Over seven episodes, Sharp Objects committed itself to a molasses-slow pace. The natural expectation is that this would lead to an explosive final 49 minutes, but instead the season finale stays the course, embracing the slow, sinister burn that has made this such a unique viewing experience. In fact, when the explosion does come, it’s at the very, very end and it lasts a few seconds. It almost feels as if the deliberate pace has been designed to maximise that moment, that sudden outburst of violence.
When we left Camille, she had arrived at her mother’s door, freshly armed with the knowledge that Adora poisoned Marion and is poisoning Amma. When she walks through the door, she finds a dinner scene that is reminiscent of an Antebellum version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A woozy Marion is dressed as Persephone, while Adora and Alan matter-of-factly discuss the death penalty they’re hoping John Keene will receive. Throughout this macabre scene, you can see Camille calculating, trying to work out her play. Once Adora begins to escort Amma upstairs for another dose from the blue bottle, she leaps into action.
Some reporters might have simply taken the bottle as evidence, but that’s not Camille. As a woman whose body is a roadmap of her pain, it’s natural that she’d put herself in the position of being poisoned by Adora, submitting to become the evidence herself. She fakes illness and dose after dose of the pink liquid goes down her throat, an agonisingly slow descent that leads to Camille lying prone on Adora’s prized ivory floor, her breath running out, Amma’s face morphing into Marion’s.
It’s at that crucial moment that Richard and Curry come storming in. Both are aware enough of the situation to know the danger that Camille is in and that her self-destructive tendencies only exacerbate that. Adora is arrested after bloody pliers are found in the bin and that’s that. Amma moves to St Louis with Camille and quickly befriends the neighbour’s daughter. Camille files her piece, finally managing to impress Curry with her writing. What’s notable in her closing paragraph is when she muses that the pliers move was totally out of character for Adora. That’s a thought that will come back with force when she discovers the teeth in the model house, replicating Adora’s bedroom floor, a discovery that comes moments after the neighbour pops over to ask if Camille’s seen her daughter. Amma arrives in the doorway. “Don’t tell Mama,” she says.
The credits roll, but the real punch in the gut comes midway through, a series of shockingly quick cuts showing Ann and Natalie’s violent ends at the hands of Amma and her friends and the neighbour’s daughter being throttled by a terrifying Amma. It’s a sharp blast that takes the breath away. Amma has developed an addiction to the attention that her mother is addicted to giving and will destroy anyone who interferes. Ann and Natalie drew away Adora’s attention from her, the neighbour’s daughter was connecting with Camille and none of that could be allowed to stand. The final shudder-inducing image that appears as the credits end is Amma, dressed in white, walking back into the woods. Seeing that felt like someone walking over my grave.
Much has been made of Sharp Objects depiction of female rage, whether it’s pointed inwards, like Camille’s, or outwards, like Adora and Amma. It’s a unique perspective that could have been a pulpy ‘women who kill’ story in other hands. Sharp Objects approaches it with sensitivity, demonstrating the forces and environments that have moulded and fostered the rage inside these women, making them sympathetic even when they’re at their most terrifying.
You can watch Sharp Objects on CHILI.
- Thanks for joining me for these reviews over the past eight weeks. I can’t overstate how much I loved this show and I hope you did too. Don’t be surprised to see it place highly on our end of year list.
- Watch Jean Marc Vallée explain the ending and the significance of the dollhouse below