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.
As the end of Sharp Objects approaches, I keep thinking there’s no way this show could get any more upsetting, raw, and tense. And each week, I’m proven wrong. In the penultimate episode to HBO’s limited series, the pain, cruelty, and suffering of each character seems to reach its peak.
The episode begins with a surprisingly tender moment as Adora tries to take care of Camille after her night of partying with Amma. However, Camille is quick to reject such attention, pushing her away and refusing medicine from a rather large blue bottle. As Camille is leaving the house, she checks on a hungover Amma, who says, “You know what my favorite part of getting wasted is? Mama takes care of me after.” She also reveals that John is about to be arrested for the murders of Anne and Natalie. Camille rushes to John’s girlfriend’s house, while Richard, on the other hand, does his own investigation: This time, it’s into the death of Marian Crellin. As he speaks to nurses and reads old medical records, it becomes increasingly clear that Adora suffers from Munchausen by proxy, a disorder where a caretaker makes someone sick on purpose. There are not only records for Marian, but for Amma’s various hospitalizations. This is juxtaposed with Amma lying sick in bed, sweating, puking, trying to escape her mother’s medication.
As Sharp Objects approaches its final episode, the tension, anxiety, and apprehension is becoming unbearable in a wonderfully captivating way. In episode six, “Cherry”, we learn that underneath the shiny and luscious outside of Wind Gap is a deep, dark pit. This episode confronts the shiny facade of Wind Gap’s domestic life and the angst that lies just beneath the surface.
Episode six opens on three different groups waking up: Camille and Richard, Alan, and Chief Vickery. The two in particular that are in such stark contrast to one another are Alan and Chief Vickery. Alan wakes up on a pullout couch, where Adora has sequestered him. He starts his day alone, glimpsing a pile of vintage porn on the table. Alan is a symbol for hidden household dysfunction; while his wife and home appear perfect, he is pushed to another floor, to a bed that isn’t truly his. Then there is Vickery, who’s waking up sequence is almost exactly the same as in episode four. He has a set routine and a wife that cares for him. His unchanging routine is a breath of stability in a time of utter chaos. It’s a small sequence of events, but it speaks volumes about what happens behind closed doors despite the shiny airs put on to impress others.
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.
“Shit, still in Wind Gap,” Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) mutters as he wakes up in his sweltering hotel room. Yes, Willis, we are still in Wind Gap and we’re now halfway through Sharp Objects. The fourth episode in the series is a kick to the face, addressing sexual assault, sexual tension, and the festering pain of the Preaker-Crellin family.
Adora is still whimpering about her hand, which she cut while trimming her roses. The small flesh wound is now being used as an excuse to have her husband, Alan, cut her breakfast and to cancel her social engagements. This means Camille must go meet Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) and friends alone. The older women are just as gossip-focused as the rest of the town; No one is safe from their sharp tongues.
In contrast to the murders of the teenage girls addressed in the first two episodes, Sharp Object‘s third episode opens with a group of kids out partying after the mandated curfew, including Amma. The wild child then goes on to crash a golf cart in her mother’s rosebushes and is discovered by her “dangerous” big sister, Camille. As Camille nurses her drunken state, Amma bombards her with questions about her life and declares how much she wants to know her sister, though her sincerity is questionable. This spurs another one of Camille’s flashbacks, this time revealing that, not long before returning to Wind Gap, she checked herself into rehab for her cutting. While there she meets her roommate Alice, a young girl who wears long, black clothes and listens to music through headphones, much like Camille in the present.
As episode one ended with Natalie Keene’s death, episode two begins with her funeral. Here, Camille must finally show her face to the whole town in quite a public way, all while trying to report this story. We begin to see Camille battling memories and anxieties, not just associated with her mother, but with returning home to a town full of secrets and whispers. Episode two explores the toxicity and gossip of Wind Gap, the anxieties that arise when coming home and the destructive ways we cope with those anxieties.
As Camille sits at the funeral, Jackie mutters a stream of gossip right into Camille’s ear, pointing out who is who in the family, remarking about Natalie’s brother crying too much, and more. Not even funerals are sacred in this town — in fact, this just throws more fuel on the gossip fire. The gossip only continues at the funeral reception in the Keene home. The whispers are amplified when Camille arrives, making you painfully aware that people are talking about her. It echoes the experience of returning home so well: you enter a crowded house, pretend to smile, but have a heightened sense of awareness as people stare too long or whisper behind their glasses. How does Camille cope? The drink, of course.