I’m not entirely sure if I feel thoroughly satisfied right now, or intensely frustrated. Perhaps a combination of the two. From an artistic perspective, there wasn’t a single thing about HBO’s thrilling mini-series, Sharp Objects, that I didn’t like. It was, in many ways, pure perfection. But, with my heart still pounding from the finale, I can’t help but feel…angry. Angry for Camille. Because honestly, this woman deserved a lot better. But in the final moments of this last episode, it wasn’t solace that she found, but a knife in the back. Don’t worry, not literally. But some would argue that may have been a kinder fate for our heroine. And that just goes to show you how messed up this mini-series really was.
Episode 7, the second last episode of the series, revealed that there was a killer living under the same roof as Camille all along. Her mother, Adora, so brilliantly played by Patricia Clarkson, was responsible for Camille’s sister’s death. You see, as we find out later that episode, Adora has a mental illness that goes by the name of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. An illness where someone purposefully and repeatedly makes someone else sick in order to feel loved and needed. As a result, Marian died very young. And if Camille hadn’t noticed it, the same fate may have befallen Amma. After all, Adora was giving her daughter such large amounts of medicine/poison that even though she developed a tolerance for it after many years and hospital visits, she was still bed-ridden, visibly pale and quivering, made sick by her own mother.
It’s important to note that upon realizing this, Camille calls her boss, Frank, and reveals everything she’s learned. He begs her, pleads her to come home, but she tells him Adora’s doing it again, and she has to take care of it. Which leads us to our series finale.
Camille pulls up to the house, where Adora, Alan, and Amma are all sitting and eating dinner. A celebratory dinner, as Adora calls it, happy that the Wind Gap killer was caught. She is, of course, referring to John Keene. As Alan basically commands Camille to sit down, the family talks about the death penalty, and what a relief it is to the town and to Adora that the killer has been caught and all this nasty business is over. Amma changes the conversation by asking Camille if she knows what Greek Goddess she is, being dressed in a white robe with a flower crown on her head and all. She reveals that it’s Persephone, and while this may seem like idle chitchat, it’s incredibly revealing. Amma talks about how she is responsible for all the punishment, even though everyone thinks it’s Hades’ doing. And yet she isn’t accepted outside of the underworld, because everyone is afraid of her. Trust me, this is telling information.
Back to the topic of murder. Camille suggests that it might be good for Amma to get away from Wind Gap while the dust settles, get away from all this so-called ‘nasty business’ and live with her for awhile. Amma seems visibly excited at the thought, and Adora accuses them of having discussed it without her. They both deny it, truthfully, but Adora suddenly gets up and starts commenting on Amma’s color, feeling her forehead and claiming that she feels feverish. Here we go. Amma looks to her sister, frightened out of her mind, barely able to walk as it is. Any more medicine…God knows what it would do to her. So, in an act of mercy, Camille falls to the ground, clutching her stomach, screaming in pain for her Mama, begging her to help her feel better.
Adora forgets about Amma and leads Camille upstairs, to sleep in her bedroom, in her bed, letting her walk across those perfect, white floors. She helps her into a lightweight nightgown and tucks her into bed, feeding her the same medicine she gives to Amma. She strokes her hair as she says how nice this is, how good it will be for the both of them. Isn’t it better, easier, for her to finally let her Mama take care of her? Camille smiles and nods, and Adora eats it up, finally feeling needed by the one daughter that always escaped her clutches. It gives Amma enough time to regain some of her strength. When Adora is downstairs, Amma saunters into her mother’s room, where Camille can barely stand. She asks if her younger sister can walk, and she says yes. Camille urges her to go into town, find Richard, and tell him they need him. She tells her to never come back here, and if she doesn’t make it, tell Richard that Adora got to her. Camille falls to the floor once more, genuinely sick this time, distracting Adora once again. Amma makes it downstairs, but before she reaches the door, her father finds her, and offers to get them both some dessert. Amma looks upstairs, and then back at the door. And it’s the hesitation that scares me most.
Meanwhile, at the police station, Richard and the Chief question John Keene, trying to get him to crack. But he won’t. He tells them he knows they want him to be the killer, and it’d be easy enough to pin it on him. But he breaks down as he says that they’d be so wrong. They leave him alone as they discuss what will happen next, if he could really be the guy. Richard points out that everyone cracks eventually, if you push them hard enough, even if they’re innocent. But what if they’re looking at the wrong person? Despite everything that went down, something about this doesn’t feel right to Richard.
Back at the house, Adora helps Camille take a bath, during which Camille outright accuses her mother of killing her sister. Adora chuckles, claiming Camille is delirious with fever, giving her more medicine as she sweats and pukes and shakes. She tells Camille a story about her own mother, who when Adora was 8 years old, dragged her out into the middle of the woods, sat her down, and left her there. She said that even when she didn’t do anything, she knew enough to stay silent when she was being punished. She tells Camille that everyone’s childhood is messed up in one way or another. Eventually we all have to move on. Otherwise, according to her, we’re being selfish.
Adora feeds her daughter the last of the medicine before heading downstairs to make some more. And who should come knocking on the door but the Detective himself. While Alan blasts music so he can’t hear Camille struggling upstairs, he tells Richard that she isn’t available to talk right now, but he’ll tell her he stopped by. He looks hesitant, but eventually gets in his car and drives away. Camille limps over to Amma’s room, finding her playing with her dollhouse, still looking sick. Amma apologizes, but tells her she had to be a good girl for Mama and couldn’t run away. Camille crawls back to her room, collapsing on the floor, hallucinations and memories of Marian flooding her mind. She lies on her back, staring at the ceiling, nearly passing out from the sickness, truly delirious at this point. But she isn’t hallucinating the siren lights she suddenly sees.
Richard wasn’t giving up on Camille that easy. He called her multiple times, but Adora had her phone. Luckily, he received word from Camille’s boss, Frank. Not just a call, either. A visit. After Camille’s frantic phone call, Frank hopped on the first flight he could, telling Richard everything she told him. They burst through the doors, rushing upstairs together to help Camille and Amma. The paramedics are there in no time, confirming the poison running through their system. But that’s not all they find. Aside from poison, Richard and the police also find pliers in the kitchen. Pliers that perfectly match the kind of weapon needed to pull a girl’s teeth out. Before we know it, Camille and Amma are being helped out of the house to be led to a hospital, to truly get better this time. And Adora? She’s getting handcuffed and having her rights read to her. Now this feels like justice.
Camille wakes up in the hospital where both her and Amma are having their blood taken. Richard is hoping to match what they found in the house to what’s in their system, and what caused Marian’s death. A combination of anti-freeze and rat poison, among other things. It’s Richard that tells the girls this, promising justice for Camille’s sister. Before he goes, he apologizes to Camille, tears in his eyes, his voice almost shaking with shame. When he saw her lying on the floor in her house, he saw her arms and legs. He saw the scars, the words carved into her skin. He saw how Camille suffered in so many more ways than he accused her of. Good on him for owning up to it.
Time to fast-forward. Adora’s trial comes and goes, and though she pleads not guilty, she still is sentenced to jail time. Amma packs up her stuff and moves in with Camille, far away from Wind Gap, though Camille still takes Amma back there to visit her mother in the facility. While Camille doesn’t want to see her, she respects Amma’s wishes.
Things seem to be going well for the sisters. They have a nice little apartment together with lovely neighbors. The daughter, May, is around Amma’s age, and it isn’t long before the two become the best of friends, working on the dollhouse together. Everything seems well and good. Camille, Amma, and May even go over to Frank and Eileen’s for dinner sometimes, where they all get on like…well, almost like a family. May’s thinking of going into journalism, like Camille, but Amma claims that she’s just kissing Camille’s ass. Later that night, she asks her if she’s disappointed that she doesn’t want to be a journalist like her. Camille simply says that all she wants for Amma is for her to be happy, and Amma smiles and tells her that she makes her happy.
But as with everything in Sharp Objects, things aren’t as they seem. Something feels off. And it is. One afternoon, May’s mother visits Camille asking where the girls are. Apparently they had a fight and she hadn’t seen May in a few hours. Camille assures her they’re out playing, and will let her know as soon as they get back. But as she pours herself a glass of milk, about to throw out the carton, she notices a bed sheet from the dollhouse in the garbage. One that May helped make. She plucks it out and goes into Amma’s room, simply to put it back where it belongs. But instead, she finds a human tooth under that little miniature bed. In fact, she finds the entirety of that perfect, white floor, is made up of human teeth. Amma walks into the room with innocent, wide eyes. “Don’t tell Mama,” she begs.
Oh. And if you couldn’t believe it, there’s a post-credits scene that shows Amma violently killing Ann, Natalie, and May. She had help with Ann and Natalie, via the friends she used to roller skate around town with. But she orchestrated it all, and did most of the dirty work. And yes, she was the Woman in White. And as it seems, still is.
If you’re anything like me, you started screaming at the TV as the credits appeared on the screen. Things were finally starting to go well for Camille, she nearly had the family she always wanted. She was helping her sister, only to find out that her sister killed three little girls. And her mother’s in prison for it! Now, don’t get me wrong, Adora did kill Marian and tried to kill Camille and Amma. She deserves to be in jail. But Amma…Amma is something else entirely. She’s filled with rage, and no one but her sister and two other girls in Wind Gap know.
The finale leaves us with so many questions, some of which apparently the book answers. For example, why Amma kills the three girls. But the show doesn’t dive into that. Why? Maybe because they wanted to leave it open for a second season, though we know now that isn’t happening. Or maybe it’s simply because in life, we don’t always get answers. Things are messy. Mean. Unfair. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. And sometimes, the innocent, lovely girls are the ones who are capable of the greatest evils.
Sharp Objects was dark, there’s no question about it. But it was Amy Adams’ best role yet. She pushed herself in so many ways. Patricia Clarkson’s cripplingly sweet performance is perfectly eerie, and Eliza Scanlen’s performance as Amma is both purely twisted and twistedly pure. A truly fantastic show, this is one to watch time and time again.
Sharp Objects Is Available To Stream On HBO Now.