***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Sharp Objects through Episode 8 follow. Spoilers***
Through the course of its shortened television life, the collaborative reimagining of Gillian Flynn’s incredibly dark storytelling has been exemplary and affecting in every way. From the women who dominated onscreen to those behind the scenes and like its HBO sister (Big Little Lies), Sharp Objects is a groundbreaking adaptation — in my mind, quite possibly the best I’ve seen on television. In taking the author’s popular novel from page to plasma, Jean-Marc Vallée, Marti Noxin, Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and Eliza Scanlen breathed palpable life into these wholly absorbing and devastating characters, veracity intact. In its quiet desperation, each of eight segments swallowed viewers entirely, lulling us into the same compliant, languid state as Adora’s drugged and poisoned daughters; abruptly vomited us out, blinking, confused, and trying to make sense of it all, each passing hour. The willingness of its audience to suffer through voyeuristic psycho-torture, right alongside the shell of a human Camille had become, parallels Preaker’s “Milk” journey down to its final shocking moments where, mouths agape, we’re left to our own devices.
Having fully realized Adora’s murderous malady, Camille returns home with a spark of defiance, quickly quelled by mother’s (poisoned) milk — a (Persephone’s?) punishment she’s willing to accept to save the sister she still can. Memories of Marian’s “Martha Stewart funeral” ring in Camille’s head as she willingly submits to Adora’s … adoration. The one that got away is sweetly succumbing, and all Adora ever wanted; “This will be good for both of us, don’t you think?” (“More, mama.”)
While the chief and Richard try to break down Keene, steadfast — “You want me to say it’s me, and you could probably get away with it. But you’d be so wrong, you’d be so fucking wrong” — Alan fully dons his blinders, sealing Camille’s fate, were it left to him. Thankfully, adoptive (unofficially) dad, Curry bursts in just at the nick, covering, cradling and calling for medical assistance while aghast at her self-inflicted injuries, that — pardon my English — utter fuckhead, Richard mutters his useless, careless apology.
Arrested for her crimes, including those she didn’t personally commit (certainly contributed to), Adora suffers her deserved prison fate, while her girls take comfort in each other. Back in St. Louis with Camille, Amma seemingly flourishes, finds friends, sleeps close to her sister and just when it seems her life may finally balance out … welcome to the dollhouse. For in her magical miniature, Amma’s own horrific secrets come to light and just as Camille discovers the monster in her bed, turns and faces Adora’s final effect — Amma somehow, still yearns for the maternal approval that can never be fulfilled.
Could there have been any better closing words than “Don’t tell Mama”? No, I don’t think so — with that one simple, loaded statement, Amma gave away her motivation, her sickness, her (their) unending, unquenchable need for her mother’s love — no matter how terrible Adora was. Both Camille and Amma knew what their mother was doing to them, and both willingly succumbed (for slightly different reasons), despite their own internal drive to live.
There’s some complaining out on the interwebs that Camille lost her agency in the series; I’d counter that her actions in the finale were purposeful and that Camille deliberately refocussed her mother’s attention, nearly sacrificing herself, but knowing full well what she was doing and why. In both the book and onscreen, Camille hits back at Adora in the ways she’s able — Adams’ sardonic line delivery is used to perfect effect throughout. With “Milk”, Camille takes control by putting herself in danger, in order to save/help Amma (though in the end, Amma refused her). Camille knows the most effective, perhaps the only way, to stop Adora from killing Amma is to redirect their mother’s attention to the bigger prize (“I’ve waited so long for this”) — Preaker, herself. In the end, Camille’s actions — even by virtue of her communications with Curry — play the greatest part in stopping Adora from killing two more daughters.
Additionally, where the novel leaves Camille in the Curry’s care (nice), the series puts Camille in a place where she’s not only helping heal herself, but (ostensibly) Amma as well. In taking care of her sister Camille becomes strong, providing the familial warmth and support that both she and Amma need. We can presume by her actions throughout the show that Camille will do what’s she has to — get her sister psychiatric care, continue to be a supportive presence — and she’ll also do what is morally (legally) right — let the proper authorities know the truth. We see her strength in taking on Amma as her own responsibility, and we know the moral compass we’ve seen in her will direct Camille’s actions after finding that evidence.
That said, thank the gods for Curry (and Eileen), who realized the last time he spoke with Camille just how desperate her situation had become. Of course, this little bit was different from the book (Richard found/saved Camille, who was in the tub), and for the way both Richard and Curry were portrayed in the series, it made much more sense. While part of me wishes the Richard/Camille relationship was better fleshed out (though there wasn’t much chemistry between the pair — my personal choice for Richard was Colin Farrell), in the end, I preferred that the focus was fully on the women. And the only true warmth, true relationship, was between Camille, Frank and Eileen.
Reiterating the imperative of Emmys for Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson — and the future is certainly more than bright for Eliza Scanlen.
I like that we got the full confirmation of Alan’s not-only-pathetic-compliance, but his complicity in Adora’s crimes. There was no reason to leave it up in the air, just how much he knew/understood.
I’m so glad I watched, despite disliking the novel — which left me deflated, empty and not really giving a shit what happened to any of its characters. This fine ensemble and the collaborative writing and direction gave a superior version of the original story.
Songs This Hour:
Johnny Cash, The Long Black Veil
Alexander Streiliski, Plus tôt
Ludovico Einaudi, Dietro Casa
Led Zeppelin, In the Evening
Robert Plant and Alison Krause, Through the Morning, Through the Night
Chief to Richard: “Sorry about the Preaker girl, she’s got a bit of her mother in her. She’s not as dramatic about it, but woman loves her attention.”
Alan to Chief: “I hope you don’t catch it … Well, you’re up there as much as I am.”
Chief: “Why don’t you sit down, Alan? Talk this out like men.”
Adora to Alan: “I’m just helping nature along.
This is not the time to insert yourself, you understand?”
(This whole exchange between Adora and Camille was chilling) Adora: “I’ve waited for this for so long. For you to need me. Of my three girls, you’re the most like me. Marian … the good girl.”
Camille: “You killed her.”
A: “She was a very sick little girl. You’re delirious. She died.”
C: “You burned her.”
A: “Well, ashes to ashes I say.”
C: “Just tell me. Tell me.”
A: “You’re asking me to lie.
…We all have bad childhoods, at some time you have to move on.
Time for more medicine.”
C: “I don’t want anymore, I can’t.”
A: “It’s good for you. Here,Take just a little more.”
Amma to Camille: “I’m sorry. I need to stay her good girl.”
Camille to Richard: “I’m bleeding as fast as I can.”
Richard to Camille: “Usually, Münchausen moms find a medicine they like. Antifreeze, prescriptions, rat poison …Amma built up tolerance over the years. But not you.”
Amma to Camille about Jackie: ” Do not let that witch come to St. Louis.”