This Sharp Objects review contains spoilers.
Sharp Objects Episode 8
The best shock endings are the ones that do two things: they take you totally by surprise, and they make you say to yourself – that makes perfect sense.
That’s how Sharp Objects came to a sudden close. The doll’s house was the perfect device to harbor what had been right there to see the entire time. The teeth of the murdered girls, used to make a floor for the house that Amma had long been obsessed with, was revolting and exact and deeply frightening, particularly when followed with a post-credits sequence of Amma (and her roller skating friends) in the act of murdering, and enjoying it. The final shot was of Amma, walking into the woods; she was the woman in white after all.
There were a number of wonderful short lines that punctuated key moments throughout this final episode. Amma, caught as the murderer, saying to Camille, “Don’t tell Momma” was wonderful. But it seems to me that Adora probably already did know. She would certainly take the blame to protect her daughter, and it would become another one of those weird unspoken expressions of love that the Crellin family excels at. It’s also just right because it undercuts the sudden realisation of Amma’s murderous impulses. She’s still, even with vast amounts of rat poison in her system and a terrible family behind her, just a girl.
Just a girl. What a phrase. So much of Sharp Objects has been about what being a girl means. Camille finally worked out what she needed to do to be a good girl; it meant taking her mother’s poison. The scenes in which she submitted to her mother’s care were so painful to watch, and showed the dichotomy in Camille’s nature that her final article, read aloud later by her editor, brought home. Camille’s bravery was breathtaking. Just living took all her courage, every day, even before she returned to Wind Gap. To then allow her mother to poison her in order to save Amma, and to even fight to stand, to walk, to get help, filled me with admiration for her. And yet it does no disservice to the character to also point out that at some level she submitted to this treatment because it felt like being a good girl. It pleased her mother. It touched some ideal of what a girl should be.
A good girl should be a sacrifice.
Amma’s appearance throughout this early section of the episode in a crown of flowers and a flowing nightgown only served to highlight this. My first thought upon seeing her dressed in such a way was that she was Ophelia, her sanity sacrificed. But while Camille and the Crellins sat around the table at an excruciating dinner, Amma announced that she was Persephone: the Queen of the Underworld. Persephone is also just a girl – the girl who sacrificed her own freedom to return to the Underworld for six months of every year. And now we know that the two teenagers killed in Wind Gap were sacrificing their teeth to make a lovely floor for Amma’s doll’s house. Do you need to go willingly to make a good sacrifice? Apparently not – although Adora definitely preferred that trait in her own daughters.
What of being a good boy? Is that the same as being a hero? The series has had plenty of interesting things to say on that subject, too. Detective Richard Willis has been playing the hero throughout, and I was certainly expecting him to find a way to save the day. But those expectations were so cleverly subverted. In fact it was Curry, Camille’s boss, who forced the police to go to the Crellin house and look for evidence; it was also Curry who then found Camille and wrapped her in a blanket while Richard looked on. His care for Camille has been one of the warmest, most affirming aspects of this series. A hero doesn’t have to be the good looking one, after all.
Richard’s appearance in the hospital after Camille and Amma were saved was a brilliant way to underline this. Looking uncomfortable, he tried to make peace with Camille. He had serious things to say about being sorry, but it became obvious that he and Camille were never going to meet some romantic ideal; he wasn’t the hero she needed after all. One of those brilliant one-liners at which this episode excelled followed that moment. As Richard left, Amma’s sly comment, ‘What a dick!’ was unkind but very funny.
I will, oddly, miss Amma’s wit, and cruelty, and ability to undercut any situation to her own advantage. In fact, I think I’ll miss just about every character, particularly Amma and Jackie and Frank Curry, and even Richard’s earnest seriousness. Few characters have ever felt as real to me as Camille. Adora still terrifies me too much to miss her, but the levels of complexity and understanding that were brought to these characters must be seen as a testament to the skills of the writers and the actors. I could wish for so much more of Sharp Objects even as I’m certain that I’d never want to spend a moment of my actual life in Wind Gap.
There won’t be any more Sharp Objects, though. It’s already been confirmed by HBO Chief Casey Bloys that one series, based on one novel, is all we get. And, honestly, I think perhaps that’s for the best. What else could possibly be said about being good and bad girls and boys? We’ve confronted every aspect of rage and love and regret. Everything that was said about the roles we play and the sacrifices we make was shockingly good. And it all, in the end, made perfect sense.