Camille (Amy Adams) is already filled with dread and foreboding as she enters the house, flashes of Marian’s funeral running in her mind. In last week’s episode, Camille learned that her mother is very likely suffering from a rare psychological condition known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, whose sufferers make their own children sick in order to get attention.
Adora (Patricia Clarkson) greets Camille by saying “now that the Keene boy has been arrested, our little girl is safe,” an ironic sentiment considering she murdered Camille’s sister Marian many years ago, and is poisoning her other daughter Amma (Eliza Scanlen) presently. Amma claims the evening is intended to be a celebration, though whether it is for the arrest of John Keene or Camille’s imminent departure is unclear. Adora, usually a stickler for propriety, allows some gruesome death penalty dinner conversation. It’s as though the family (besides Camille) are all unperturbed by the morbidity of discussing the intricacies of Missouri’s lethal injection policies.
Amma is still quite sick, and dressed as Persephone, Queen of the Underworld and wife of Hades. Persephone is in charge of punishment in Greek mythology, a role that Amma clearly embraces with her quickness to judge her peers. “Would you be more sad if John died, or if I died?” Amma asks Camille, still testing her sister’s allegiances even while feverish. “I don’t want anyone to die,” Camille responds, before offering to take Amma back to Camille with her when she returns to St. Louis. Adora quickly retaliates by claiming that Amma is ill, but Camille diverts Adora’s attention with her own alleged sickness. All Adora wants is a sick daughter, and all Camille wants is attention and love. So with Camille sick and lying in her mother’s bed, the two are oddly in sync for the first time in the series. Camille’s illness however is a ruse — she watches her mother mix a concoction in the dreaded blue bottle. “This will be good for both of us, don’t you think?” Adora asks. What does she mean? That Camille’s sickness would be good for the pair? Camille drinks the liquid her mother offers her, and quickly suffers the consequences.
The next morning, Amma awakens, still wearing her flower crown. She stares across the upstairs hallway banister at two landscape paintings. The pair are similar, but not exactly the same, two halves of a whole. Vickery (Matt Craven) and Richard (Chris Messina) meanwhile are elsewhere interrogating John Keene. He claims not to have known about the blood the cops found in his girlfriend Ashley’s carriage house. On a break from the questioning, Richard considers that if you push a suspect hard enough, they’re likely to confess even if they didn’t do it. Vickery returns the conversation to the Preaker girls. The detective is wondering if like everyone else in Wind Gap, they are “either crazy or evil… and I’m worried we’re looking at the wrong half.”
Back at home, Camille urges Amma to go get help. Just as Camille planned, Adora has been focused on her, and thus Amma has had some time to heal. Even Alan seems somehow aware of what’s happening. He tells his wife, “Don’t overdo it.”
“I’ve waited for this for so long,” Adora tells Camille as she bathes her, “for you to need me.” Camille’s mother tells her the story of how her mother would punish her. Camille’s grandmother would drive her miles into the woods and make her walk home alone in the middle of the night. Somehow Adora equates what she is doing to Camille to a form of punishment, too. The Preaker girls, it seems, are obsessed with punishment and consequences.
When Richard finally arrives at the house to try and help, Alan lies and tells him Camille is out with girlfriends — though Camille’s car in the driveway, matched with the fact that Camille hates nearly everyone in Wind Gap, make that story pretty far-fetched. Camille, having heard the doorbell, desperately craws naked across the bathroom floor, trying to reach the detective before he leaves, but he drives off anyway. Amma, as it turns out, never left the house. “I’m sorry,” she sobs, “I need to stay her good girl.” The level of manipulation, both physical and psychological that Adora has inflicted upon her own daughters is diabolical. It seems she is unable to help herself, still pounding sinister pills in the kitchen as Camille grows worse and worse.
In a feverish reverie, Camille is haunted by images of her dead sister Marian and spinning fans. Police lights dance on the ceiling of the bathroom floor, as past and present intertwine. Suddenly, Camille’s dead sister lies with her on the bathroom floor, only for a moment. In reality, Camille’s editor and Richard have arrived. The police search the house, and discovery a pair of bloody pliers — perhaps the ones used to pull teeth out of dead girls’ mouths — hidden in the kitchen. EMT’s examine both Amma and Camille and lead them out of the house. Amma screams for her mother as she watches Adora dragged out of the house in handcuffs.
At the hospital, a nurse draws blood from Camille’s arm through a scar that reads “omen”. Amma and Camille are sharing a room, and both hear the revelation that antifreeze, prescriptions, and rat poison were all discovered in Adora’s stash. Richard stops by to apologize and say goodbye.
In flash forward, we see Amma living with Camille in St Louis. Amma makes a new friend in Camille’s apartment complex. The sisters drive home to hear her mother’s “not guilty” plea, and for Amma to visit her father. Amma visits Adora in prison — Camille hangs back. Camille’s editor reads her summation of the events in Wind Gap aloud, a beautiful account of Camille’s relationship to her mother and to her two sisters. Camille still fears that the evil and crazy that lived inside her mother may live inside of her, but her article ends on an optimistic tone. It’s all almost too perfect — an ending tied up with a bow, an ending as shiny veneer over the very ugly situation that unfolded over the past seven episodes. It’s a Wind Gap tradition, after all, to keep up appearances at all costs.
It isn’t until the final ten minutes of the series finale that the blemishes are revealed. It turns out that Mae — Amma’s new friend — is an ambitious young woman with plans of going in to politics or journalism that threaten Amma. Not too long after, Mae’s mother comes by Camille’s apartment looking for her daughter. It seems Mae has gone missing. The dollhouse from back in Wind Gap now lives in Amma’s new room in St Louis, where Camille discovers a tooth. The ivory floor in her mother’s miniature room is made from teeth — and it’s not finished. Amma steps into the room and discovers her sister holding a new tooth for the collection. “Don’t tell mama,” Amma whispers.
As Camille’s editor puts it, the Preaker family won the “crazy Olympics.” Adora and Amma both share a murderous streak — though Amma is the only one to claim the title serial killer. Significantly, it is her mother Adora’s room that Amma chooses to furnish with her tooth trophies. A few short flashes — perhaps five seconds, if that — during the credits show Amma’s psychotic rage as she murders her peers. If the question of Sharp Objects is whether women are capable of brutal murder, this show answers with a gruesome yes.
“Milk” was written by Gillian Flynn and Marti Noxon and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
Photos and video credit courtesy of HBO.
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