The Sharp Objects series finale has come and gone and certainly left us with a lot to think about. Before I get into the details of what was certainly a more fast-paced hour than we were previously accustomed to, I’ll say this: I really enjoyed it. I thought the hour hit upon all the right notes, spent time with the right characters, and gave us exactly what we needed. Having a little bit of time to digest it now, I can’t imagine it ending any other way. If you haven’t seen the episode, we’re about to get into heavy spoiler territory here so you may want to revisit this article once you’ve seen it. Here we go….
Camille started this episode off prepared to sacrifice her well being and possibly her life in order to protect Amma from their mother. Flashbacks throughout the episode prominently featured Marian and showed Camille’s emotional anguish over not being able to help her sister, a cycle she was determined to break here with Amma. She couldn’t save one sister but she was determined to save this sister. Amma knew what her sister was doing and Camille instructed her to leave, tell Richard, and never come back. Camille didn’t want to die but saving her sister was her top priority.
Watching Adora’s attitude and demeanor towards Camille completely change once Camille surrendered herself to her mother’s care provided the episode with some of the finest acting we got throughout the entire eight hours. Patricia Clarkson was off-the-charts good all season but watching her give Camille a bath, transforming into this other personality of sorts, all while recounting the abuse her mother put her through was nothing short of powerful. Watching Camille get out of the tub, hopeful that help had arrived and that her sacrifice to save Amma would not result in her own death, genuinely had me questioning whether Camille would survive or not. Camille, finding Amma sitting in front of her dollhouse and not out seeking help, to me heavily foreshadowed the ending and also provided a level of suspense for the rest of the episode that had me wondering if Amma could get away with murder.
As Richard and the Wind Gap police searched through Adora’s home, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of anger towards Alan, even more so than towards Adora. Alan was the perfect accomplice, providing Adora space to poison her daughters, covering for her actions and even defending her. As we see later on, Alan was home while Adora went to prison. He got to go back to his records and perhaps even his denial while Adora was punished and her daughters left home. Alan was the perfect stand-in for those in real life who turn a blind eye to abuse and even defend the abuser. While the show gave us insight as to why Adora behaved the way she did, we never got that with Alan and that’s a question this series will leave lingering in my mind for some time to come.
Following Adora’s arrest and incarceration, Camille took custody of her younger sister and in a beautiful montage, we got to see Camille truly recovering. As her boss read her story aloud, we got to hear Camille’s progress. She was beginning to forgive herself. Going back home had forced her to deal with years and years of pain that had never allowed her to escape her cycle of self-harm. Camille was finally breaking free, which is what made the ending sequence that much more heartbreaking. Camille’s innocent discovery of Natalie and Anne’s teeth inside the dollhouse, followed by Amma walking in and only saying, “Don’t tell Mama”—the same mother in prison for her crimes—was a gut wrenching conclusion to a series that made us feel its characters’ pain every week.
So much of this series was about cycles: the cycles the town and its citizens lived in, the cycles of abuse, the cycles of self harm. Scars from childhood run deep if not addressed early. Sharp Objects took us right into the heart of many dangerous cycles and showed us that not everyone gets happy endings and there are lasting ramifications to people’s actions. Not everyone breaks free. Starting with Adora, based on what we heard about her relationship with her own mother, she probably spent most of her life desiring the feeling of being needed, of being loved. She didn’t get that and she didn’t learn how to give that to her daughters in any kind of healthy, normal way. As a mother, Adora was now in a position of power. She could make herself feel needed. Poisoning her daughters made them dependent on her. Camille, the one daughter who fought that, received no love as a result. Adora treated Camille as her own mother treated her. Marian is the one we know the least about but we do know that she lost her life to make Adora feel better about her own. Camille’s pent up emotions and rage were focused inward and she took it all out on herself. Amma, however, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. She took her rage out on others. Amma wanted to punish people and, as we find out in the closing credits, convinced others to help her carry out her punishments.
With Marian dead and Camille far from home, Amma took center stage in her mother’s world for years. Instead of focusing her rage inwards like Camille, Amma made other people hurt. Amma didn’t want to be a victim and along the way likely became addicted to the feeling of inflicting pain and taking lives. She manipulated others, just like Adora did. Amma even manipulated her own mother, giving her what she wanted so she, in turn, could do what she wanted. As Richard explained in the hospital, Amma developed a tolerance for the poison, unlike her sisters. With her mother fooled into believing what she so desperately needed to believe, Amma lived out her homicidal fantasies, taking the lives of Natalie and Ann in brutal fashion and convincing her rollerskating friends to be her accomplices, all while setting up an innocent man for those crimes. Later, we see that getting away with those murders and having her mother take the fall for it wasn’t enough for Amma. A fresh start where she could truly thrive and put the past behind her was not enough. Amma killed again. Amma was continuing on her path of violence, even far away from where her pain originated.
Which brings us back to Camille. After nearly giving her life to save her sister, she now has to learn that her sister was in fact the murderer she was pursuing. While we didn’t get to see the discovery of Mae, Amma’s last victim, we know enough about Camille to know that she is going to blame herself for the murder of this young woman so close to her boss, which is perhaps the most important relationship in her life. All of the progress Camille had made healing from the loss of her sister, her rape, abuse at the hands of her mother, finally letting herself get close to others—all of that progress is now at risk. When faced with the feelings that Camille has to be enduring, including not being able to save another sister, where does Camille turn? One can only hope that it’s not a bottle and sharp objects.
Thanks for joining us each week for our coverage and analysis of Sharp Objects! Now that the show is over, we will likely write a few follow-up articles as the staff pieces together all of their thoughts and feelings on this miniseries. If you’ve enjoyed our work and are a new reader to 25YL, we hope you check out some of the other shows and films we write about!