After eight weeks of building tension, making us hate Wind Gap, and giving us Amy Adams at her best, Sharp Objects has come to an end. Its shocking yet satisfying ending was the perfect conclusion to a show centered on trauma, being a daughter, mental illness, and memory.
The finale plays out like a stressful horror movie as Camille and Amma fight to survive, all while clad in thin nightgowns that cling to their sweaty bodies. They are fragile dolls and Adora’s toys to play with, dress up, and torture. To confront her mother about the death of Marian, Camille lets Adora poison her. Adora accepts the task with ease, finally letting Camille enter her room, showering her with love and strange medicines. Adora grabs her tray of medicines like a serial killer pulling out his tray of torture devices, all while smiling that sickly sweet Adora smile. As she prepares Camille’s next dose, Alan mutters, “Don’t go overboard,” proving that he is in fact a human trash heap and has been enabling Adora’s toxic, murderous tendencies. You’ll have to watch the episode to see its final twist, but even having read the book, I gasped comically loud. All I’ll say is that Eliza Scanlen is an actor to watch in the coming years, delivering a devilish performance as Amma Crellin.
The women of Sharp Objects are the show’s strongest quality, particularly Camille, Amma, and Adora. They are all complicated women, dealing with varying degrees of trauma and mental illness. But at the center of it is a need to be loved: Camille and Amma by their mother, and Adora by her daughters. It’s a love that is harsh and literally poisonous, but it’s the only love that they know. But in trying to find that love, they drown their misery in alcohol, self harm, drugs, amaretto sours, and murder. Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen are able to depict this horrific love triangle in such an uncomfortably fascinating way. I found myself wanting more scenes of the three of them together, as queasy as they made me feel.
Gillian Flynn, who wrote Sharp Objects and its script, is known for her creation of nuanced female characters in her novels. Seeing them come to life on screen, particularly Camille, has been so important to representation of complicated women and mental illness. Women are not just one thing: good or bad, healthy or sick, happy or sad. Sharp Objects depicts the nuance of Flynn’s characters while making (some of) them sympathetic. They subvert the expectations of their surroundings, from Camille becoming a journalist to Adora not being the loving mother she presented to the world.
Jean-Marc Vallée was able to capture the intricacies of the Preaker-Crellin family dynamic and actually elaborate on what was presented in Flynn’s novel. The dynamic he created between Adora, Camille, and Amma was, as Patricia Clarkson described it, “borderline incestuous.” They circle around each other like starving sharks, waiting for someone to show a sign of weakness.
Sharp Objects is a show that will stick with viewers for a long time. It was a necessary depiction of how mental illness manifests. It was scary. It was heartbreaking. It was beautiful. It oozed that kind of dread that I’ve been searching for in a TV show. Let’s hope other writers, channels, and directors see Sharp Objects as an example of what to create next – a creeping, unsettling show that develops its characters and lets them breathe without rushing to any conclusions. Here’s to hoping Amy Adams gets that Emmy.