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S01.E01: Vanish

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Camille Preaker, a reporter for the St. Louis Chronicle, is sent to her rural hometown of Wind Gap by her editor, Curry, to file a story about two missing girls, one of whom was found dead and presumed murdered. The assignment, which reunites Camille with her overbearing mother, Adora, stepfather, Alan Crellin, and half-sister, Amma, brings back traumatic childhood memories, including the death of Camille’s younger sister, Marian, when both were schoolgirls. Tormented by her past and seeking refuge through alcohol, Camille joins Detective Richard Willis and Chief of Police Vickery in following leads around town that might shed light on the fate of the most recent missing girl.

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Well, that was hella dark. I have not read the book so have no idea what to expect going forward other than copious amounts of alcohol and childhood trauma.

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I can't recall whether these short flashbacks occurred while she was still in St. Louis, driving out -- they showed the Arch several times -- or if they started when she arrived in Wind Gap.

Certainly she didn't start drinking when she returned, because she packed a big duffle bag full of bottles and Kit Kats for her trip.

Tough memories of her sister dying but also pleasant memories -- she and her sister? skateboarding down the road, touching fingers.  

She even remembers that creepy barn with remnants of some country kink scene and gets off on it.

So despite the protestations to her boss, the town still inhabits her consciousness, even if she no longer inhabits it.

 

I'm not entirely clear on how old Camille is suppose to be.  In the opening scenes around town, there are Bush and Clinton/Gore posters on the buildings.  But when Camille and Marian arrive home and sneak up the stairs, they look down on the stepfather in his little den and there's an Obama poster on the wall (and present-day Camille also has one in her St. Louis apt.).

The young Camille looks like she's in her early or mid teens at the oldest in that opening scene?  And the earliest an Obama poster would exist would be 2008-2009.

So are we to assume Camille is still in her 20s, driving an old Volvo, drinking hard liquor and listening to Zeppelin?

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25 minutes ago, hendersonrocks said:

Well, that was hella dark. I have not read the book so have no idea what to expect going forward other than copious amounts of alcohol and childhood trauma.

I haven't read the book either, but it reminded me of Patrick Melrose. Very dark & depressing.

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Very compelling for a first episode. I wasn’t expecting the scars. The editing of this is phenomenal - so many quick cuts, which I usually dislike, yet they took me back in time seamlessly. Looking forward to the next episode. 

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4 minutes ago, scrb said:

I can't recall whether these short flashbacks occurred while she was still in St. Louis, driving out -- they showed the Arch several times -- or if they started when she arrived in Wind Gap.

Certainly she didn't start drinking when she returned, because she packed a big duffle bag full of bottles and Kit Kats for her trip.

Tough memories of her sister dying but also pleasant memories -- she and her sister? skateboarding down the road, touching fingers.  

She even remembers that creepy barn with remnants of some country kink scene and gets off on it.

So despite the protestations to her boss, the town still inhabits her consciousness, even if she no longer inhabits it.

 

I'm not entirely clear on how old Camille is suppose to be.  In the opening scenes around town, there are Bush and Clinton/Gore posters on the buildings.  But when Camille and Marian arrive home and sneak up the stairs, they look down on the stepfather in his little den and there's an Obama poster on the wall (and present-day Camille also has one in her St. Louis apt.).

The young Camille looks like she's in her early or mid teens at the oldest in that opening scene?  And the earliest an Obama poster would exist would be 2008-2009.

So are we to assume Camille is still in her 20s, driving an old Volvo, drinking hard liquor and listening to Zeppelin?

The office with the Obama poster is Camille's apartment.   That was a dream sequence where her dream was taking place in her reality.  

I would say there are about 20 years between Camille and her younger sister.

The casting is perfection, I think I even pictured Adams as Camille when I was reading it.  And Patricia Clarkson!  Incredible.   

That Victorian they're filming in is AMAZING.  

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Also, what scars? I watched it on a big screen and only noticed her thin ankles in the bathtub scene. They must be there. The reviewers said the same thing but it was a blink and miss thing.

Her entire body except for what shows in the outfit she wore all episode* (neck, hands, and I assume feet) is covered in scars that appear to be words. I caught "april" and "vanish" (the episode title is on her forearm, which was the last shot before the credits), which also ties into a few earlier camera shots I noticed - words were carved into her desk in her apartment and "dirty" was written on her trunk.

*Before we got the reveal of her body scars I kept thinking how unbelievably ripe that outfit must be. She was on what, day three of wearing it and sleeping in it at least once? I hope she had some Febreeze in her tote bag along with all the booze.

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So far I’m digging it. And I’m curious to see how it differs from the book. The casting is pretty spot on. I wasn’t sure how all of her scarring and self mutilation would translate to screen but they did an amazing job. 

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Have not read the book, but I am hooked.  Only noticed the last scar, vanish.  When she had all of those little mini bottles of vodka, I wondered if she had a yen for miniatures.  And sure enough, we get to see the doll house.

She did some serious drinking and driving, which is hard to watch.

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1 hour ago, bannana said:

Have not read the book, but I am hooked.  Only noticed the last scar, vanish.  When she had all of those little mini bottles of vodka, I wondered if she had a yen for miniatures.  And sure enough, we get to see the doll house.

She did some serious drinking and driving, which is hard to watch.

I think there's a subset of alcoholism where the tiny airplane sized bottles are not only portable for all day drinking in any situation, they also serve a very powerful form of denial.

Edited by DiabLOL
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This episode was beautifully shot. Since Jean-Marc Vallée directed all of the episodes, I know that no matter what ends up happening plotwise, it will look gorgeous.

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Is the detective the same actor that plays Ben on "The Affair?"  If not, they could pass for brothers.

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1 hour ago, preeya said:

Is the detective the same actor that plays Ben on "The Affair?"  If not, they could pass for brothers.

I know him from The Mindy Project. Messina. He always reminds me of other actors, not himself. But I generally like him. He can be quite funny like Adam Scott. I sort of wish Mark Duplass had been cast. He is my television Ruffalo. Rumpled, almost handsome, an undercurrent of weird.

Edited by jeansheridan · Reason: Because some fixed my error! Thank you.
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29 minutes ago, jeansheridan said:

I know him from The Mindy Project. Messina. He always reminds me of other actors, not himself. But I generally like him. He can be quite funny like Adam Scott. I sort of wish Mark Dupree had been cast. He is my television Ruffalo. Rumpled, almost handsome, an undercurrent of weird.

I think you mean Mark Duplass?  Based on the similar name and your description, because I co-sign this entire post.  I think Messina and Duplass are very similar to the Ruffalo vibe.  

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1 hour ago, preeya said:

Is the detective the same actor that plays Ben on "The Affair?"  If not, they could pass for brothers.

I see they are not the same person, but they could pass for brothers.

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How did I miss the scars? I was deliberately looking for them (big fan of the book, which I read years ago). Her skin looked completely flawless, to me, in the bathtub scene. It actually made me a little indignant. I was watching on my tablet, though. Maybe they don't translate well to a smaller screen. 

 

The casting is perfection and I'm loving the scenery, but I'm not sure I'm engaged. I might have made the mistake of re-reading the book right before this aired. I can't tell if it's that or if the pace was too slow. I felt bored. But maybe that's because I know everything that's going to happen? 

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10 minutes ago, ghoulina said:

How did I miss the scars? I was deliberately looking for them (big fan of the book, which I read years ago). Her skin looked completely flawless, to me, in the bathtub scene. It

Thank you! I think you need HD to see them. I actually freeze framed and put my face right next to my TV screen and then I saw them. Much too subtle. Which, granted, razor scars would be on fair skin. I have scars from leg shaving that barely show but they are there. But this seems to be a major character development reveal and non book readers could easily miss it.

I haven't read the book but here's hoping her stepsister dies soon. I cannot stand that type of "mysterious" teen character.  And her dialog was awful. So die die annoying little girl.

Edited by jeansheridan
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On my viewing (projector/screen) Camille's final "VANISH" scar appeared to glow brighter until the quick cut to black.  Thought it was something supernatural/surreal until I heard about her cutting and rewatched.  Still looked like VANISH was CGI'd to glow to me, still weird.

(Also, the creators are apparently all in with the EDITING = CUTTING, GET IT?!? connection.  So, so many flash cuts in this hour.)

So, "cutting" in just this episode:

  • Younger Camille paper-clip cutting adult Camille's hand in dream
  • Words carved into Camille's desk
  • DIRTY scrawled in dust on Camille's car trunk
  • Cracks in Camille's bedroom ceiling have shape (chicken vs heart)
  • VANISH on Camille's forearm (and other words fainter on her body)
Edited by Penman61
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14 hours ago, jeansheridan said:

More of a biggie for me, how many Southern clichés are we gonna hit? Swimming holes, boys with hunting rifles, big Gothic mansion, a mother out of Tennessee Williams, a Lolita like teen sister, creepy stepfather, and the big city detective who may be from Kansas City but reads New York. And the nearly silent African American maid who knows things. I feel like I have seen this place a billion times. It is high end VC Andrews.

 

Agree.  The maid's tone when she said "You ready for some eggs?" sounded pretty derisive to me.  (And she wears a uniform?  In 2018?!?)  I guess Fecal Revenge Pie is coming...

Edited by Penman61
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11 hours ago, jeansheridan said:

I know him from The Mindy Project. Messina. He always reminds me of other actors, not himself. But I generally like him. He can be quite funny like Adam Scott. I sort of wish Mark Dupree had been cast. He is my television Ruffalo. Rumpled, almost handsome, an undercurrent of weird.

Chris Messina is one of those actors that isn't really famous but he IS recognizable. His resume is long. I think of him first as the husband in Julie and Julia (but I've seen him in a bunch of other things), so it's nice to see him opposite Amy Adams again here.

16 hours ago, DiabLOL said:

I think there's a subset of alcoholism where the tiny airplane sized bottles are not only portable for all day drinking in any situation, they also serve a very powerful form of denial.

 

There was a woman on Intervention who would drink from those bottles - she called them "little red tops" - and say she was rationing them. (Her intervention was successful and she's now an interventionist herself.)

I read the book about five years ago. Patricia Clarkson is perfectly cast as Adora. If you look closely, the word "dirt" is written on Camille's trunk with a finger in the dust on the car, which I thought was a hint at what was to come re: the scar reveal (but I knew it was coming, having read the book). 

Spoiler

In the book, Camille talks about wanting to cut - in stressful situations, certain words that relate to those situations "reveal" themselves to her and she wants to carve them into herself. Reading the book, I envisioned the scars as raised, maybe some keloids. If I recall correctly, the only place on her skin that is unmarked aside from her face is a patch on her back that she can't reach.

Edited by saoirse · Reason: Added spoiler tags to book references
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1 hour ago, jeansheridan said:

I know him from The Mindy Project. Messina. He always reminds me of other actors, not himself. But I generally like him. He can be quite funny like Adam Scott. I sort of wish Mark Duplass had been cast. He is my television Ruffalo. Rumpled, almost handsome, an undercurrent of weird.

Hee--I mentally cast Ruffalo while reading the book!

I can take or leave Messina, based on other roles in which I've seen him. Not a lot for him to do this episode, so I'll reserve judgment for now.

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Re the scars, I saw them all over her, from neck to ankles, shoulders to wrists, and across her back--although I couldn't read what most of them said. My t.v is HD, but on the older side, and I really should be wearing glasses when watching. Of course, having read the book, I was waiting for them, so that may have helped my "focus". Maybe how much light is in the room where you watch might also have something to do with how easy/difficult the scars are to pick up? I actually really liked how most of them were very light in color, as old scars would (eventually) be.

Edited by spaceghostess · Reason: typo
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20 hours ago, jeansheridan said:

More of a biggie for me, how many Southern clichés are we gonna hit? Swimming holes, boys with hunting rifles, big Gothic mansion, a mother out of Tennessee Williams, a Lolita like teen sister, creepy stepfather, and the big city detective who may be from Kansas City but reads New York. And the nearly silent African American maid who knows things. I feel like I have seen this place a billion times. It is high end VC Andrews.

Yeah, lots of familiar story elements. Hope the entire story isn't as predictable as the first ep. Reminds me of Sinner, which became so boring that I bailed after the penultimate ep. Clarkson's character and home situation is over the top, like a bad play. On the plus side, this is beautifully shot and has a great cast (with the exception of the guy playing the dead girl's brother). The funeral flashback was shot like Clarice's in Silence of the Lambs.

Edited by numbnut
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During her night drive back to Wind Gap, we see a freeway overpass sign that says "Last Exit To Change Your Mind."

Is that a thing?

Also, did Camille's radio display "WRONG" at one point?

What is going ON?!? /bettydraper

Edited by Penman61
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10 minutes ago, Penman61 said:

During her night drive back to Wind Gap, we see a freeway overpass sign that says "Last Exit To Change Your Mind."

Is that a thing?

Ha, I wondered this too - I was like, is that some sort of St Louis tourism campaign that only people who live in or have visited St Louis would get? They think you might change your mind about ever leaving once you've been there? I read reviews, though, that suggested this was a tip-off that we're very much seeing things from Camille's POV. Not sure how I feel about a magical realism overlay - and it also makes it seem like The Affair, except with not other, counterbalancing perspective to compare against.

In the opening dream, where Camille and her sister sneak into their own house and creep up the stairs, trying to evade notice, do we see the stepfather in the living room, examining a record album, just like he does in the later, actual scene? I was confused about how long he and Adora have been married, and if he was around when Camille was younger, or that was just dream logic, kind of half dream and half premonition.

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9 minutes ago, BingeyKohan said:

I was confused about how long he and Adora have been married, and if he was around when Camille was younger, or that was just dream logic, kind of half dream and half premonition.

Alan is the father of both Marian and Amma. He's been around almost all of Camille's life. So his appearance in a flashback makes sense. I didn't notice him, though. I thought I saw Adora in the kitchen, but that's it. Maybe I really shouldn't be watching this on my tablet. I'm missing so much!

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No way she could carve the word on the back side of her arm herself.

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1 hour ago, Penman61 said:

During her night drive back to Wind Gap, we see a freeway overpass sign that says "Last Exit To Change Your Mind."

Is that a thing?

Also, did Camille's radio display "WRONG" at one point?

What is going ON?!? /bettydraper

 

Screengrabs to help:

[Dollhouse painting has "GIRL" scrawled on it.]

 

 

 

 

Screenshot 2018-07-09 10.16.52.jpg

Screenshot 2018-07-09 09.55.06-2.jpg

Screenshot 2018-07-09 10.25.02-2.jpg

Screenshot 2018-07-09 10.27.07-2.jpg

Edited by Penman61
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When Natalie Keene's body is found in the alleyway window, seems noteworthy that her brother, John (whom Camille had just talked to at the makeshift memorial), doesn't run over with the other teens to see what the screaming is about.  Yes?  Or am I confusing characters?

Edited by Penman61
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Btw, the first quick cut (first screengrab below) of Camille's trunk says "DIRT" (though it's not there in the previous shot of the trunk's lid).

But it later says "DIRTY" when she's putting on her lipstick before going to her Mom's house (second screengrab).  This, I think, connects to Camille's trying to remove the coroner's lipstick from her sister at the funeral.  

 

Screenshot 2018-07-09 09.53.28-3.jpg

Screenshot 2018-07-09 10.08.48-2.jpg

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I didn't like that as much as I thought I would. Haven't read the book, so wasn't expecting/watching for certain things. I didn't notice the scars. Hated the town and everyone in it, and I have no sympathy for alcoholics.

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4 hours ago, jeansheridan said:

But this seems to be a major character development reveal and non book readers could easily miss it.

I'm a non-book reading viewer and totally missed the scars. I felt there was something I was supposed to get from the bathtub scene, like it felt important the way they filmed it, but I couldn't figure out what it was. So thank you all for pointing out the scars. Never would have known they were there otherwise.

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No way she could carve the word on the back side of her arm herself.

But why? I can reach every part of both my arms with the opposite hands.

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1 hour ago, Mabinogia said:

I'm a non-book reading viewer and totally missed the scars. I felt there was something I was supposed to get from the bathtub scene, like it felt important the way they filmed it, but I couldn't figure out what it was. So thank you all for pointing out the scars. Never would have known they were there otherwise.

Yeah, I think the scar reveal was a miss. They should have made them, or at least some of them, red or raised or both, or changed the lighting in that scene so they were easier to spot. I read an article that said the scars took 3-4 hours to apply every day; I feel kind of bad for whoever had to do that work and for Amy Adams having to stand there while they were applied that they were missed by so many. Maybe they're going to highlight a word at the end of each episode like they did with "vanish."

44 minutes ago, TattleTeeny said:

But why? I can reach every part of both my arms with the opposite hands.

Yeah, I just tried and I can easily reach around and scratch all over my arms with the opposite hands.

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I read the book last summer, and this seems to be nailing the books tone, and the casting is spot on. Amy Adams is a great choice for Camille, and I love the woman playing Adora. She really has that aging southern debutante thing going on. It is very Southern Gothic (old timie soundtrack, aging drunken southern bell, tons of broken down buildings, Victorian mansion, etc.), but I think thats kind of the point. The whole town is stuck in the past, reliving old memories, and thats why it seems to be stuck in the middle of a Tennessee Williams play. Of course, that was always a big theme of many of Williams southern Gothic plays. The south, especially its old money landed gentry, are obsessed with holding onto a past that is long gone, and that its inability to live in the modern times is holding them all back. 

I didnt see the scars the first time, but I did looking back later. 

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Do we know how Adora went from trash to big house with a maid? Is it just the stepfather's money?

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I think the big thing to remember about Adora's character is that we are really only meant to view her through Camille's eyes. And what woman doesn't see her mother as a charicature or larger-than-life presence? One of my favorite things about the narrative is how biased it is from Camille's perspective. If I had shot this, it would take place entirely through Camille's eyes and the only thing we'd see of her are her scars as she looks down on them. 

Spoiler

The book as written leaves very little room for "realism" or balanced perspective. We're mostly inside Camille's tortured, drunken, warped head. And while it's uncomfortable, it's a choice I've come to grips with. As a loyalist to the original written material, I adore this show already. But if I hadn't read the book, I don't know if I'd be able to follow this show or get invested. Newbies might find this "slow." All I can say is it will be worth the initial investment.

Edited by saoirse · Reason: Added spoiler tags to book references
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Vulture/New York magazine (which promises to be obsessed with this show, from coverage so far) posted a piece identifying all the embedded words we "may have missed" in the first episode. (I'll post link in media thread) True to form, I missed almost all of them. I do think it might have been clearer that this would be a tendency of the adult Camille if the young Camille seemed to be a word collector, or muttered a word here and there to stick a "label" on something she noticed. Unless I missed her doing that? It also makes me reconsider Elizabeth Perkins' muttering "beauty, beauty, beauty" at Camille as she walked away from her in the search party scene. That was almost another form of a word being imprinted, except verbally rather than physically.

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8 hours ago, jeansheridan said:

I haven't read the book but here's hoping her stepsister dies soon. I cannot stand that type of "mysterious" teen character.  And her dialog was awful. So die die annoying little girl.

When Camille is talking to her editor Curry about her mom, she says that Adora and her current husband have a kid which makes Camille and Amma half-sisters, not step-sisters. But yeah, Amma came off as pretentious and like she was trying too hard to be mysterious and knowledgeable. Then again, I guess a lot of tweens/teens can act that way in front of someone they’re trying to impress so now I can’t decide if she is being written as very realistic or just really obnoxious.

19 hours ago, jeansheridan said:

I feel like I have seen this place a billion times. It is high end VC Andrews.

Ha, perfect description! 

Not only did I not see the scars, but there was some mumbling that I couldn’t understand even after I rewound and listened to the specific line 10+ times. 

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8 hours ago, ghoulina said:

How did I miss the scars? I was deliberately looking for them (big fan of the book, which I read years ago). Her skin looked completely flawless, to me, in the bathtub scene. It actually made me a little indignant. I was watching on my tablet, though. Maybe they don't translate well to a smaller screen. 

 

The casting is perfection and I'm loving the scenery, but I'm not sure I'm engaged. I might have made the mistake of re-reading the book right before this aired. I can't tell if it's that or if the pace was too slow. I felt bored. But maybe that's because I know everything that's going to happen? 

I envisioned the scars very differently when I was reading the book.  I thought Camille's body was 'filled' with words, and they were more pinkish-red, and more noticeable.  These scars look more like white tattoos and not so obvious. 

 

Even though I know what's going to happen, I still wish that they released the series all at once on Netflix or Stan or something.  One episode a week seems too slow.

 

 

2 hours ago, Empress1 said:

Yeah, I think the scar reveal was a miss. They should have made them, or at least some of them, red or raised or both, or changed the lighting in that scene so they were easier to spot. I read an article that said the scars took 3-4 hours to apply every day; I feel kind of bad for whoever had to do that work and for Amy Adams having to stand there while they were applied that they were missed by so many. Maybe they're going to highlight a word at the end of each episode like they did with "vanish."

Yeah, I just tried and I can easily reach around and scratch all over my arms with the opposite hands.

Agreed.  I thought the scars would look more like how they would look if you wrote the words with a faint red pen on your body.

 

 

2 hours ago, cpcathy said:

Do we know how Adora went from trash to big house with a maid? Is it just the stepfather's money?

Adora is actually from Old Money.  Her family made their fortune from the pig farms in their town and a lot of people from the town work in the pork-processing factory. 

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2 hours ago, BingeyKohan said:

Vulture/New York magazine (which promises to be obsessed with this show, from coverage so far) posted a piece identifying all the embedded words we "may have missed" in the first episode. (I'll post link in media thread) True to form, I missed almost all of them.

Here are some pix from the Vulture blog:

ask.w710.h473.2x.jpg

bad-a-drunk.w710.h473.2x.jpg

tolerate-limit.w710.h473.2x.jpg

dont-be-a-victim.w710.h473.2x.jpg

Edited by numbnut
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53 minutes ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

 Not only did I not see the scars, but there was some mumbling that I couldn’t understand even after I rewound and listened to the specific line 10+ times. 

I may read too much NY mag but they ALSO posted a piece on this annoying phenomenon. You’re not alone!

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For me, this is just another jumbled hard to follow series that leaves a trail of ongoing mysterious clues and no doubt it will go on and on and on to some boring conclusion like True Detective 1. 

After Westworld and The Sinner and so many others that provide frustrating disappointing solutions, I am not sure if I can invest weeks of cliffhangers on this layered intrigue. I am better off sticking with The Night Of or The Affair where one mystery will be answered in a somewhat believable and grounded way. 

For me, Sharp Objects is written by smug writers who are more in love with their ability to build artistic scenes that motivate curiosity than to provide clarity. The style is becoming too frustrating. 

Edited by DakotaLavender
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1 hour ago, SarahPrtr said:

Adora is actually from Old Money.  Her family made their fortune from the pig farms in their town and a lot of people from the town work in the pork-processing factory. 

Right. When Camille said, "Trash. That comes from old money" she was referring to herself.

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A reminder - as per the pinned mod note in the main forum; this topic is to discuss the episode, not the book. Posts that reference the books have been spoiler tagged; in the future, they may be removed. Please keep discussion of the book to the topic marked Book Talk, and if you do make a reference in here, please spoiler tag it.

That said - discussion of the scar reveals and the coverage of it is fine in here, as it's about the episode itself. Thank you for your cooperation!

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Like Big Little Lies, I read the book years ago and forgot a lot. That said, the feel is appropriately dark and the casting is spot on.  How many gingers can there be in one town?

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