Where the penultimate episode of HBO’s miniseries Sharp Objects, left a lot of pieces Falling into place, Sunday night’s series finale washed them all down with a heaping glass of Milk. While we were given one surprising rock and roll gut-punch of an ending, the bitter taste in our mouths still remains.
Recap: Sharp Objects Episode 8
It looks like Camille is the guest of honor at the dinner party from hell. Memories plague her as she slowly enters the Crellin house. The dinner is more of a celebration as John Keene has been arrested. Amma, looking ripe after a night out at Coachella, is completely out of it and Alan is surprisingly firm with Camille participating in this passive aggressive meal.
Amma mumbles on about being the greek goddess Persephone, and while they discuss mythology, Camille lets on that she knows what Adora’s done. Camille sips her milk and mentions Amma should come stay with her, that it would do her good. Obviously, netiher Adora nor Alan think that’s a good idea, as she deflects by conjuring up a fake fever in Amma. She practically forces her up the stairs and when Camille goes to follow she suffers stomach pains that bring her to her knees. Adora mixes up some of her special stuff, obviously responsible for preparing her dinner milk, and tends to Camille, pleased at how she can care for her daughter and how happy she is that she’s finally given in. Camille knows she is playing this dangerous cat-and-mouse game too close for comfort, but she has to endure it if she wants her mother to be caught for the crimes she’s committed. How close can she get her finger to the fan’s sharp edge before it finally slices her?
“How close can [Camille] get her finger to the fan’s sharp edge before it finally slices her?”
A tardy Chief Vickery rushes to the station to meet Willis to talk with John Keene. He claims Ashley gave him up, trying to coax a confession from John. They question him about Natalie’s blood found at his parents house, but he has no idea why it was there. Willis thinks they don’t have a whole story with him, that not enough adds up, but Willis seems convinced they may have jumped the gun.
Camille awakes to Marian warning her again. She is sick and barely able to walk, but she forces Amma to go to Willis for help. Both are horrifically aware of what their mother is doing to them, Alan is as well. Adora bathes Camille, telling her how happy she is and how she’s waited to care for her for so long. Camille is the one most like herself. She submerges herself in the bathtub but rushes to the surface when she hears Willis arrive. She tries to cry out for him but Alan’s music blares over her (could that be why he listens to it so loud, to drown out the crying, screaming, pleading and sick sounds?). She finds Amma, still at the house refusing to leave. She wants drink all of Adora’s milk and be a “good girl”.
The last dose of medicine kicks in as Adora mashes up some more. Just when we think Camille is about to lose her grip completely and give in to her mother’s poison, Marian saves her with a kiss and Curry arrives with Willis and the Wind Gap blue lights. Camille’s only remaining hand in reality has reached out and pulled her from this dizzy spell of a nightmare in Wind Gap. Her one hand behind the grave kisses her forehead and pushes her back to life. The police search the house finding Adora’s bloody garden pliers, obviously the ones used to pluck thorns from the garden and from her beloved town.
Adora is arrested in fabulously dramatic fashion and the girls are taken to the hospital. Willis tells Camille that Adora will be charged with the deaths of the girls and potentially Marian once they get more tests from their blood back. She had an array of drugs and Amma might have built up a tolerance over time.
In court (a trial I know we would all give our left molars to watch broadcast live), Adora pleads ‘not guilty’, but is ultimately convicted. Amma goes to live with Camille in St. Louis, attempting to rebuild after the fall of the house of Crellin. Amma befriends a young girl living in the apartment complex teaching her to roller skate and build miniature furniture. Camille takes her to see Adora. Orange is not her color. Whoever said orange was the new white was seriously disturbed.
Curry reads Camille’s last article, a reflection on the events of Wind Gap and how she forgives herself for failing to save her sister and her choice to give herself over to caring for her Amma. She questions whether she does it because she wants to or because she has her mother’s sickness? She’s leaning towards kindness, lately, but she acknowledges there is still a certain inherited flavor of milk still left in her mouth.
“Amma [emerges] from the treeline of the woods in a long, white silk gown. The Woman in White.”
The Curry’s, Amma, her new friend, May, and Camille all gather for a family dinner. Amma competes with her new friend for Camille’s attention, clearly jealous over the girl, snagging any attention from her or from Camille. Its as awkward and tense as the dinner at the beginning of the episode, minus the milk, but the audience can tell there is a repeated behavior unfolding here. Amma looks to Camille the same way she looked to Adora for control, attention, and adoration.
May’s mother winds up at Camille’s door one afternoon, letting her know that Amma and May have apparently had their first fight. Camille lets her know she’ll send her over when they get back. As she throws out her empty carton of milk, she finds a scrap of material perfect for a bed cover for Amma’s dollhouse. She takes it up to Amma’s bedroom and carefully makes up the miniature bed, but then notices something more sinister…
They cover the floor like the taboo elephant ivory tiles that lined Adora’s bathroom. Like mother, like daughter. Amma whispers “Don’t tell mama” before Led Zeppelin’s In the Evening ends Milk and Sharp Objects for good. We’re gifted with one last montage, only this one is more horrific than the previous episodes’ bursts of light, color, faces, touches, and foreshadowed movement. This montage consists only of Amma, screams, the woods, Natalie Keene, Ann Nash, and blood.
Was it over then? Of course not! One final shot following the credits shows a shadowed Amma emerging from the treeline of the woods in a long, white silk gown. The Woman in White.
Eight episodes, and therefore eight weeks, has gone by faster than any of the series’ montages. What I truly hope for is that all viewers experienced the same amount of chills as I did the second Amma whispered “Don’t tell mama” and Zeppelin’s In The Evening crashed its way into the closing scene of Sharp Objects.
For most of my life that song was my father’s ringtone so I remained pretty indifferent to it each time it was included in Sharp Objects until the end of Milk. This time I realized the song meant a whole lot more than comfort, nostalgia, and goosebumps. No words from Camille’s body nor episode show title could have pointed you more in the right direction than Robert Plant’s words. He was giving you the answer to the ending the whole time.
Don’t let Amma play you for a fool though. Amma has no pit, and Amma doesn’t make the rules. It’s funny how the answers, explanations, and cures are always looming around us waiting to be recognized in some way, isn’t it?
Over these eight weeks I have reflected on and analyzed each episode as particularly as I believe viewers will enjoy reading and even having done the same with Gillian Flynn’s novel beforehand, this was a detail overlooked. Vallée certainly has a way of incorporating comprehensive visual, auditory, literary, and even some applicable kinesthetics to his work. He effectively elaborated on a story with already so much meaning by taking it deeper and more personal with details added to the dialogue, additional scenes the novel lacked, and an undeniably eerily beautiful aesthetic flare to top it off. With any luck at all we will see a full length horror film from him sometime in the future.
” [The Finale] was an intensely beautiful episode chock full of perfectly necessary flashbacks, meaningful visual contrasts, slow burned emotion, and properly placed creeps…”
Milk was an intensely beautiful episode chock full of perfectly necessary flashbacks, meaningful visual contrasts, slow burned emotion, and properly placed creeps, tying the ribbon on Sharp Objects and shearing off the pulls. In this finale we see Camille slip so close to losing her ground in order to bring her mother down for the murder of Marian and, that which she believes to be, the murders of Natalie and Ann.
A substance so pure and naturally produced by female mammals to nourish their young, is ironically Adora’s weapon of choice to disarm her daughter. It’s the perfect symbolization of a mother’s love used in such a perverse way. Adora loves her children’s attention so much that her over care is what slowly kills them. Milk, our primary source of calcium, is a required nutrient for healthy teeth. Teeth ripe for pulling… and for tiling a dollhouse floor.
While Adora is responsible for her own maternal crimes, we come to find out, in the end, that Wind Gap’s child murderer is actually Amma. Her Munchausen by proxy mother murdered for the purposes of adoration and to feel needed, but Amma kills out of attention and jealousy, all considerably feminine traits which falls right in line with one of the many themes Milk closed out for Sharp Objects.
Throughout the series we see how hard it was for Camille to fit into the backwards town of her childhood. She was always the outsider, obstinate, independent, weird, different. The victims, Ann and Natalie were punished for their similarities. These traits attracted Adora’s compulsion to correct and control and, consequently, Amma’s homicidal jealousy. Throughout reading Flynn’s novel it was easy for me to identify with Camille, being a different girl in a small southern town, but HBO’s adaptation allowed me to lay fresh eyes on the message she was truly trying to get across to audiences by text or by screen.
Almost anyone could relate to Camille in some way because at one point or another we’ve all felt out of place. Humans are, by definition, imperfect, full of flaws no matter how far we will go to perfect our image to others. We all have flaws internally and artificially. Whether it be our blemishes, body shape, skin color, degree of education, scars, gender, and even our sexual proclivities, there is always something we’re self-conscience about. Being conscience of these flaws may allow us to grow if we choose to embrace them or weaken us with the fear of the one thing that may puncture the surface, exposing them for all to see.
Camille struggles with her flaws, on the surface and deep within herself, but what she does not see is that even those she considers to be perfect, like Adora, Amma, Ashley, Jackie, Katie Lacey, and the other women of Wind Gap, have flaws. Huge flaws, in fact. Flynn wants us to keep in mind that regardless of where we come from and where we are now, we will never truly be perfect all the way through. There will always be the craving for attention, lust for love, insatiable jealousy, even endearing righteousness, and every human shortcoming in between that will ensure our humble existence. Even Wind Gap itself, a simple town that seems quaint and outdated is filled with deep dark complexities like those of sex, secrets, murder, and lies, and it takes someone like Camille, a sharp object, to poke a hole through its seemingly quintessential
“We are all covered in the scars of our imperfections. Some burn bright red and others fade within our flesh…”
Whether you appreciated the complex subject matter and enjoyed analyzing every frame like I did, or you just joined in to check out what outfit Patricia Clarkson was going to dramatically sigh and purse her lips in, Flynn’s story tells us there is a very important message to take from Camille Preaker’s journey, and it’s a simple one: we are all covered in the scars of our imperfections. Some burn bright red and others fade within our flesh, but we all have them regardless. However, we should always be mindful of those who hold a pointed blade, or pair of pliers, in our direction.
We can interpret Vallée’s telling of Sharp Objects many ways, but given our nightcap of Milk it’s pretty clear that he wants viewers to know that whatever dilemma they’re going through, or situation they find themselves in, the answers are always there for to be found in words whether you see them, hear them, or feel them.
Vallée teases viewers with a glorified aesthetic, impeccable casting, and a moody miniseries filled with meaning. We can interpret his telling of Sharp Objects many ways, but given our Milk nightcap it’s pretty clear that he wants viewers to know that whatever dilemma they’re going through, or situation they find themselves in, the answers are always there for to be found in words whether you see them, hear them, or feel them. The addition of Amma’s kill montage post-credits and the quick image of her dressed in the silk white gown as the Woman in White is Vallée’s final reminder that there is more to what we see, there is more to what we think we see.
There is always more.