“It’s not safe here for you.”
Last week’s episode of Sharp Objects concluded with an ominous warning from Camille’s dead sister Marian, “It’s not safe here for you.” This week, “Falling” explores the nature of the threat that follows one or both of Adora’s remaining daughters. Camille is having a troubled sleep after her outing with Amma, seeing visions of Amma’s beloved dollhouse. When she wakes up, she realizes that her mother had undressed her and is trying to treat her for a sore ankle and other problems. As Adora attempts to minister to her eldest, Camille aggressively rebuffs her overtures. Is it confusion at seeing her mother’s sudden concern? Is it anger? Resentment? Theirs is not the type of relationship that allows for tenderness. On the other hand, Amma tells Camille that she enjoys having her mother take care of her after she gets wasted. Amma also suspects that her mother likes her best when she is sick and vulnerable. Frustrated and concerned, Camille leaves the house.
Detective Richard Willis decides to look deeper into Camille’s family history, following Jackie O’Neill’s suggestion to track down the nurse that had treated Marian before she died. The nurse is named Beverly Van Lumm, and she was fired from the hospital where Marian received treatment. As Beverly explains, medical records were not kept very well back then, and Marian bounced around from doctor to doctor with a multitude of suspected, yet unconfirmed diagnoses. Only the nurses saw the entirety of the process, and Beverly realized that Marian was a victim of her mother. Beverly claims that Adora suffers from Munchausen By Proxy, that she makes her daughters sick in order to get sympathy for herself. After all, there’s “nothing more laudable than a woman who puts all her energy into her sick child.” When she voiced her concerns about Adora, Beverly lost her job. As Richard’s suspicions grow, he visits the hospital to pull Amma’s medical file. He discovers that it is surprisingly thick, for such a young girl. Amma, too, has been brought in for countless ailments and even had a feeding tube inserted at one point.
“I never let her solve me.”
Meanwhile, back in Adora’s house, Amma tries to refuse treatment. Adora immediately lays down passive-aggressive threats of withdrawing ALL care for her youngest daughter and begins to dismantle the dollhouse. Alarmed, Amma complies with her mother’s treatment once more. As Adora continues to medicate Amma, Amma gets sicker.
Though Munchausen By Proxy is one of the most extreme ways in which people seek the attention of others, it is not the only one. For her part, John Keene’s girlfriend Ashley is much too happy to reveal his whereabouts to the police once she realizes that it can get her on the paper, and maybe even on the news. Ashley further plays into the questions of John’s sexuality by revealing that he didn’t want to have sex with her. An arrest warrant is issued.
Camille tracks down John Keene to a pub. John is getting drunk as he contemplates his upcoming arrest. Camille asks for his thoughts on the case, and after an initial burst of frustrated defensiveness, John makes an insightful connection, “It’s like they took the two girls from Wind Gap with minds of their own.” Feeling sympathy for him, Camille drives him to a nearby hotel. He begins to undress her. She resists, as she always does, fearing that anyone would see her scars. He presses, and she relents. The two have sex as he reads the words carved into her body.
Afterward, in their nakedness, John’s words come back to Camille as he notices a scar on his arm. His sister bit him. She had bitten others. John says that the only person who cared about Natalie was Adora, who kept trying to reach the difficult girls, like “she was gonna solve them.” Camille realizes, “I never let her solve me.”
The police, including Richard and the Chief, burst into the room and arrest John. Camille begs Richard to stay and talk to her. Disgusted, he calls her a drunk and a slut and leaves, but before doing so, he places Marian’s file inside Camille’s car. After understanding the terrible implications of the file, Camille goes to Jackie’s house, where a drunken Jackie confirms the worst. Camille’s horror grows as she connects Adora to the sighting of a woman in white who took Natalie in the woods. Her mother is the murderer; Adora must have killed Ann and Natalie.
“We can do what we always do around here and pretend it doesn’t exist”
As we go into the series finale next week, Sharp Objects has made a major advancement towards its conclusion, one that ties together both the mystery of the murdered girls and the thematic connection pertaining to the rot at the core of Wind Gap: appearances. Munchausen By Proxy is about appearances. As Beverly explains, it’s about being “seen trying.” Ashley is concerned with appearances, first about being seen with John, then about being seen as the hero that sends him to jail. Chief Vickery is very concerned with appearances, also. He didn’t want the murderer to be a local, and John is a convenient outsider that he can blame for the murders while allowing Wind Gap to sustain its wholesome image. Jackie noted with bitterness that in Wind Gap, when a bad or inconvenient truth arises, people “pretend it doesn’t exist.” She realized years ago that she was fighting a losing battle against the queen of appearances, Adora. Her repeated requests for information about Marian’s death were stonewalled. Jackie’s drinking is her way of self-medicating as she held onto a secret she could neither prove nor rectify. For his part, Alan is determined to shut out the truth. He listens to his music while picturing his child. Will his love for Amma overcome his devotion to Adora?
Finally, there’s Adora herself. If Beverly is right, then Adora has taken her love of appearances to a fatal end, perhaps more than once. She dislikes Camille because Camille refuses to be pliant. This doesn’t only deny Adora the opportunity to “treat” Camille, it also violates all of Adora’s views of proper womanhood. Camille is, to Adora’s eyes, too independent, and therefore, too masculine. Like the little girls that were murdered, Camille is “difficult.” Of course, unlike the violent actions that defined the difficult personalities of Ann and Natalie, Camille’s “difficulty” is that she refuses to comply with the norms of Wind Gap. She is not sufficiently flirty; nor married, nor a mother. She doesn’t desire the things that women “should” desire. Adora is the kind of woman that makes a fuss for days about cutting her hand with a flower, so to her Camille is obscene in her determination to walk on a bad ankle. Adora’s pathology aligns perfectly with her views on gender. Since her children are girls, shouldn’t they be weak? And if they’re not naturally weak, shouldn’t Adora help make them weak?
Don’t miss the conclusion of Sharp Objects Sunday, August 26 at 9:00pm.