The Slow, Steady, Brilliant Burn of ‘Sharp Objects’ (Column)

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the “Sharp Objects” finale, which aired Aug. 26 on HBO.

It tends to be obvious when a show is daring and complex — or at least, it tends to be obvious when a show wants you to think as much. They try to dazzle with big budget set pieces (“Game of Thrones”), bend the boundaries of story structure beyond recognition (“Legion”), pile twists on top of twists just to prove they can (“Westworld”), overwhelm with pervasive bleakness and grim protagonists meant to prove that this story about a conflicted man treating people badly needs to be taken seriously (countless examples, but for the sake of consistency, let’s go with “Ozark”).

“Sharp Objects” does none of these things — and yet it’s one of the most daring and complex shows of the year.

Despite the prestige trappings of being on HBO and starring powerhouse actors like Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, the series isn’t flashy in the slightest, nor does it beg for attention. Time drips by, languid as the sweat spreading into puddles at the creases of everyone’s backs in the hot Missourian air. Its central murder mystery often fades into the background. Instead, the heart of this story is soured journalist Camille Preaker (Adams) revisiting her hometown of Wind Gap, her poisonous mother (Clarkson), and the damage both have inflicted upon her and her sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen) over the years.

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