That’s my feeling after watching the Sharp Objects finale. Not that it was godawful, or that there wasn’t some intriguing resolution to be found to this: just…nah. No thanks. Try again.
It’s been interesting to note, over the course of writing these recaps, the differing reactions to Sharp Objects as a whole. We’re deep into the season now, with only two episodes left after this one, and it seems like the divide in opinions is pretty sharp (ho ho): you either buy into the show’s dreamy, icy layers and buried thematic elements, or you think it’s a load of pretentious old tosh.
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m firmly in the former category, but I do understand where those other opinions come from. Sharp Objects is a difficult show, and I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s complex or heavy (though it is those things too). Jean-Marc Vallée’s directorial style is dense, the writing is evasive and at times deliberately frustrating, and the story is winding closer to it’s explosive center in a languid, thoughtful fashion. It’s not the hectic, forward-focused crime drama that we’re used to, and I understand and accept criticism of the show as punishing instead of rewarding.
(trigger warning for discussions of self-harm and suicide)
When you’re a teenager, adolescence feels like an eternity.
And not just that the bad hair, cheap make-up, and roiling angst feel as though they’re going on for decades: no, when you’re a teenager, there doesn’t feel like a way out of the place you’re in now. The only other life you know is childhood, and you can’t go back there – adulthood feels impossibly distant, until it suddenly isn’t. Adolescence, for many people, feels impossibly eternal, like there could never be anything different than this.
You know, you can say a lot about Jean-Marc Valee’s directorial style – it took me a long time to actually come around to it and start liking it, and even now I sometimes find it a little jarring and pointed – but it brings such a distinctly cinematic feel to everything he helms. His work on Big Little Lies was, intermittently, some of the best TV direction I’ve ever seen, and Sharp Objects is already heading to those levels of sheer excellence just a couple of episodes in.
To be fair, the second episode, Dirt, really gave him a lot to work with in terms of thematic elements. Last week’s Vanish did a great job laying the groundwork for the town of Wind Rush and it’s inhabitants, and the discovery of the murdered body of the second missing girl set the scene to rip it apart again. And, well, Dirt did just that.
Bit of an old trigger warning for self-harm right here, if that kind of thing bothers you.
I don’t think it’s a particularly bold statement to say that we look for ourselves in the fiction we enjoy. There’s something about seeing yourself reflected in a story that feels grounding – someone experienced something similar to something you experienced, and they found it profound and important enough to build a story around. A lot of the reason I consume so much media, and certainly the reason that I write (hello you can read about my upcoming debut novel Rape Jokes here thank you bye), is because I’m looking for bits of myself reflected in the stories other people tell and want to do that for other people when I put expose little chunks of myself to the world at large. We define ourselves with stories, the ones we tell and the ones we consume, and that’s become all the more potent in the last few years as the stories that reach mainstream media become more diverse, the topics wider than ever before.