HBO's newest limited series has plenty of mysteries at its core, and not all of them are about the two murdered girls and who killed them. Many of the lingering questions have to do with Camille Preaker's own past. Like: what happened in the shed on Sharp Objects? Spoilers through Episode 3 ahead. So far, the adaptation of Gillian Flynn's 2006 debut novel has examined the trauma of Camille's dead sister, her habit of self-harm, and her stint in a rehabilitation clinic. But her experience in the creepy cabin in the woods remains a mystery… for now.
This is definitely a question the show wants viewers to be asking, given that the promo for July 29's fourth episode of the season, "Ripe," literally has Chris Messina's detective Richard Willis ask Amy Adams' Camille, "Did something happen to you in that shed?" An image of older Camille walking into the shack alongside Richard is immediately juxtaposed with an image of younger Camille walking into the shack in her bathing suit (a sequence first glimpsed in the premiere episode). That image is again quickly followed by a glimpse of another version of young Camille — with long hair and a cheerleader outfit — being followed through the woods by a group of leering boys.
What does this all mean? Does the shed have anything to do with the murders? Was it perhaps the place where Ann Nash and Natalie Keene were taken to be killed?
Spoilers for the Sharp Objects novel from this point on.
In the book at least, the shed isn't tied to any of the present-day murders, but rather has a much more personal connection to Camille. At the end of the first chapter, Camille remembers stumbling upon the small cabin when she was a girl:
"When I was still in grammar school, maybe twelve, I wandered into a neighbor boy's hunting shed, a wood-planked shack where the animals were stripped and split. Ribbons of moist, pink flesh dangled from strings, waiting to be dried for jerky. The dirt floor was rusted with blood. The walls were covered with photographs of naked women. Some of the girls were spreading themselves wide, others were being held down and penetrated. One woman was tied up, her eyes glazed, breasts stretched and veined like grapes, as a man took her from behind. I could smell them all in the thick, gory air."
While some girls may have run horrified or terrified from the shed, Camille had a very different reaction. She recalls that she went home and masturbated for the first time, feeling "sick."
That's how Flynn chooses to end the first chapter of Sharp Objects, with the knowledge that Camille is a complicated woman attracted to, rather than repulsed by, darkness.
As for the other flashes of young Camille in the woods, the ones with the cheerleader uniform, Camille mentions in passing in the book how she "lost her virginity" to a group of boys. On the page, the fact that this event was likely non-consensual is somewhat glossed over from Camille's own inner perspective — but it appears that the show is prepared to interrogate that violent incident for what it was: sexual assault.
While that event is unrelated to the shed in the book, it's unclear whether, on the show, that assault is being linked to the shed in some way — or whether Camille's memories of these two early sexual experiences are simply (and understandably) intertwined in her mind. But what is clear is that "Ripe" is going to be both a difficult watch and an essential one when it comes to fleshing out Camille's character and her complex past.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.