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Series / Sharp Objects

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Don't tell Mama.

"Go ahead, Camille. Prove you're not dead."

Sharp Objects is an HBO limited series that aired from July 8, 2018 to August 26, 2018, starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Matt Craven, Sophia Lillis and Henry Czerny, based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn.

Camille Preaker (Adams) is a reporter from St. Louis who, shortly after a stay at a psych hospital, is assigned to cover the murders of two preteen girls from her hometown: Wind Gap, Missouri. Camille returns to Wind Gap to stay with her family — her abusive, cruel mother Adora (Clarkson), her stepfather Alan (Czerny) and her younger half-sister, Amma (Scanlen). The police chief, Vickery (Craven) resents Camille's presence, and a detective from Kansas City, Richard Willis (Messina), begins to grow closer to Camille.

While the series is partly about solving the murders, it is mainly focused on Camille and her mental health — Camille self-harms by cutting words into her body, and is still psychologically scarred from her younger sister's death when she was a teenager. In order to solve the murders and put to rest her demons, Camille must confront her past and her family.

Sharp Objects contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Adora is very possibly the worst kind of abusive mother.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: In the last episode, the doctor says that Amma has built up an immunity to Adora's poisons over years of being made to take them, but Camille hasn't and they nearly killed her.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Some of Amma's crueler moments, such as slapping her friend in the face, smashing her dollhouse furniture for being wrong, ripping apart fireflies, getting a girl drunk and leaving her with a group of older boys, are cut out of the TV adaptation. This is apparently to better hide the twist that she is one of the killers.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the book, Bob Nash is patient with his young daughter when she interrupts his interview with Camille; in the series, he snaps at her for interrupting and threatens her.
  • Adaptational Name Change:
    • Meredith Wheeler is inexplicably renamed Ashley in the TV series.
    • Mae, the girl Amma befriends in the last episode, was called Lily in the book.
  • Adapted Out: Amma's Girl Posse is missing a member in the TV series, where there were two Kelseys and the "weaker" of the two was renamed Jodes.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the book, it's not made very clear how much Alan knows about what Adora does, but the show makes it clear that he knows and, while he doesn't fully approve, won't stop her and will make sure she won't get caught.
  • The Alcoholic: Camille drinks almost constantly. She brings a plastic bag full of minibottles of liquor to Wind Gap and is frequently seen drinking clear liquor from an Evian bottle, even while driving.
  • All Abusers Are Male: Averted. Adora is the more harmful Crellin parent. Alan knows about and covers up her crimes, but he doesn't initiate any himself. A large part of the plot is that the police, especially Vickery, don't think that women could possibly be violent or commit murdernote , which is why they only look for male suspects in the Ann Nash and Natalie Keene murders.
  • The Alleged Car: Camille drives an old, beat-up Volvo that is covered in dirt.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Does Amma get caught? How does Camille deal with what she's discovered about Amma?
  • Attention Whore: Adora, who manages to force everyone to bend to her whims by playing up her fragility and even uses her daughter's disappearance as a way of getting as much attention lavished on her as possible. These are all hints at her Munchhausen by proxy disorder, which causes her to sicken her children so that she can have their attention.
  • Big Fancy House: Adora and Alan's house is an antique Victorian, fancy and old enough to have a room with an entirely ivory floor. Amma tirelessly works on a dollhouse reconstruction of it, calling it her dream.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Adora is loved and respected by almost everyone in Wind Gap. At home, she is incredibly controlling, abusive, and manipulative, especially of Camille, and she poisons her children so she can care for them, to the point where she got carried away and killed one of them.
    • Amma is also an example of this trope. She's a sweet and innocent child at home, but when she's away from her mother she drinks, does drugs, is a violent bully, and killed three people.
    • Ashley acts like a doting girlfriend, but immediately sells out John when Vickery offers to put her name in the paper.
  • Blood from the Mouth:
    • There's blood coming out of Natalie Keene's mouth when her body is found.
    • When Camille's roommate is found dead, she'd vomited blood all over the floor.
  • Bonding Through Shared Earbuds: The third episode reveals that while Camille was in psychiatric lockup for her self-harm, she shared a rare moment of hope with Alice, a teenage patient who convinces a nurse to let them listen to music, and they listen to Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" on shared headphones.
    Alice: With these I can get the hell out of here whenever I want.
  • Call-Back: Camille arrives at the funeral in a conservative, long-sleeved and ankle-length black dress. One of her old friends whispers behind her back, "I hate her dress." Later, we learn that Camille is covered in scars, preventing her from wearing more fashionable gowns and skirts. Still later, Camille goes through great difficulty acquiring an outfit that isn't revealing and wears it to the town festival. The same friend again remarks that she hates her outfit.
  • Character Tic: Adora pulls out her eyelashes when she's upset. Camille flashes back to her doing it on a number of occasions.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The missing teeth, Amma's dollhouse, Natalie's painted fingernails, the woman in white, the blood in the carriage house and Adora's bedroom.
  • Commonality Connection: Camille and John Keene, who are both in great pain over losing their younger sister.
  • Covered with Scars: Camille's entire body is covered in words that she carved into herself. She always wears long pants and sleeves, even in the hot summer, because of this.
  • Creepy Dollhouse: Amma's, which she has made to resemble Adora's house obsessively. And where she stores her victims' teeth.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Adora is in prison and Camille is finally healing from the ordeals of her time in Wind Gap. She's rescued Amma from her family and is raising her in St. Louis. And then she looks closely at the floor of her mother's bedroom in Amma's dollhouse.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Camille never really recovered from her sister's death and her mother's abuse, not to mention being gang-raped as a teenager.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Natalie Keene's body is propped up in an alley to be found by the police and citizens of Wind Gap.
  • Death by Origin Story: Marian's death was a formative influence on Camille.
  • Disappeared Dad: Camille's father is out of the picture. He's never named in conversation and it's unclear if he's still alive or if anyone even knows what became of him.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Amma is revealed to be the killer at the end of the final episode and when Camille comes to this realization, Amma replies: "don't tell Mama", which doubles as a Wham Line and a Cruel Twist Ending.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The Crellin/Preaker women are all messed up in some way. Camille is an alcoholic and only partly recovered self-harmer, Adora is cruel, manipulative, abusive, and killed one of her children and regularly poisons the others, and Amma already drinks and does drugs on a regular basis, is a violent bully, and kills three people.
  • Enfant Terrible: Amma—she knows how to manipulate just about anybody she comes up against, behaves in decidedly unchildlike ways around others but adopts a disturbingly childlike persona around her mother, and of course, violently murdered three young girls.
    • It's heavily implied that Natalie Keene was as well: John Keene and Ashley both have significant scars from Natalie's bites (including a bitten-off piece of earlobe, on Ashley's part), she stabbed another girl in the eye over a pencil, and enjoyed feeding stunned insects to her pet spiders.
  • Evil Matriarch: Adora is a domineering and emotionally manipulative mother. She also serves as the town's matriarch through her financial holdings and isn't shy about throwing her weight around.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Amma wears her hair up whenever she's around her mother—frequently pulled back with bows, like a younger girl would wear—but wears it loose with her friends and around Camille, when her "true" nature is on display.
  • Fan Disservice: Amy Adams in her underwear would normally be sexy, but her character's body is Covered with Scars from years of self-harm.
  • Flashback: The story is interspersed with flashbacks, mostly to Camille as a teenager.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Camille frequently has these.
  • Flyover Country: Takes place in Missouri.
  • Foreshadowing
    • The final victim is said to be put on display "like a doll."
    • Someone describes the ivory floor as made of "elephant teeth."
    • Amma's friends chide the sheriff for assuming that the killer is a man.
    • When Camille warns Amma and her friends that someone is killing girls, they respond flippantly, "Not the cool ones."
    • Amma says that her friends would do anything for her.
    • When playing with Mae, Amma mimes getting strangled by a loop of wire.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In episode 2, the word "SCARED" is scratched above the handle on Camille's car door. When we see the door for the second time, the word reads "SACRED."
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • It's implied that Adora is the way she is because of her mother, who once left Adora in the woods in the middle of the night to wander home.
    • Even more clear with Amma, who kills little girls that she fears are stealing her mother's attention.
  • The Ghost: Camille's father is rarely mentioned and never named, but casts an fairly large shadow over her relationship with her mother.
  • Henpecked Husband: Alan is almost a nonentity of a person. He exercises almost no will in the family. When helping her get ready for bed, he asks if she needs him for anything else, as if he were a butler. He seems to spend every night sleeping on a fold-away sofa bed. It's not entirely clear how much he knows, or allows himself to know, about Adora's murderous motherhood, but he does cover for her with lies.
  • Heroic BSoD: Camille realizes that her mother had poisoned Marian to death.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Adora and her relationships with men. In the book, Adora seems to have less than no interest in men, and seems to regard them as merely a way to get her what she wants (children). While she cosies up to Alan to get what she wants, they don't seem to have sex, or even express physical affection for each other. In the series, she and Alan have aggressive sex after an argument, and it's heavily implied that she's having an affair with Chief Vickery.
  • Imagine Spot: As part of its central style, the show frequently interweaves fantasies and flashbacks with the current timeline. The show opens with Camille imagining Marian and her younger self sneaking into her apartment and touching her hand as she sleeps.
  • Informed Attractiveness: People frequently tell Camille that she is beautiful, which only upsets her given that she knows her whole body is covered in scars.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Willis calls Camille an "intrepid girl reporter."
  • Karma Houdini: It's not entirely clear just how knowingly complicit Alan was in Adora's Munchhausen by proxy, but he seems to know something is up, given that he lies to cover for Adora. In spite of Vickery's promise to investigate Alan, he is never arrested and is last seen hanging around the house while Adora languishes in jail. The fact that Amma does not stay with him suggests that the authorities might suspect that he's an unsafe guardian.
  • Lady Drunk: Jackie is almost always in a state of inebriation and delights in gossip. Camille's old friends are also apparently pretty hard drinkers. A pregnant woman reveals that she keeps hard liquor in her car and winks when she claims that she's remained sober during her pregnancy.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Camille is a journalist, though she's not shown to be a very good one.
  • Münchausen Syndrome: By proxy. Adora poisons her children in order to care for them and gain sympathy.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The show frequently flashes back to images seen earlier, but after new context that sheds new light. For example, Camille's car has "dirt" drawn into the dust covering the trunk. Once it's revealed that she carves dispaaging words about herself on her skin, the show flashes back to the word, making it clear that Camille drew the word in reference to herself.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Adora is hinted at liking Marian more than Camille. In a late episode, she comes out and admits that she never really loved Camille.
    • Ann Nash, though mostly because she was tragically killed, but her father ignores the other three children.
  • Parental Substitute: Frank Curry behaves more like a father to Camille than Alan ever did.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Camille comes to Wind Gap because of Natalie Keene's disappearance, and stays once her body is found.
  • Psychological Horror: The story has shades of this.
  • Rape as Backstory: Camille was gang-raped by her classmates in the woods as a teenager, and there are flashbacks that show the leadup to it.
  • Red Herring:
    • Much is made about how much physical strength is required to pull teeth, suggesting that the killer is an adult man. It's actually Amma, with help from two other teenage girl accomplices. Combined, they're strong enough to strangle the girls to death and apparently pull their teeth out. The book also points out that children's teeth would be easier to pull out than an adult's.
    • At the end of two episodes, Alan is seen doing strange things, suggesting that he is the killer. In one episode, he looks at the doll house and starts tugging at one of his teeth. In another episode, after getting into a fight with Adora, he storms back in and they have aggressive sex intermixed in a montage of other unsettling things going on.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Camille's editor is frequently shown fixing things around the house while coaching to her on the phone. His wife lampshades the symbolism by telling him that he can't fix Camille like he can the house.
  • Self-Harm: Camille's body is covered in disparaging words that she carved into herself. She occasionally relapses in the course of the narrative, poking her fingertips with a needle and drawing words on her jeans.
  • Slut-Shaming: After Richard discovers Camille with John Keene, he viciously calls her out on it and refers to her as a drunk slut.
  • Small Town Boredom: It wasn't just boredom, but Camille moved from Wind Gap to St. Louis as an adult to get away from the small town.
  • The Stinger: In the finale, you see a brief, rapid-fire sequence of Amma killing the three girls, including Mae, and a shot of her as the woman in white.
  • The Un-Favourite: Adora directly tells Camille that she doesn't love her.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Adora has nothing but terrible things to say about Camille's wayward father, if she says anything at all. All of Camille's information on him seems to come from her, but we later learn that Adora is hardly a reliable source of information, so we have no idea if he was truly a bad guy.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Lacey, one of the guys who gang-raped Camille, claims to be haunted by it and apologises, but mostly wants his apology to be accepted.
  • Wham Line: The show ends on one, which doubles as a Cruel Twist Ending.
    Amma: Don't tell Mama.
  • Wham Shot: Camille finds a tooth under the bed in Amma's dollhouse...then realizes the entire floor is made from teeth.
    • At the end of the first episode, the shot of Camille's bare back, every inch covered in old scars that form words.