with.
No mean feat then that Vallée managed to get sign-off for as many tracks as he wanted, with the band giving him carte blanche to do with them as he chose.
It’s not just window-dressing, either.
The show’s musical choices are key to the central mystery, with various clues and hints dotted throughout the soundtrack.
When Camille fires up the iPod, you better make sure you’re listening closely and making a fire playlist.
4. It’s creepy as all hell
If you like your crime dramas grim and grisly, you’re in for a treat. Make no mistake about it, this is a show that doesn’t pull its punches.
Sharp Objects marks the first foray into television by production company Blumhouse, home to the nerve-shredding likes of Get Out, Sinister and Paranormal Activity, and while strictly a crime drama, there’s more than a little horror on show here.
Harrowing visions, hollow-eyed locals and dead little girls all play a part in the narrative, but it’s the general feeling of dread that’s the most troubling.
You’ll find yourself watching through your fingers, even when there’s nothing overtly scary on screen. Tension for days…
5. It’s a complete story
It’s well-established that we’re living in a golden age of television, but with every other show earning a recommission at the first sniff of audience interest, it’s genuinely refreshing to see a complete plot played out in just eight episodes.
There will be no second series. This is actually it.
Sharp Objects knows exactly where it’s going from episode one, and you can be sure of a satisfying ending come episode eight. Although whether you’ll see it coming is another matter…
While lots of shows feel as though they’re stringing out the narrative for the sake of building a franchise, it’s very satisfying to know you’re watching a fully realised story.
Download Sharp Objects now on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play and Sky Store.