For the past six weeks, all we’ve done is try to decipher what’s going on on HBO’s spellbinding new series Sharp Objects, but to no avail. However, some of our questions were answered in the penultimate episode. Picking up from where we left off last week, “Falling” sees Camille (Amy Adams) awaken to discover that she’s sustained several injuries as a result of her wild night out with sister Amma (Eliza Craven). Adora (Patricia Clarkson) sits over the eldest daughter’s bedside, hoping to tend to her wounds. Camille resists and her mother gets forceful which, looking back now, is very much a moment that foreshadowed what was to come later in the episode. The two characters’ relationship has very much been shrouded in mystery. One minute, Adora is telling Camille she doesn’t love her and the next, she’s trying to look after her. There’s more to it, and much of it is filled in in this particular episode.
Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) does some digging into Marian Crellin’s (Lulu Wilson) death, and a nurse who looked after the young woman when she was alive insinuates that Adora suffers from Munchausen by proxy syndrome, which is a form of abuse where a mother makes their child sick for attention. That was a plot development that I certainly never seen coming and, yet at the same time, it makes total sense. It was right there on the surface, and yet we completely missed it. Adora loves attention, and what better way to grab somebody’s attention that by having an ailing child.
Willis worries what this means for Amma and checks out her medical file too, to see that she’s also suffered from quite a few illnesses over the years. It’s happening again. Unable to convince Camille to stay and rest, Adora moves onto Amma. She’s overprotective, insisting that Amma must take to bed to recover from her illness. In reality, Amma’s merely hungover, and she tells her mother this, but Adora remains adamant that her daughter must take it easy and even confiscates her phone. She plays the loving mother role well, and she has the entire community eating out of her palm. Adora is the last person you would think would do something like this, which is what makes this revelation all the more wonderful.
Word spreads around Wind Gap that blood was found in John Keene’s (Taylor John Smith) bedroom, and a warrant is issued for his arrest. However, the young man has up sticks and left. Camille knows where to find him, of course, and the two characters’ toast to their traumatic experiences over a few shots. Camille and John are, in a way, mirror images of one another. They both operate outside of what Wind Gap residents considering the norm. They’ve both suffered at the hands of others, and they’ve both lost a sister that they were close to. They get on like a house on fire. For the first time since she arrived in Wind Gap, Camille is expressing herself fully, and John appreciates this and returns the favour.
However, things get complicated when they go back to a motel together. Initially, the plan was for John to sleep off the booze, but he shares a moment with Camille over the scars. He doesn’t cower or run away. He’s fascinated and tells her repeatedly that it’s okay. For the first time, somebody truly sees her. She understandably gets caught up in the moment, and the two have sex. Unlike her encounter with Richard Willis, however, Camille is completely naked — scars on display — and yet John doesn’t care. He sees Camille.
The police burst through the motel room, and discover the pair together. Willis is disturbed at what he sees, and Camille tries to reason with him, while also trying to convince him of John’s innocence. Willis walks out on her, but he makes sure she sees Marian’s post-mortem report. A conversation with Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) confirms Camille’s suspicions about her mother, and suddenly everything falls into place for the troubled protagonist. Her mother is the source of all of her problems. Camille’s resistance to conform to what Adora wanted is likely the reason she doesn’t get on with her — it’s likely the reason Adora didn’t love her. Following this revelation, the show slips into another wonderfully edited montage in which we see Alan (Henry Czerny) dancing with Amma at different stages of her life. I’ve no idea what this is supposed to suggest — perhaps it’s a signifier that Amma’s life is draining from her body thanks to Adora’s poison. Either way, we know that Adora is making her children sick for attention.
“Falling” is without a doubt one of Sharp Objects’ strongest outings yet, and with so much still left to unravel — specifically the murder investigation — it really has its work cut out in next week’s final episode. “Falling” has given us quite a lot to mull over in our heads until next week, and as always, Jean Marc-Vallée’s direction is sublime, as is the editing and the music choices throughout. The Wind Gap atmosphere radiates throughout. And it all comes to an end next week.
Contributed by Stephen Patterson
Sharp Objects is simulcast at 2am on Sunday nights or shown in a more regular slot at 9pm on Mondays on Sky Atlantic.