HBO’s Sharp Objects
Episode 8: “Milk”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Gillian Flynn & Marti Noxon
* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Falling” – click here
Here we are at the end of the line. Nice opening to “The Dance” by Franz Waxman from the soundtrack for A Place in the Sun. Listen here.
At her mother’s house, Camille (Amy Adams) returns to find the family at the table. Adora (Patricia Clarkson) even set her a place. She’s happy for a return to safety after John’s (Taylor John Smith) arrest. Our reporter doesn’t consider the young man “a killer.” All of a sudden, Alan (Henry Czerny) has lots to say at dinner, being a bit of an asshole. Meanwhile the oldest daughter cannot stop staring her mother down, after all Camille’s uncovered about Adora. Amma’s (Eliza Scanlen) dressed up fittingly as Persephone.
The family’s done with “too much death” in Wind Gap, hoping to turn a corner. Well, some of them, anyway. Camille tries convincing her mom to let Amma come with her to Seattle for a while. Neither Adora nor Alan like the idea. It’s a plea— Camille doesn’t want to see her sister damaged any further than she’s been damaged already. Soon, she collapses herself. She calls for “mommy.” Perhaps it’s real. Perhaps she’s trying to reel her mother in close.
Adora takes her eldest upstairs. Then, out come the pills and the medications! All over again. Camille allows herself to “be looked after,” the favourite pastime of her mama. It gives the older woman a sense of purpose.
At the station, Chief Bill Vickery (Matt Craven) and Dt. Richard Willis (Chris Messina) interrogate John together. Ashley (Madison Davenport) gave information on him. John says it isn’t true. He says he didn’t kill his sister, but that his girlfriend’s lashing out at him. Not too far fetched, considering Ashley’s only seeking fame. But what about the blood they found belonging to Natalie?
In bed and sick, Camille can’t help remember the past. She sees her sister speak to her: “Get it out.” So, she vomits. She and Amma are like two ghouls, deteriorated by their mother, shuffling around the top floor of the house. She urges her little sister to go find Dt. Willis. It’s clear even if Camille originally intended to distract Adora, she’s not doing well now, and it’ll only get worse. Problem is, Alan’s continually a roadblock to his own daughter. He knows what his wife’s done, he knows she continues doing it. He’s totally spineless, evident by how he passive-aggressively deals with Chief Vickery’s relationship to Adora.
Having a bath, Camille confronts her mother about Marian (Lulu Wilson) dying. Mom won’t admit to anything, only cremating her after she died because she couldn’t bear the thought of her girl being eaten by insects. We do hear more of Adora’s harrowing upbringing— her own mother was a rough woman.
Then, at the house, Dt. Willis shows up wanting to talk with Camille. So our reporter, frail and sick, crawls from the bath trying to reach him. The snake-like Alan sends Richard off claiming his step-daughter isn’t there. Greasy.
“Mom, am I gonna die?”
“Oh, we’re all gonna die, Camille.”
On the floor, Camille lies dazed, almost near death. She can’t move. It’s then she sees the flashing lights of the cop car. Willis rushes upstairs, alongside Frank Curry (Miguel Sandoval). This is the moment Richard sees what the woman’s been hiding so long, all those scars across her body. Frank only wants to get his reporter and dear friend home. Now, an investigation is about to begin, and even Chief Vickery can’t stop it. Adora’s busy telling everyone her daughter is “mentally ill.” However, the cops come across a questionable pair of pliers in their search— y’know, like one that could be used to take out teeth. The whole house is a wild, intense scene, as Adora is cuffed, and the sisters are checked by EMTs. Even Alan’s a suspect as a possible accomplice to his wife.
In the aftermath, Amma goes back to live with Camille, and the two give it a shot at existing normally outside of the dominance and control of their mother. There’s still the court trial, where Adora pleads “not guilty,” to everyone’s shock. Plus, she “never explained the teeth.” At least Alan isn’t also a murderer, just a weak willed man who couldn’t protect his own flesh and blood. Outside of Wind Gap, Amma thrives, making friends, trying out new hobbies. She goes to visit her mom in jail now and then, not fully letting go despite the crimes the woman’s committed, and against young girls she knew, no less.
The final article from Camille is a heavy one about winning the “fucked up family Olympics.” We hear Frank read it, which rocks him. He loves it and he’s proud of her work. Her struggle’s not over yet, it’s never over. At least she’s headed in the right direction. She can begin healing. One of Amma’s new pals even idolises her, right down to marking on her skin just to look like Camille. Weird, but kinda sweet.
In the end, Camille looks through the model house in Amma’s room. There, under one of the beds, she finds a single tooth. She further sees the floor of the room itself in the model house is made of teeth. All her little sister has to say? “Don‘t tell mama.”
What an ending! It becomes about the experience of trauma, not redemption. Adora’s sickness was, in a way, passed on to her youngest daughter. It has stained the family. Camille managed to find a sense of redemption, whereas Amma inherited a deep seated illness. A terrifying few edits during the credits is a fantastic, chilling touch on Sharp Objects— a damn fine series.