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Monday, 27 August 2018

Sharp Objects delivers powerful but divisive finale

Television series’ come in many forms. From deliriously slow-burn thrillers to compelling edge-of-seat pieces, there is literally something to satisfy everyone’s TV needs. Sharp Objects, however, has proven to be something rather different. The HBO series burst onto our screens with one of the most colourful, stylistic and atmospheric pieces of direction ever seen. In fact, the atmosphere created by director Jean Marc-Vallée is as important to the narrative as any of the characters. Without it, it just wouldn’t be Sharp Objects.


We’ve admired said direction and said characters for several weeks now, but the traumatising story of Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) came to a shocking conclusion in the latest episode. Entitled “Milk”, the final instalment in the sublime series proved to be quite the conundrum, as it left us with as many questions as it did answers. One thing we know for sure is that Detective Richard Willis’ (Chris Messina) findings last week proved correct; Adora (Patricia Clarkson) is poisoning her daughter, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), and she did the same thing to Marian (Lulu Wilson), which ultimately resulted in her death.

 After learning this horrifying truth, Camille races home to confront her mother and save her sister. Amma, who is clearly unwell, is seated at the dinner table with Adora and Alan (Henry Czerny). It’s the perfect moment to raise hell, but Camille resists, playing along to the Crellins’ little charade. In a way, it’s almost as if the scene is taking place inside Amma’s dollhouse because it’s all fake. The tension here is magnificent — as is the subtext — and Adams gives a wonderful performance. There is a lot said in what’s unsaid, as Camille gives Adora a look which more or less says “I know.” Before our protagonist can save her sister, however, she also becomes unwell. Adora’s clearly been up to her old tricks. The disturbed woman tends to her sick daughter, and it becomes apparent that she’s starting to poison Camille now too. Both of Adora’s daughters are now victims of her Munchausen by proxy.

A frantic Richard tries tirelessly to get in touch with Camille to no avail, and as Camille lies half-naked on Adora’s beloved ivory floor, she begins to fantasise about her younger self-lying on the same floor with Marian. It’s a disturbing scene, as it appears as if Camille is bidding this world farewell, but before this can come to pass, the police arrive on Adora’s doorstep. You might argue that this is a little bit of a plot convenience, but that’s technically not true. Remember, Camille informed her editor Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval) of Adora’s involvement in Marian’s death during the previous episode, so it’s entirely believable that he would turn up to save the day — with the police in tow.  Curry and Willis tend to Camille, and Willis is seemingly repulsed by Camille’s scars, which are now on show for the world to see.

Adora finally gets what’s coming to her, as Willis arrests her. But it’s not just the abuse of that she’s arrested for, as the police find pliers in the house which match those used to extract Ann Nash and Natalie Keene’s teeth. “But what does this mean?”, I hear you ask. Well, apparently this confirms that Adora is the Wind Gap killer. Didn’t see that one coming, that’s for sure.
In typical Sharp Objects fashion, the editing and the music do all the talking, as a beautiful composition begins, and we’re treated to a montage of Camille and Amma, as they move to St. Louis and start afresh. Adora is sent down for the murder of Ann and Natalie. Amma struggles without Adora and even visits her in prison, but outside of this, the young girl appears to move on with her life nicely, and she even makes a new friend in Mae (Iyana Halley), who idolises Camille.  

With the future looking bright for Camille and Amma, the show could’ve concluded here and we would’ve been satisfied. But this is Sharp Objects (and HBO, for that matter) we’re talking about — things were never going to be that simple. Mae’s mom (Sameerah Lugmaan-Harris)informs Camille that Amma and Mae have had a fight and that she can’t get in touch with her daughter. No need to panic though, because the killer is safely behind bars, right? Wrong.

Camille makes a shocking discovery when she takes a look at Amma’s beloved replica dollhouse. The reporter sees that the miniature version of Adora’s ivory floor inside the dollhouse is made out of human teeth. Amma finds her sister and, in her typical nonchalant tone, asks her to not tell their mother. If, like most people who watched the finale, you’re confused as to what this means, allow me to enlighten you: Amma is the killer — something which is confirmed in two post-credit scenes; one where we actually see her kill Ann, Natalie and Mae. The second post-credit scene confirms that Amma is the woman in white. If, like me, you haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel, then this ending was one of the biggest shocks in television memory, and yet it was quintessential Sharp Objects.

Ultimately, many of the show’s signature flashbacks are not fleshed out, but that’s okay because, at this stage in the game, we’re getting the impression that the brief glimpses into Camille’s past were simply designed to demonstrate how tortured she is. To intensify why she is the way that she is. We don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of what happened, because the strong scripts and wonderful characterisation of the protagonist have pretty much filled in the blanks for us.

All in all, Sharp Objects has proven to be nothing short of revolutionary. In one of those rare cases, the series possesses both style and substance, and the finale delivered us a satisfying ending. It's almost poetic that Camille returned home to solve the case and, by doing so, she would solve her own problems. If Adams and Vallée don’t win Emmy awards for their work in Sharp Objects, then there is no justice in the world. The compelling scripts and atmospheric direction have pretty much created an entirely new genre, and the show is no doubt going to leave a big Wind Gap-shaped hole in our lives.

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