Sharp Objects Finale

With its eighth and final episode, Sharp Objects concludes this gorgeous, complicated story about feminine trauma, rage and love. Despite their nearly equitable screentime, the men in this story never really mattered, did they? In the end, it was never Alan, or Richard, or Vickery, or John Keene who were the answer to the questions Sharp Objects asked. No, this is a women’s tragedy, one that began with the unseen Joya and ends with Amma, a generations-long calamity about the ways that we hurt each other – or the ways that we hurt ourselves to keep others safe.

“A very female sort of rage.”

Sharp Objects was careful to warn us again and again that, as much as the men in Wind Gap refused to believe it, it was always going to be a woman responsible for the deaths of Ann Nash and Natalie Keene. Like all of Gillian Flynn’s stories, to some extent, Sharp Objects concerns the unsuspected dark potential of the so-called fairer sex: the depths we can reach, our hidden strength, our unlikely iniquities. Patricia Clarkson is breathtaking and treacherous as Adora because her composure is never shaken, the ghostly woman in white who haunts every scene but remains unchanged. Even as she’s poisoning her daughters or being arrested for their attempted murders, her rage is a cool, still pool that runs deep and dark. While the men around her bluster and stomp, she glides through every battle, an elegant evil that’s much harder to spot and thus tougher to fight.

“Don’t tell Mama.”

Of course it’s a hell of a reveal, that Amma’s the killer and her very own ivory floor is built from the teeth of the girls that she’s murdered. Eliza Scanlen is such a beautiful question mark in every episode, manipulative and sad, sympathetic and false. As little as we trusted her, we never quite believed that she was capable of worse than Adora. But really, Sharp Objects posits, it was Adora who turned Amma into this monster, and Joya who turned Adora into a Munchausen mom. Last week, the big question audiences kept asking was what else there was left to learn, with an episode still to go, after discovering that Adora killed Marian and was trying to kill both Amma and Camille – and the answer is, in a way, nothing, because while Amma killed Ann and Natalie, it still all goes back to Adora.

Or does it? We can always take a step back and blame the people who hurt us for what we’ve become, that last link behind us on this ugly chain that weighs us all down. It’s an easy answer, to blame Adora and then Joya, and maybe Joya’s mom, and her mother before her. But standing in the face of that easy answer, glaring across the table at it, is the never-easy Camille, that unsolvable problem who never makes anything easy on anyone and least of all on herself. Camille snapped herself right out of that chain of misery, hurting herself but never others, gulping down poison to save her sister, doing her best in the middle of the worst to choose kindness.

“Lately, I’ve been leaning toward kindness.”

Amy Adams is a miracle in Sharp Objects. Has there ever been a performance like this, one so still and vulnerable but strong? It was such a beautiful relief to finally see her with Curry, really see the two of them in a room together, and know that Camille is loved and understood and has a family, even if it’s not the family that shares her blood.

As much as Sharp Objects is about the secret darkness women harbor in their hearts after a lifetime of being diminished and mistreated, it’s also about our capacity for kindness in spite of everything, in spite of trauma and neglect and heartbreak on top of heartbreak. Camille is kind to Amma, and even if it’s too late for Amma, it’s not too late for Camille. Camille, who has Curry and Eileen, and maybe doesn’t need anyone else. Camille, who turned out to be the strongest of the Preaker-Crellin women, who never took her medicine but never spoon-fed it to anyone else, either. Camille, who’s leaning toward kindness.

***

Sharp Objects has so many different stories to tell, and it tells them all with a lovely subtlety that could be mistaken for obscurity by the careless viewer. Nothing is spelled out, and there’s no parlor scene where Vickery or Richard works through every detail of the case for the benefit of the audience. Instead, the mystery is wrapped up in a ten-second, three-word scene before “Milk” flashes to credits, because Sharp Objects never really focused on the mystery the way it did the dreadful connection shared by Adora and her daughters. It’s challenging, powerful storytelling anchored by three of the best performances in recent memory, and a remarkable tribute to the dark, indomitable hearts of women.

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