Each episode of HBO’s latest limited series invokes more and more anxiety, and its fifth episode, “Closer,” takes the cake. The episode centers around Wind Gap’s Calhoun Day, a celebration of the town’s Civil War history, right as Camille’s latest article on the murder investigation is published. While preparing for her leading performance in the day’s festivities, Amma confronts her sister about what she’s written and knowingly makes matters worse by telling Adora about the article. This leads to a tense scene that has been bound to take place, but no less excruciating to watch. After her mother harasses her to come out of the dressing room while trying on dresses for the day’s festivities, Camille reveals her scar-ridden body to her little sister, only furthering Adora’s annoyance. Since Camille arrived, Amma has begged to know why Adora claims that her sister is “dangerous” and she finally gets her answer. Her age becomes apparent in these moments, as she is forced to see not everything is fun and games. Alone in the dressing room, Camille lets out a big, slightly muffled scream and Adams’ ability to allow her character to feel and let go of her contained composure makes for one of the most chilling and heart-wrenching scenes of the series so far.
As Calhoun Day revolves around events that took place in the deeply southern Wind Gap in the Civil War era, Adora’s party is riddled with Confederate flags and little boys dressed up as Confederate soldiers. Kansas City detective, Richard, mirrors the audience’s perspective as he can’t comprehend the need to celebrate a history steeped in racism, while also aware of the little influence he has. We finally get more chilly Elizabeth Perkins screen time as Jackie – her vaping is easily one of the episode’s highlights. The rest of the town appears to be wrapped around Adora’s finger, but Jackie has no interest in playing her games and obviously gets under the matriarch’s skin. Another reason to enjoy Perkin’s character is she’s the only Wind Gap native who seems to understand that Camille isn’t dangerous. Jackie may not have been featured in the series much, but each time she appears it seems like she will be the person to expose Adora’s secrets.
In participating in the day’s fun, the townspeople also find time to gossip about if the killer is Bob Nash or John Keene, some going as far as taking bets. It’s disturbing that, despite the severity of the crimes committed, the people of Wind Gap don’t seem to register that it’s not just a murder mystery. When Camille follows Richard to break up the fight between Nash and Keene, Amma dashes from the stage and hides in the creepy shed in the woods. While also under the influence of an unidentified drug, Amma’s actions look like a demand for attention, exemplifying her age once again.
If the previous episodes didn’t prove it enough, “Closer” solidifies what we already know: Adora is unfathomably cruel and quite possibly the worst type of mother Camille needs in her life. She actively sabotages her eldest daughter’s relationship with others and allows people to believe Camille is a terrible person, specifically in sharing intimidate details of her past to Richard without permission. Worst of all, she explicitly tells Camille that she never loved her. Adora may be despicable, but Clarkson portrays her genuine belief that she is right so well it’s scary. The first four episodes show Camille’s slow progression towards madness and the series’ latest addition highlights her need to explode. Curry sent Camille back to Wind Gap in an attempt to help her, but being in her hometown only heightens her issues. The investigation is certainly important, but being in that town is only causing her more emotional harm.