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Sharp Objects: Episode 8 - Finale "Milk"

by Chris Feil

Sharp Objects has come to its conclusion, bringing with it some scratched heads and hesitant praise wondering when we would be served some real clues on the identity of its killer. Meanwhile it built it’s own slow burn reveals from the inside of Amy Adams’ Camille, leading to a firestorm of consequence and context in its final few episodes that had nothing and everything to do with who killed those girls.

For those of us who had already read Gillian Flynn’s source novel, we also watched the unfamiliar audience as we waited for the rug to pulled out from under them. We knew this was never to be a show built on closing cliffhangers to maximize bingeability and serve standard genre water cooler moments. But its bombshell final moment did just that and cruelly so, giving a conditioned audience the moment it craves the very second it completes; there is nothing more to come, we just have to reconcile its cruel dispatch. In some ways, Sharp Objects has challenged the serialized medium, or at least how we consume and engage with it.

In the end the murder mystery at its center was mostly set dressing for its damaged character study, somewhat how Flynn’s Gone Girl examined a particular psychosis within the framework of a thriller. And those murders were symptomatic of the hidden family secret that deceptively reveals itself to have been the main plot all along. Ultimately Jean Marc-Vallée has crafted a emotional rubix cube of a miniseries, slowly folding all of its information into a tapestry of memory and trauma - it makes a whole lot more sense once you have the full picture.

Yet this final week began hurtling toward cataclysm, with Camille arriving back at her mother’s home for a family feast. John Kelley’s arrest has Adora elated and Amma is nearly catatonic, declaring herself Persephone queen of the Underworld. At the notion of Camille rescuing Amma away to St. Louis, Adora snaps quickly into poisonous caregiver and shuttles her upstairs. Camille in turn rescues Amma by playing sick herself, tricking her mother into her willing nature of abuser saint.

We watch along with Camille as Adora prepares her mix, aware that Camille’s submission to her mother (no matter how protective of Amma the act is) is its own kind of self-abuse. Amy Adams’ performance all season has been one of her most physically precise, using her posture and brittle expressiveness to demonstrate the corrosive push and pull of her trauma. Here she gets something devastatingly right about the cycle of abuse: the cruel comfort of familiarity when pain returns. How much of her childlike response to her mother’s “nurturing” is performance for Adora and how much is a genuine tide overtaking Camille? Wisely, brutally, the actress means to keep us uncertain.

Such dualities are also reflected in Patricia Clarkson’s performance as she continues to poison her daughter for the rest of the episode. A shroud of peace falls over Adora as she positions herself as caretaker, the actress becoming a glazed spectre of emotionally monotone warmth. But how much of Adora’s satisfaction also comes from the simultaneous punishment she doles out? Rather than trying to clarify the mindset of Munchausen by Proxy, Clarkson embraces Adora’s actions for their full unfathomability.

Camille had urged Amma to run for help for naught, all while Detective Willis pieces together what is going on in the house. As Camille comes closer to death, a toxic flashing of police lights invades the room. Her dead sister visits her as Willis and Frank Curry arrive to her rescue, and a discovered pair of pliers implicates Adora in that murder mystery we’ve forgotten about. And yet, Camille scarcely feels saved.

In the fallout, Amma’s rescue comes as promised. Camille resets her sister in a happy life in St. Louis in a serene montage of moments that recall the frightening fractures of Camille’s past we’ve been served all season long. Instead, new, sunnier memories are being made. A visit to Adora in prison even feels safe with the added protective layer of glass.  

Life has become idyllic for the sisters, and all too quickly for comfort. After a few telling gestures from Amma, Camille finds herself taking a longer glance at the dollhouse, eerily kept in Amma’s new room. Hidden upstairs, in the mock of the very room Camille had sustained shocking abuse and mental degradation: a tooth.

Just as she thought she had finally found simple peace, she finds herself caregiver to the monster. Amma enters the scene and responds sheepishly:

Don’t tell Mama.

And with that (plus a mid-credit interruption to show Amma’s full brutality) Sharp Objects comes to its end, answering both the question we wanted answered and a more disturbing one we didn’t expect. Can we overcome what ails us? Sharp Objects gives a definitive yes and no. It satisfies on a level we may not have signed up for, a show about demons we can never fully exorcise, about imprints we give ourselves and are given to us, how coping is not always escaping the inescapable.

previous recaps
1 "Vanish" Spencer
2 "Dirt" Nathaniel
3 "Fix" Ilich
4 "Ripe" Murtada
5 "Closer" Chris
6 "Cherry" Nathaniel
7 "Falling" Spencer

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Reader Comments (24)

This shocked me at the end ... for being so bad! The source material is to blame, but revealing Amma (and her girlfriends) as killers AFTER the closing credits was lame. And I'm sorry, but I really doubt someone like Amma or her girlfriends would be secret killers to get teeth for a dollhouse floor. It made absolutely no sense. Color me disappointed.

But otherwise, I give the actors' credit for sticking it through, including Adams, Messina and Clarkson, and the young woman who played Amma (Eliza Scanlen) was exceptional. I hope she get more work, very talented.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

I love those minutes between the “end” of a narrative and the actual denouement when you know some more shit’s about to go down because the credits haven’t starting rolling. It’s such an indescribable tension. And the grim coda truly caught me off-guard. I was prepared for a PTSD/nightmare sequence, but not the revelation we got. Did the post-credits scene of Amma murdering the first two girls show her two skating buddies helping her? How unsettling. I also liked that final image of Amma as the woman in white. I had no doubt she was real, but I thought it’d turn out to be Adora.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEli

@Jono - Maybe you’re being sarcastic, but I don’t think the dollhouse was the impetus for murdering people. I thought of them more as trophies or a “right under your noses” gloating. Even some twisted tribute to her equally disturbed mother. Who knows? After all, her friends didn’t seem to care about the dollhouse. The writers even hinted at their motives (unbeknownst to me at the time) in the 1st or 2nd episode when one of them made an eerie comment to Camille about “the cool ones” not being found dead.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEli

But how did three girls manage to murder 1-2 girls, move bodies and leave no evidence? Would those three girls really murder other girls as "trophies" when they all seemed to be spoiled? As noted, I think the source material was bad.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

That ending was a.... THE FUCK? and then.... comes that music from the Mighty Zeppelin.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Jono: The series mentioned multiple times that women weren’t suspects cause no one thought them physically or emotionally cabable of these kind of crimes. It was a running theme even. Had there been some light evidence that would have led police to the girls, that sheriff never would have followed it. As for motive, I got the sense that Amma killed the first two girls because her mama was giving them too much attention and the last girl due to Camille (a new mother figure) doing the same. The dinner table scene with her boss and the discussion of future careers really hinted at it. Amma likely suffered from some sort of abuse related mental illness and bullied/convinced the other girls to help. I respected that the series never spelled motives out though and let viewers draw some of their own conclusions. Your conclusion that they did it for dollhouse purposes though is kind of an odd one given what we saw.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDanny

I thought this was so, SO much better than the book and the final zinger was perfect. Completely haunting. The meandering, ghoulish pace of the early episode is once again upset by a fit of violence. Camille isn't a savior - she is doomed to a curse she literally tried to cut from her body. A horrifying picture of the family lines that curse us in ways we will always feel we can't escape. Emmys all around, please.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

What a finale! Those end credit scenes are jaw-dropping.
Amma and her friends killed the girls because she was jealous that Natalie and Ann were getting more attention from Adora. She also killed the new black friend cause she disliked that Mae was a "kiss ass" to Camille. The killings were not done only to get trophies.
Amy Adams must win the Emmy!

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

Fair enough Danny, but you are much more generous than I am :) -- and with filling in some plot details or assumptions that really did not exist in the script. IMHO 8 hours was way too much time on this road for a sucker punch ending.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

If someone doesn't understand how the girls could get away with the murders, then they missed the entire point of all 8 hours. Brilliant writing, acting, directing, editing and art across the board. 2018 TV's finest

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Who helped the girls move the body downtown when they didn’t drive? The tooth floor for the dollhouse was too much. Good luck in jail Adora.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJF

What a fantastic finale! It took me off gaurd even though I had read the book! Vallee's directing style was perfect for this show! All hail Amy adams, eliza scanlen and patty clarkson. the dinner table and the bathtub scenes must win amy and patricia their emmys.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterArghavan

Sharp Objects turned me into Amy Adams fan.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoaquim

Truly loathed the - now signature - Jean Marc-Vallée visual approach on weaving this together. The fractured memories, on the face of it a perfect fit for this show, worked so much better in Wild than they did over the course of an eight-hour drama uncertain about its conclusion. If they'd shoved this out under the banner of True Detective 3 I wouldn't have been surprised.

However, although I'm not the biggest Adams fan, I'd count this amongst her best work.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobUK

Supporting ladies: Scanlen > Perkins > Clarkson.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Overall I really enjoyed. You don't see this type of characters everyday on your TV. Sometimes it was challenging to keep up with all the cuts, but as the episodes went it became more satisfying the Valee style. At first I was disappointed by the final minutes (as I was when i read the book) but I'll accept the final twist without seeing its consequences...

Amy of course was the standout, but Scanlen and Perkins were great too.

BTW Marti Nixon is having a great year, Dietland was awesome too!

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTiago

Between this and Gone Girl I've decided that Gillian Flynn stories just aren't for me (given that my reaction to both is an irritating combo of obviously! & seriously?). And as to the Vallee stuff, I had the same reaction re: Big Little Lies - it works for awhile but then for long stretches it just sort of sits there.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

I haven't read the novel, but definitely enjoyed the series... until this final episode. While I recognize that having Amma and her crew turn out to be the killer is DRAMATICALLY successful, it utterly fails as a believable practical solution. All the reasons mentioned above - physical strength to remove teeth, vehicle for moving the bodies, etc.- and others keep me from accepting it.

The acting and production were a feast throughout, but they didn't stick the landing. Revealing the killer suddenly via the dollhouse teeth... and fast-cut mid-credits shots you really needed to freeze frame (or get described in recaps/reviews) was annoying. For a show that embraced the VERY SLOW storytelling amidst the suffocating heat and stultifying small-mindedness of Wind Gap, the ending was suddenly rushed, under-explained, and darn unsatisfying.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

Adora, not Eudora.

John Keene, not John Kelley.

All kinds of plot contrivances that made for a ridiculous finale. Really hoping this doesn't get a second season.

August 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Most people don't really know how vicious teen girls could be it seems.

Anyways, I'm more mixed on this series as a whole. The pacing and the editing really kept me at arm's length and while I recognize that is the point, it still doesn't make it any better for me as the water. THAT SAID... I finally got used to it (or maybe the plot moved more quickly) these last three episodes which I thought were damn good. Maybe this would've been better with 3-5 episodes versus 8.

August 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Yes it was too long but damn those last two episodes were AMAZING. Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG belong to Adams.

August 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Can Clarkson please pull a diva move and refuse to be campaigned supporting. Would be fraud, but that would clear the way for the more deserving Scanlen and Perkins to be nominated. Plus, she can find out just how far her name and prestige can take her with the television awards bodies.

August 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMya

Bravo, Mr. Fiel. Thanks so much for this; it helped me finish the series off in my mind. There was so much of this show that was confusing, but now at the end it is satisfying. Love how it didn't answer some questions but gave clarity to others.

August 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrrrich7

There's no reason why Clarkson, Perkins, and Scanlen can't all get into supporting actress. The Emmys aren't above doing that and have done it in supporting actor just this year for Martin, Ramirez, and Wittrock (snubbing the best of them all, Cody Fern, but anywoo). Then the O.J. year there were Brown, Schwimmer, and Travolta (Lane could have replaced either of the latter two). So no frauding for Clarkson! She wasn't lead at all. Only Amazing Amy!

August 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnsel

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