Jean Marc Valle’s second HBO series, Sharp Objects, based upon the novel by Gillian Flynn, manages to overcome Big Little Lies with a meticulous and brilliantly-crafted psychological thriller that will certainly leave a mark in pop culture thanks to its fittingly shocking and abrupt twist ending.
After several episodes leading to the inevitable conclusion that Camille’s mother, Adora, was, in fact, the killer this whole time, it felt surprisingly unsatisfying when the arrest actually happened. Something inside me thought Valle and Flynn had something up their sleeves, but as the episode ended and nothing came, I was starting to worry. That was, of course, until the shockingly terrifying last shot where Camille finds the teeth of poor Natalie and Ann in the dollhouse Amma has been building the entire show. It’s a fittingly dark conclusion that actually works when you go back into the first few episodes; the director and writers always made sure to make Amma creepily stand out with her bipolar attitude and comments towards Camille.
However, it’s the post-credits scene that will certainly leave a lasting impression on me. The haunting nightmarish images of Amma violently murdering Natalie, Ann, and new friend Mae, with the help of her roller-skate friends, paints a clear picture of what her real intentions were.
We were told a few episodes back that Adora, used her obsession with taking care of young girls with both Ann and Natalie, which clearly infuriated Amma and made her jealous. We can also clearly see this attitude displayed also towards Camille whenever she became close to Adora. Amma had developed a liking for her mother’s killer caring, and she wasn’t going to share her mother’s spotlight. Once Adora’s gone, though, and Camille becomes her mother figure, Mae becomes the new threat.
We see this displayed very clearly in a scene towards the end at a dinner with Curry and his wife, where Mae reveals she plans on being a journalist. Amma shuts her down saying she’s just trying to impress her sister. While at first-viewing the exchange just seems like classic brat attitude from Amma, when you pair it with the final revelation, it’s clear what sets her off. As soon as Mae’s mother knocked on the door asking where her daughter was, I knew what was coming, as did probably Camille. Valle puts us inside her mind, and we take in the shocking revelation with her, as she slowly goes into the room, and as we slowly see the teeth. It’s also probably the reason we don’t see Camille’s reaction to Amma’s “don’t tell Mama” line, as we can imagine she reacted similarly to us.
As I said before, it was a fitting ending to a hauntingly beautiful series; as Jean Marc Valle said in the behind-the-scenes of the episode, a clear explanation of what happened wasn’t really needed for the ending to work, since Camille had no way of knowing either, and that’s what makes this show stand out. We take in information as she does, which allows us to take the rollercoaster ride with her. It’s also a testament to Amy Adams’ incredible and heartbreaking performance, which shouldn’t be overlooked at next year’s awards season. It’s, in my opinion, her best work yet.
Patricia Clarkson also delivers a career-best performance, of a mother who maintains herself in the gray zone throughout the show. It’s newcomer Eliza Scanlen, though, that pops the most, and she should definitely be on Hollywood’s radar from now on.
In the end, this brilliant miniseries should not be overlooked, as Jean Marc Valle proves to be an even better television director than in film, and GillIian Flynn and Marti Noxon prove again their excellent craft at storytelling and writing.