'Sharp Objects' Episode 8 Recap: 'Milk'

“Sharp Objects” is a new HBO limited series that covers topics like trauma, self-harm and addiction. We’ll be reviewing each episode, and analyzing what it means for the mental health community.


Editor's Note

This post is a review of episode eight of “Sharp Objects” and contains spoilers. If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Camille knows the truth about her mother, the truth about how her sister died — and potentially who killed the two young girls in Wind Gap.

She drives up to the house she grew up in and as she walks to the front door, she’s transported back to a conversation she and her young sister, Marian, had about death.

“What if, after you die, part of you goes to heaven and part of you stays here?” Marian asks.

When present-day Camille walks into the house, her family is having dinner together. It’s so “normal,” it feels creepy, like Camille is walking into a dream of what a family is supposed to be.

“Hello darling, sit down,” her mother, Adora, calls to Camille, uncharacteristically sweet. “Have dinner with us. Special occasion.”

Amma is wearing a white nightgown and has a flower crown on her head. She looks out of it — drugged. They’re celebrating because John Keene, suspected of killing the little girls, has been arrested, and now, Adora says, her little girl is safe.

Camille sits down at the dinner table. She looks sweaty, cautious and freaked out all at once.

They talk about John. Amma says she hopes he gets the death penalty. While Alan goes on about the state of the death penalty in Missouri, Camille stares at her mom. A death glare. As if she’s trying to take her down with her eyes.

She knows her mom killed her sister, and she thinks she killed those little girls. Amma is the one in trouble now.

Amma tells Camille she’s dressed up as Persephone, the queen of the underworld. Persephone is married to Hades, and while he runs hell, she’s in charge of punishment. Amma said she feels sorry for Persephone because even when she’s among the living, people are afraid of her, “because of where she’s been.”

She then turns to Camille and asks, “Would you be more sad if John died or I died?”

“I don’t want anyone to die,” Camille responds.

They talk about how Camille will probably go back to St. Louis soon since the case is technically closed. Adora says some comment about Camille going back to where she belongs.

Somehow keeping her voice steady, Camille suggests that maybe Amma should come with her to St. Louis, considering everything that’s been going on. Adora dismisses the idea. She’s starting school soon. When Amma even hints that she might like that, might like living with Camille, Adora springs up and declares that Amma looks feverish. “You’re hot as an oven!” she says, holding the back of her hand up to Amma’s forehead.

This is how Adora takes control. She’s the “caretaker” and Amma is sick, despite her protests. Adora brings her upstairs, separating her from her sister as soon as she senses they’ve been conspiring against her.

Camille gets up and hunches over, calling out for her mom. She holds her stomach as if she’s in pain — but we know the truth. She’s trying to distract her mom from “taking care” of Amma. It’s her Katniss Everdeen moment — essentially telling her mother to take her instead.

Her mother, of course, rushes to Camille. Her mother helps her to bed, and for a second, at least, Amma is free from her mother’s deadly attention.

Adora brings Camille into her bedroom, and Camille has to take off her shoes to walk on the ivory floors. She’s allowed into this “sacred” space only because she’s given in to her mother. She takes off her clothes and Adora is quick to take her phone. Adora helps her into a white nightgown and puts Camille into bed.

She mixes some kind of pill with some kind of “medicine.” While it’s unclear exactly what it is, it’s dangerous. It’s whatever Camille has refused to take from her mother, until now.

“You see how nice it is not to have to worry?” Adora asks her. “Just to let yourself be looked after? This will be good for both of us, don’t you think?”

Camille nods, and while we know she’s technically tricking her mother to keep her away from Amma, there’s something genuine in her eyes. A longing to let someone else take care of her. A longing for some sweetness from her mother, who’s always been so cruel. The worst part of Adora’s illness is that it feeds on the natural vulnerability we have with our parents, and our human need to be taken care of and loved. In an extreme way, Camille has deprived herself of this, and now we see her going completely the other way — at the complete will of someone else.

After Adora gives her the first spoonful of medicine, Camille whispers, “More, Mama.” She receives another spoonful.

Here, I want to believe Camille is acting strategically, but it’s hard to separate her “plan” to save Amma with her tendency to self-destruct. She couldn’t save her sister. Now, she doesn’t just want to save Amma — she wants to take her place as her mother’s victim.

Content warning at about 11:00. It shows her cutting “Fix” into her arm, and it’s bloody.

Fix. What she’s trying to do now.

Chief Bill Vickery’s alarm doesn’t go off, and his whole morning routine gets thrown. He scrambles out of bed and rushes to the station, where Detective Richard is sitting with John Keene, waiting for him.

The two men start questioning John. They tell him they found Natalie’s blood under the bed where he was staying, but unlike the day before, John fights for his life. (It looks like talking to Camille actually did him good.) He tells them repeatedly he didn’t do it and defends himself.

The police chief just wants the case to end so badly, he still thinks John is guilty. Detective Richard, picking up on John’s sincerity, isn’t so convinced anymore.

Richard: If you listen to all the talk around here, everyone’s some kind of crazy or evil.

Bill: Only half of it’s true.

Richard: That’s what I’m worried about. We’re looking at the wrong half.

Alan walks into the barbershop while the police chief is getting a shave. It’s strange, but something in me still has a soft spot for him. I thought he was just a sensitive man who just really, really liked music — and I got attached to that idea. Now, I don’t know how he lives with himself, and how he didn’t realize what his wife was doing. How does he think Marian died? How has he never questioned it?

Now, alone with the police chief, he shows his true colors again. When Bill asks him about how Amma’s doing, Alan says, “We’ve been passing something around the house, I hope you don’t catch it… you’re with her as much as I am” (referring to Adora, I believe), then walks away. Damn, Alan. Bill says, “Why don’t you pull up a chair Alan, we’ll talk this out like men,” but he keeps walking.

When Camille wakes up, a vision of her little sister tells her to get out. She leans over the bed and throws up red liquid.

When Alan goes into the kitchen, he sees Adora mixing up more medicine. She tells him how sick Camille is, and he responds, “Don’t go overboard. Let the girls rest. The body is a miraculous thing, let it do its work.”

“I will. I’m just helping nature along,” Adora answers.

Camille wakes up and she can barely stand. Amma comes up to the door and asks how she feels, asks if she’s taken “it” — meaning the medicine. Amma said she doesn’t feel so affected by it because her mom has Camille to take care of. Camille says Amma needs to go get Richard, to tell him that they need help. “Whatever happens to me, you tell them Momma took care of me, you understand? So you go, and you don’t come back,” she instructs her.

Amma tries to leave, but Alan stops her. If she told him what was going on, would he believe her? Would he let her go? Alan goes to get her cake, and Amma looks at the front door — but doesn’t leave.

“I’ve waited for this for so long,” Adora says to Camille as she’s giving her a bath. “For you to need me.” You can see she’s taking so much pleasure in Camille’s pain, that she loves being in this role. That she doesn’t want Camille to actually get better. “Of my three girls, you’re the one most like me,” she tells her.

They talk, and at one point Camille outright accuses her of killing Marian. But Adora smiles it off, saying Camille is being delirious. Instead, she tells Camille about her mother — the time she woke her up and left her in the woods. It took her hours to find her way home. “I bet if you would ask her, she would have thought what she was doing was right. We all have bad judgments. At some point, you have to forget it and move on. Anything else is just selfish.”

She pulls Camille’s hair. “Time for more medicine.”

Adora’s mother neglected and abused her. Now she kills her children with “care.” Camille takes her trauma out on her own skin. We’re all somehow reflections of our parent’s trauma, and although it’s not an excuse to hurt other people, it is a hard cycle to break.

Detective Richard rings the doorbell, asking for Camille. Alan lies and says she’s out with her girlfriends. (Alan!) Camille crawls out of the bathtub and tries to reach him, but it’s too late. He leaves but sees Camille’s car is still there. Richard is intuitive. He knows something is not right.

Camille then finds out Amma didn’t go get help, because she needs to stay a “good girl.”

This next part happens quickly. Camille is lying on her mother’s bedroom floor wrapped in a towel, thinking about Marian. Adora comes up with a new dose of medicine, and we see police lights fill the house. Adora screams for Alan and runs downstairs. Camille is transported back to when she was a child, and her sister smiles.

Detective Richard finds her and calls an ambulance. Her editor from the newspaper walks in! He must have flown in after that phone call. Her editor is the one who ends up helping her up, and Camille cries in his arms. Richard, seeing her self-harm scars for the first time, looks shocked.

While the police chief tries to explain to Adora what’s happening, Adora says they can’t believe Camille. “She’s mentally ill, don’t you understand?” she repeats. They find bloody pliers in the kitchen and Richard arrests Adora. The ambulance brings Camille and Amma to the hospital.

It’s over. It seems like it’s over. But there’s still 10 minutes of the episode left.

At the hospital, Richard says the pliers they found matched Anne and Natalie’s gums, so they’re charging Adora with the girls’ murder, too They’re hoping they can hold her accountable for Marian, if the poison currently in Camille and Amma’s bloodstream matches whatever information they have on Marian.

Apparently, Camille’s editor is the one who convinced them to check in on what was going on at Adora’s home. I do wish we had seen some of this. I feel like it would be nearly impossible to convince the police chief, who was protective of Adora. The fact that we missed this, and it all wrapped up so quickly… it’s almost hard to believe.

Richard and Camille apologize to each other, and he leaves.

“What a dick,” Amma says as he leaves, and the girls laugh.

The next sequence shows life after Adora’s arrest: Amma moves to St. Louis with Camille. Amma says goodbye to her father. At the trial, Adora pleads not guilty. Amma meets a new friend who lives in Camille’s building. Camille takes Amma to visit her mother in jail, and they press their hands on the glass between them, crying.

At her editor’s house, he reads the last few paragraphs of Camille’s latest (and past) piece about the murders. She writes about how they gendered her mother’s act, how deeply suppressed her mother’s anger must have been. The ending, though, is beautiful.

As for me, I’ve forgiven myself for failing to save my sister and have given myself over to raising the other. Am I good at caring for Amma because of kindness, or do I like caring for Amma because I have Adora’s sickness? I waver between the two, especially at night when my skin gets to pulse. Lately I’ve been leaning towards kindness.

Her editor is proud of her, and Camille looks genuinely happy.

They talk about how Amma seems to be doing well, but she can’t sleep without Camille. She misses Adora.

There’s this strange moment that never gets addressed, when Amma accuses her new friend of sucking up to Camille because she said she wanted to be a journalist. Also, we see the girl has things written on her hands… possibly emulating Camille? Later that night, Amma asks Camille if she wishes she was a writer. Camille answers, “All I wish is for you to be happy.”

“You make me happy,” Amma answers. “I could eat you up.”

The next day, the mom of Amma’s new friend comes by to ask if Camille has seen her daughter. She says the girls had their first fight, although she doesn’t know what it’s about.

Then, in the show’s last minutes, this happens:

Camille finds a bed from Amma’s dollhouse in the trash and goes to her room to put it back. Looking at Amma’s dollhouse closely for the first time, she finds teeth. Teeth. In one of the rooms, the floor of the dollhouse is made of teeth — to mimic Adora’s ivory floors.

Amma shows up at the door, and when Camille stares at her desperately, Amma just says, “Don’t tell, Mamma.”

Then that’s it. End credits. End of series.

What?

There is more, and I missed this the first time around. If you watch through the credits, there’s a scene of Amma killing the girls, including the friend she just made.

And that’s it. Adora killed her daughter. Amma killed her friends. Camille is left to deal with the consequences, and we never found out how she heals.

Our rating: 

There was so much I loved about this show. The sets. The shots. The characters. And although I love how the last episode came together, I was a little disappointed in how it all wrapped up. Not disappointed that Amma was a killer. Not disappointed that there wasn’t a perfectly tied up “happy ending.” Disappointed because much of the show was about controlling tension, and I feel like it wasn’t quite diffused in the right way. I’m not sure exactly what I wanted, but it was more than a last-minute twist. I care about Camille so much and don’t like leaving her with so much uncertainty. While, of course, she has so much healing left to do as a person, this would have been the case with or without the “twist.” Now, I don’t know where this leaves her, and it makes me feel more frustrated than anything else.

In the book, we get a little more closure. Camille relapses and self-harms after finding out Amma is the killer (understandably — it’s easy to turn to old coping mechanisms after such traumatic news), but ends up staying with her boss and his wife. She at least processes the information, and there’s a chance that she’ll heal. If you’re interested, you can read a good summary of the book here.

Regardless, “Sharp Objects” as a whole did an amazing job showing portraits of hurt women seeking control. Camille seeks control by cutting herself. Adora seeks control by “nurturing” others. Amma must have gotten her control from murdering her friends, from showing the power she had over others. It leaves us with a lot to think about, and shows — with extreme consequences — what happens when hurt people don’t have a healthy way to diffuse their pain.

Discussion Question:

Overall, how do you think the show did at portraying mental health? Themes like self-care and trauma are so deeply rooted in the show’s plot — let us know what resonated with you and your experiences.


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