Sharp Objects blunted by twist ending

This post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen HBO’s Sharp Objects, you’re in for a treat, go watch it. Then come back and read.

 

Sharp Objects is a show you have to pay attention to. It’s smart, and subtle, and you can miss entire plot points if you look away for even a few seconds. What I loved so much about Sharp Objects wasn’t the story as much as how it was told. That is, the story was shown, rather than told. You pick up clues, make inferences, put together implications and build for yourself the picture of what’s going on. It is supremely satisfying to be treated like an intelligent, observant, perceptive viewer.

And that’s why the ‘twist’ ending was such a shock to me. Not because the the actual revelation that Amma was a killer was a shock, there was enough hints and cues and clues throughout this very thoughtful and subtle show to put it together–if we’d been given the chance. The shock was that a show this subtle and evocative felt the need for something as trite as a twist ending at all. I expected a show like Sharp objects to leave me thinking, puzzling, wondering, with as many questions as answers.

Instead Sharp Objects ended like a teen slasher movie with the best buddy who you think has been helping the whole time suddenly baring fangs or pulling out a knife. Oh no, what a twist. Amma may as well have stepped into frame covered in blood and holding a handful of teeth.

At the very least if they’d cut it with Camille finding the tooth in the dollhouse (which had the nice out of focus shot of the doll sitting limp in the window to remind you of the original murder scene), you’d have a moment to think about it for yourself. You might think: ‘why would Amma have teeth… did she take them from her mother… or…’ then your mind rolls back over the show, you make connections, you get that ‘oh, god…’ moment. It’s satisfying to be shown instead of told the answer.

But we get it rubbed in our face by Amma showing up like a ghost who lost their jump scare violins ‘Don’t tell mama!’ And if that wasn’t enough, we have the post-credit scene to really hammer it home for any dummies in the audience who didn’t catch on. It left a disappointing taste in my mouth after such a monumentally impressive show.

All this leaves aside the question of why we need twist endings anyway. I know Sharp Objects was based on a novel, so to leave out the twist would have been a disservice to the author and fans. But why does a good show or movie need a twist at all? Why do so many authors and directors feel obligated to include one? Wasn’t it surprising enough that Camille’s own mother was the killer without having to flip everything on its head in the last seconds of the entire show?

Sharp Objects was about so much more than just who killed those girls. In fact, while watching it I was hardly ever concerned with that question. I wanted to know about Camille’s history, her family, her past and future. And I got to learn all that and more. That is what got me excited while watching Sharp Objects. Ending on a goofy twist that puts all the focus on the ‘who dunnit’ aspect seems like a major disservice.

Anyone who stuck with this show to the end is not going to be afraid of subtlety and ambiguity. Those aspects were the hallmarks of this exceedingly sharp show. It’s a shame it had to end in such a blunt way.

Advertisements

The Orville, episode 4

In another great episode, the crew encounters a huge ship, so huge it contains a whole city and farmland and sky within. The crew soon finds out that they are dealing with a generation ship with a people who have forgotten they are on a ship.

This may be an idea that seems played out for someone who’s read a lot of sci fi, but seeing this on TV is just great. The ship is heading for a star, and they’ve got to convince the people that they need help before they can be helped.

Another thing I thought was great about this episode is we get to see how tough the first officer, Kelly, is. There is a pretty hardcore scene where she is being straight up beat and tortured, and though she is cracking some pretty funny jokes, it is not a funny scene. It is brutal and feels real. And–as Hollywood looooves to do when it comes to women who are captured or being tortured–I’m glad to say she was not sexualized in any way. What another relief!

At the end of the episode, the ship turns out to have a retractable section that opens to allow the people to see the stars for the first time. It was a really cool, and emotional scene.

Once again, a Seth MacFarlane comedy show is showing up CBS’s Discovery. Just let that sink in a minute… then go watch it!

Fargo season 3

I finished this on my long plane rides too and from Singapore these past weeks, and enjoyed it quite a lot. I could not get into season 2, and gave up about halfway through and had no plans to watch this season until a co worker highly recommended it. I’m glad I gave it a chance!

The season is about the rivalry between two brothers, but also about predatory corporations, and about truth, and reality, and about how perception can be reality. It’s also about random life screwing you over, which seems to be a theme in Fargo.

The ending left me a bit disappointed, not because it was ambiguous, but because of what it said about a certain character.

<spoilers>

Nikki Swango, who until the very end seemed to be the hero of the show, in her last act, murders an innocent person. This seems a downer note to end on, and put a kind of black mark on her character. True, she was never an up and up citizen, but she seemed to have a good heart, good intentions. This final act also kills her, so maybe that is some kind of symbolism or something, but I didn’t like the way it left me feeling.

</spoilers>

Overall a very good season, well written, and very artistic at times. Highly recommended!

Doctor what?

I watched the season 10 premier of Doctor Who in my local theater on Monday, and was pleasantly surprised at my lack of confusion, irritation and boredom.

The previous two seasons have been plagued by lazy writing leading to rushed, confusing, overly-manipulative plot-lines. So I was expecting to do a lot of sighing and woling (saying what out loud). Instead, I got an episode that had more character details and development, more attention paid to the plot actually making any kind of sense, and more importantly the characters decisions making sense–and thus was a lot more entertaining.

Pearl Mackie is great as the new companion, and a refreshing change from the same old same old of the past I-don’t-know-how-many seasons. I’m not just talking about diversity, though that is refreshing also, but the dynamic of the doctor and companion is also is fresh with Mackie’s character.

Instead of the companion as a sassy know it all that takes the doctor down to size on a regular basis by being a strong independent person that he underestimates and is amazed by and who seems to have some kind of super powers herself just by always doing the exactly right thing at the exactly right time– the Bill character seems like a normal, regular person, who is confused by what is going on and doing her best to absorb it all. She has down to earth understandings of confusing things, which is very charming. Her relation to the doctor is more like a granddaughter to an eccentric but caring grandfather, instead of the oh so tiring disapproving mother to naughty child.

The line from Bill–“I can’t just call you ‘the doctor’, can I? Doctor what?” hopefully signifies that we won’t be getting just the expected from her!

This is the most entertaining Doctor Who I’ve seen in a long time, and I am excited for more.