REVIEW: Sharp Objects (S1 E8/8)

With all great series – and a great series that has taken its time to build and simmer – the endings are often what makes or breaks it. We’ve seen so many stories in the past that have fallen down at the last hurdle, either rushing things or revealing things in a haphazard, ham-fisted manner, and the hope with Sharp Objects, which has been an undeniably excellent series, was that it would finish off the story in an entirely satisfactory way.

It’s a different experience watching a story when you know the ending – I read Gillian Flynn’s book a number of years ago – and even though some of the details needed to be refreshed I still kind of knew what was going to happen. The question for me was how they were going to do it and whether Flynn herself would either add or change things a little.

She did neither.

This TV adaptation was a remarkably faithful retelling of the book, which was fine by me because the ending in the book left me with my mouth agape and lots to process.

As did this final episode.

At the end of episode seven, we knew an almighty confrontation was brewing between Camille and Adora. Let’s face it, this confrontation had been coming right from the moment Camille stepped back into Wind Gap. Armed with the knowledge of what really happened to her sister Marion, it was just a matter of how Camille would expose her mother as a Munchausen-by-proxy murderer. The way she did this was extraordinary.

Knowing that Adora was poisoning Amma – and no doubt mindful of the fact that she needed hard evidence with which to nail her mother bang-to-rights – she took a momentous, selfless decision: she feigned injury in order for Adora to focus all her attention on her and divert attention away from her half-sister, who was being slowly devoured. She was sacrificing her own life for the life of her half-sister.

Of course, seeing her number one go down with an illness, Adora sprung into action. She mixed a cocktail of god-knows-what in her kitchen and gleefully fed Camille her medicine. For the first time, Camille had acquiesced and let her mother take care for her.

And yet. There was a part of Camille that enjoyed receiving the care and attention of her mother – something she had craved, but fought against all her life. However perverse and twisted, Adora’s was still the pure, mother’s love that Camille had never experienced or received and now she was getting it – bottles of it. She found herself liking being loved. It was the one thing that had been missing all her life, and the one thing that had caused her so much turmoil and trauma. It was the one thing that caused her to self harm.

And I think this, ultimately, was what Sharp Objects was all about. Yes, it subverted the gender focus when it came to brutal murders (this series showed that a sexism when it comes to investigating a murder case) and subverted what a woman’s role is in life, but it all also explored the concept of love – how we give and receive it, and at what lengths we go in order to give and receive it. Throughout the series we’ve seen how Adora acted with Alan and Vickery, and the way she acted when she didn’t receive the attention she thought she deserved. Amma, too. Camille as well, but in different ways.

To ensnare Adora, Camille had to engage with her, strip herself bare and receive the special care from her mother that she had resisted for all these years. And even if her innards began to rot and she began to die, this was what she had to do and the only way she could do it. Being loved and adored is like a drug – it makes us feel good and we want more of it, no matter whether it comes in the form of a gift, an act of kindness, a hug or from the contents of a little blue bottle. Camille, in her final wrap-up article for the paper, admitted as much that she liked being cared for and liked her mother’s attention, and became worryingly close to becoming addicted to it. Sharp Objects and Munchausen by proxy may be a twisted, dark and worrying manifestation of the giving and receiving of love, but at its core this addiction is the same for us all.

Love is beautiful, but it’s also dangerous.

With Adora behind bars – she was also being fingered for the murders of Ann Nash and Natalie Keene – Camille took Amma back to St Louis with her to start a new life. Suddenly Camille had responsibility and purpose, and Amma had a place in which she could grow up properly. They had dinner with Frank Curry and her partner, and she made friends with a new girl at school. All was well.

Until Amma’s new friend went missing.

If you’ve read Gillian Flynn’s work before, you’ll know that there’s always something extra. An epilogue. A twist.

Camille came home from work to find a piece of the dollhouse Amma had brought with her on the floor. She attempted to put it back on or into the dollhouse. The dollhouse; a recurring totem throughout – a miniature world where Amma constructed her own reality, little figures and rooms and items of furniture that could be manipulated and shaped and moulded.

And a miniature world that contained the teeth of victims Ann Nash and Natalie Keene. This was the twist: the floor of the dollhouse was made entirely from the teeth of the two victims. It was Amma.

It was Amma.

As soon as Camille made this discovery, Amma walked in. They both looked at each other, horrified for different reasons. “Don’t tell mamma.”

End credits. It ended on a revelation, not an explanation. And this I liked. It slapped you, made you think – think about Camille, think about Amma and why she had done such a thing – and made you recoil. The end credits, in keeping with the rest of the series’ sometimes hallucinatory style, showed Amma and her skater friends holding down Ann and Natalie, Amma gritting her teeth as she carried out the unspeakable deeds.

So what did we just experience here? A story that could have been told quite adequately in, say, a two-hour film or even a four-part series, but a story that instead took its time to build up the stifling toxicity between Camille, Adora and Amma.  In the end, it reminded me of a Southern Gothic fairytale: I don’t think it was a coincidence that in one scene in the Crellin household, Amma had dressed as a Greek goddess. But Amma and her rollerskating psychopath friends were more like Nymphs – seductive, manipulative and with the ability to mete out terrifying pain and harm. And Adora, too, was like a wicked witch – mixing poison in her cauldron, a warped/tragic relationship with the world and her children causing her to do so.

It was a very good but exceedingly dark series, featuring superb performances by Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, in particular. Adams, who I was a huge fan of anyway, really displayed a range I hadn’t seen from her before – she was smart, cynical, wounded, vulnerable and strong. Never a victim, always a survivor. A staggering performance that you just couldn’t take your eyes off.

As for Sharp Objects, it’s going to be one of those series that critics love, but perhaps won’t have caught fire with viewers – it was relentlessly bleak all the way through, was hallucinatory and with all its flashbacks was sometimes difficult to make an emotional connection with. But Sharp Objects will be remembered for its subversion, boldness and its intent to explore something more.

Paul Hirons












2 Comments Add yours

  1. Larry says:

    Great review! I think you nailed it.


  2. Mike Sargent says:

    Having struggled through the first 6 episodes with decreasing interest I decided I couldn’t face any more, so decided to save myself a couple of hours by reading your review. Thanks for watching it so I didn’t have to. I thought it started well enough but was far too slow for me.


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