Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sharp Objects 1x08 Milk

By Sati. Wednesday, August 29, 2018 ,

"A child weaned on poison considers harm a comfort.”

A crucial line from the novel didn't make it into the last episode of Sharp Objects, a finale that mostly delivered and majorly surprised. And thus all of Gillian Flynn's books have been adapted (and yes, what as shame it is we didn't get Dark Places adaptation that was worthy of the novel). I've gotta say that as wonderful as Fincher's Gone Girl was Jean-Marc Vallée really did wonders here, even though you still wish for more of the scenes from the book were featured on screen.

The episode begins with a chilling dinner scene in Adora's house. Adora is celebrating that John Keane was arrested while Amma is dressed up as Persephone with giant crown of flowers. Adora checks Amma's temperature and begins to lead her away to give her 'medicine' and Camille pretends to be ill to allow Adora to focus on her and spare Amma.

Camille and Adora bond in a twisted way - Camille finally allows Adora to 'care' for her and finally feels loved by her mother even though she knows she is poisoning her. Only in the world from Flynn's books such scenes are possible and actually feel realistic and touching. Adora shares a story about her own mother leaving her in the woods and you almost feel sorry for her. Turns out women have been hurting women in this family for generations. What chance did Adora really have to ever be a good mother without having maternal love in her life? And with all the pressure that is on women, particularly in Wind Gap, not becoming a mother was never a choice.

We also see short scene of interrogation of John Keane as well as Alan and Vickery having a small confrontation. While all of this is going on Richard begins wondering where Camille is, finally arriving to the house where Alan lies to him that Camille is out, proving that he indeed knows that what Adora is doing is wrong.

Camille gets worse and worse but uses her remaining strength to tell Amma to get Richard. In these moments Camille is willing to die for Amma because she believes it's the right thing to do and since she finds comfort in hurt and doesn't value her life at all it seems like a fitting end for her, at least in Camille's mind. Amma doesn't go, though, so stuck in the sick ways of her family. As Camille lies on the floor, close to death and hallucinates her sister Marian we see police lights outside revealing that - in departure from novel that I really liked - Curry, Camille's wonderful boss, came to Wind Gap and led the cops there.

Curry embraces Camille and Richard, horrified, sees her scares. Vickery talks to Adora and the cops find the pliers. Adora is arrested with Amma crying after her. Camille and Amma are taken to the hospital. When they are putting the needle in Camille's scarred arm she smiles slightly, not caring anymore who sees her scars. She is just so relieved it's all over and Amma is safe. Richard comes by to tell them that Adora was using rat poison and anti-freeze, among other things, to poison them. He also apologizes to Camille.

Then we see a wonderful, wordless montage in which it is revealed that Amma is now living with Camille and has befriend a neighbor, Mae. We see Adora pleading 'not guilty' in the courthouse. Then we see Camille bringing Amma to talk to Adora in prison, Adora and Amma tear up and touch their palms on the glass. Jackie comes over too and says hello to the girls outside but there is palpable feeling of distance between her and Camille, things forever changed now that Camille knows Jackie long suspected what Adora was doing but didn't manage to rescue Marian.

Back in St. Louis Curry reads Camille's article and praises it. In a nod to Flynn Camille writes of 'female rage', something that the writer's books deal with. Camille talks about how committed she is to raising Amma, seeing it as redemption for the sister she couldn't save. Mae is also there at the dinner and two things happen - Camille notices the writing on Mae's hand, much like Camille's own fixation with words. Also Mae talks to Curry about journalism. Both of those things upset Amma who wants to be the center of attention. Still, all those scenes lured you into the feeling of safety mostly because Adams and Scanlen have such wonderful chemistry and really seem like real sisters.

And then things started getting creepy. Amma asks Camille if she would like her to be a writer too. Camille answers that she just wants Amma to be happy. The next day Mae's mom comes over, asking if Camille saw Mae. She also tells her that Mae and Amma had their first fight. The picture of young Camille and Marian suddenly falls on the floor, as if her ghost was still there to help Camille realize that something is wrong.

Camille finds the mattress Mae made for Amma's dollhouse, thrown in trash. She goes to Amma's room to place the mattress in the dollhouse. She notices that a doll is placed in the dollhouse's window just like Natalie's dead body was placed in the alley. She looks inside and sees a single tooth. Then she looks closer and she notices the floor in Adora's room is made of human teeth, grotesque replica of Adora's ivory floor. Amma shows up in the door behind Camille. Camille turns around, stunned and Amma tells her, smiling sheepishly, "Don't tell mama".
During the end credits we see mid-credits scene of Amma killing Ann with the help of her rollerskaring friends, killing Natalie in the place where Ashley found all that blood under the bed and Amma strangling Mae. Feral, gleeful, violent. The post credits scene features Amma appearing as Woman in White and walking into the forest.

By having this as the chilling last line and by featuring it as the last moment of the show, with sprinkled nightmarish flashes of feral Amma depicting such glee in killing and showing such primal rage Jean-Marc Vallée did the unthinkable - in the adaptation the twist hits you as strongly as it does in the book. The twist in the novel is featured in the very short epilogue, reason for that is that Flynn's editor thought if they published the 30 more pages that she wanted to have there originally people would have guessed that the twist is coming. That way you had absolutely no idea. You read that Amma's new friend was killed but few lines later Camille finds the teeth. It's all happening so fast your mind doesn't even properly register suspicion. Even if you can figure out it was Amma you never expect something as horrific as her actually using the teeth like that.
The effect of abrupt horror is achieved here by having this as a very last moment. It's chilling and easily the most disturbing ending in any TV series or a movie in a very long time The flashes of Amma are truly horrific and the last thing we see is the frightening image of Amma as the Woman in White. This is nightmare fuel. Not just because of the way it is executed but because of what it all means - a child, still, so abused that she rebels not like Camille, in self-harm, but in violence and in such cruelty. And she does so with so much joy. And the way Scanlen delivers that final line - Amma reacting to Camille finding the teeth of three murdered girls as if Camille found and F on a test or an empty beer bottle, something that her mother would scold her for. The juxtaposition of the wild anger and of childlike reaction, as if the brutal killings were something trivial, is shocking.

The finale also did such a wonderful job at fooling the viewer - we first see Amma as a victim, as 'princess to save from a witch' but then in the end she is something worse than the witch. After all Adora killed 'through kindness'. Amma is brutal, remorseless and unstoppable. Her reason to kill isn't replicating the floor in the dollhouse - this is what is spelled out in the book and only hinted at in the series - it's her jealousy. She couldn't stand that Adora was paying attention to someone else. And it goes beyond that, as in the book she was planning on killing one of her 'friends' because she was being remorseful about what they have done.
I'm not sure whether Vallée's approach to the epilogue is incredibly strange or truly refreshing. He doesn't feature the most memorable things other than the dollhouse horror - Adora's diaries, the last scene of Camille in the bathroom, Amma with hair cut short in her institution. Part of me wonders if Vallée didn't betray Adams and Camille here. Adams was robbed of her biggest scene from the book - after Amma is locked up Camille moves in with Curry and Eileen (and may we all have someone in our lives like these two) and she carves the last patch of smooth skin on her back. Curry bursts through the door just in time to stop her from cutting her face. But still, after that, Camille goes on and says she is leaning towards kindness - yes, that line made it into the show but this is not the last thing we know of Camille, which in the book leaves us with hope. The show left us with horror.

Vallée chose to end Camille's journey by showing us her stunned, devastated, frightened and distraught expression hauntingly portrayed by Adams. The sister Camille saved is a murderer. The wickedness she run from is right there with her. Not only is her mother a killer, her sister is too. The only truly innocent person in her family - dead by her own mother's hand. Another layer to it - for those who didn't read the book, this is the ending that has our protagonist in a room with a cold-blooded killer. I can only imagine some people will assume Amma kills Camille if she tries to call the police. It's not an unreasonable assumption seeing how Amma showed to have considerable strength and viciousness.

But it wouldn't be a right assumption to make. Amma is a child. She got away with murder not because of her actions but because of the people around her who refused to believe a woman would kill. Amma's action are not guided by reason, they are guided by impulse. And for her in this moment Camille is the most important person in the world...well, other than mama.

The one thing that truly irks is that the series abruptly shifts focus - from on Camille and her journey to achieve some kind of peace to Amma and her rage. It's effective and it's jarring, which is exactly the way the novel's ending felt like but it also feels sadistic - Vallée stripped Camille of hope and we, the audience, saw the events through her. In the end we are left with that image of Amma, haunting us. I love it, I love dark endings but I just feel so bad for poor Camille.

I know Big Little Lies is coming back next year and that series was practically wrapped with a huge bow at the end. If Sharp Objects returns it strips that ending from being a haunting, chilling cliffhanger but dammit, if Big Little Lies gets a second season this should too. The information about the characters that is in epilogue alone would be enough for a decent portion of the season. Adams says she doesn't want to play this character any longer because of how traumatic Camille's experiences and life are. Come on, Amy. Don't leave us in the darkness.

Still, if this is truly the end we are given an iconic ending. That line - "don't tell mama" is already a classic and the way that they finally used "In the Evening" (heard from the first time in the very first episode as Camille enters Wind Gap) in all its glory during the end credits - before those flashes of horror came - was superb. And we have Eliza Scanlen on the rise to fame now - that accent she was doing in the show isn't even the way she speaks normally!

With that ending Vallée managed to accomplish something even darker than Fincher in Gone Girl. We were watching a character study only to have a rug pulled from under us in the end, finding ourselves in the middle of a horror, much like Camille. And we learned that the one person Camille wanted to save from the abyss has been in it for too long to be rescued. And just as Camille was out of it, at last, she was dragged back in. Like Persephone forced to returned to the underworld. Like an innocent child taken away by the wicked woman in white.

Into the neverending darkness.

8 comments:

  1. Super solid write-up. I'm still in complete awe from this entire series, but especially the finale. Way more astounding than Fincher's Gone Girl in my opinion. I think with different actors this series wouldn't have been nearly as good. Amy Adams and Eliza Scanlen have EMMY written all over their faces. And let's not forget Patricia Clarkson. Holy cow this cast is amazing. I didn't want it to end. But I'm nearly positive a season 2 is out of the question :\

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    1. Thank you! I actually always envisioned Rebecca Ferguson as Camille and Michelle Pfeiffer as Adora but this casting worked very well in the end!

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  2. I hope they don't do a second season. The way they ended it is perfect. There doesn't need to be any more story to tell. I believe HBO already said they were leaving it as a standalone?

    I'm actually okay they left out the part with her moving in with Curry and replaced it with him reading her article instead. That was the one part of the book I was never crazy about. I felt it kind of infantalized Camille a little too much. I was fine not to have that.

    I'm glad you recapped this series! <3

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    1. HBO did say it but they also said it about Big Little Lies and we all know what happened there :)

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  3. Sorry this comment is late! Your recap is amazing as always. I think everything is absolutely spot-on, especially how Amma is caught at the end as if Camille just found an F on her report card. The acting and production was incredibly haunting. My only qualm is how it led up to the big reveal of Amma as the killer, and leaving her friends out of the story so much. I felt it was a slight cop-out that Jean Marc said that he couldn't see how to continue that part of the story from Camille's point of view when she visits Amma in prison, she receives John's letter, etc. in the book. And, the series had been so creative with her flashbacks about her sister/roommate/etc. up to the point too, so I think it could've worked and then people wouldn't want a second season. The image of Amma's rage killing the girls definitely sticks with me, but it doesn't quite feel like the story was fully finished. Still, everyone deserves all the awards!!

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    1. Yeah Vallee's explanation was absolutely bizarre. i don't know why he was so insistent on not showing the epilogue to the book. Maybe he wanted to do season 2 and cover that? Who knows

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  4. I loved this show, every single second of it, especially the disturbing ending (just thinking about it gives me chills) which is why I don't want a second season. The show is perfect and I'm afraid a second season would ruin it.

    Back to the ending, damn what a twist! I realised there was something wrong with Amma during the dinner at Curry's house, and when Mae when missing, I knew it it was her. And yet, the doll house, don't tell mama, and the mid-credits scene still caught me by surprise.

    Thanks for the recaps, I loved them :)

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! So glad you loved the show, it was awesome experience it each week with you guys!

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