This article contains spoilers for Episode 7 of HBO‘s Sharp Objects.
On Sharp Objects, there was always something off about Adora. Her obsession with her social status, fluttery ways, and smothering approach to motherhood would never have earned her a Mother of the Year award, but as Episode 6 of the series revealed, there was something significantly darker lurking under her already bad mom facade.
Adora Crellin is a murderer whose Munchausen by proxy syndrome led her to slowly murder Marion over the course of her short life — and every sign points to her trying to sicken Amma as well.
Munchausen by proxy is medically known as Factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA) and is usually diagnosed in parents or caregivers who believe that their children are extremely ill when they are actually healthy. The “goal” of the person with FDIA is to bask in the collective sympathy and attention that comes with parenting a sick child.
The “goal” of the person with FDIA is to bask in the collective sympathy and attention that comes with parenting a sick child.
As revealed in Episode 6, Adora‘s FDIA led her to poison Marion and Amma with “The Blue,” a cocktail of crushed pills and other liquids that she pretended was medicine (Camille recalls being offered The Blue as a child but refused it, making her a difficult target for Adora‘s FDIA).
While it was a shock to realize that Camille‘s lifelong trauma in losing Marion was caused by her mother, going back and looking at some of her earliest interactions betrays Sharp Objects‘ biggest twist so far.
When Camille appears on Adora‘s doorstep in Episode 1, she immediately reframes the conversation about Natalie and Ann‘s disappearance around herself — “I knew those children,” she says, “I’m having a very hard time, as you can imagine.” Before knowing about Adora‘s disorder that line read as merely self-centered, but immediately establishing herself as a caregiving figure to the girls alludes to her need to garner sympathy for herself in relation to dead children.
Later in the episode, Camille notes that Amma has a better time with Adora because it‘s “easier to go along” with what their mother wants.
Almost offhandedly, Amma replies “you never did though,” accidentally outlining the key difference between Amma/Marion and Camille — Camille refused to be poisoned and was shunned. Amma and Marion are “good” girls who sacrificed their health for their mother‘s feelings and are therefore worthy of love.
Amma and Marion are “good” girls who sacrificed their health for their mother‘s feelings and are therefore worthy of love.
Amma makes several references to feeling unwell over the course of the season and until Adora‘s poison was revealed it seemed like her sickness was just a side effect of her drinking and drug use, but the stark difference between Amma‘s lethargic daytime behavior and her nighttime energy may actually be a result of Adora “treating” her daughter‘s hangovers with The Blue, rendering Amma more docile and doll-like until the poison wears off.
Interestingly, the one time Adora does threaten to take Amma to a doctor Alan shuts her down immediately — it‘s right after Amma tells her mother that she “threw up three times last night” and Adora insists they see a professional. Alan‘s fast response is, at that point in the show, the most energy he‘s ever expended on anything, which raises the question of if Alan is aware that his wife has a dangerous relationship with their children‘s imagined illnesses.
Episode 5 continues the small hints about Adora‘s condition, as her rose bush scratch from earlier still somehow manages to plague her. When she takes Camille and Amma to the store to buy Camille a dress for Calhoun Day, she dismisses the shopkeeper‘s concern by saying “you know us Crellin women…slow healers,” which alludes to the fact that Adora both invents and prolongs family illnesses to seek attention. Slow healing has nothing to do with it.
One of the last big pieces of evidence about Adora‘s FDIA points to an even more terrifying conclusion — that Adora may have also murdered Natalie and Ann. Camille discovers her mother‘s crimes by talking to Jackie, the loudmouthed family friend who knew about Adora‘s poisonings all along. Jackie admits to being wracked with guilt for covering up what Adora did to Marion, which somewhat connects to her placing flowers on the windowsill where Natalie‘s body was found.
In Episode 2, Detective Willis wonders if whoever places the flowers on the windowsill is doing so out of a guilty conscience, and it‘s only until later that the audience finds out the flower-giver is Jackie. Jackie clearly feels guilty about knowing what Adora did to Marion, but if her guilty conscience is also guiding her to memorialize Natalie it‘s possible that she‘s once again covering for Adora, this time for the Wind Gap murders.
While Sharp Objects may be guilty of being a “slow burn” type of show, it‘s clues like these that will likely give it tons of rewatch value. Once the entire mystery of Adora, the girls, and Wind Gap as a town is unraveled, every character‘s actions can and should be re-scrutinized to see who knew what, and when, and to what extent. Adora can‘t be the only character who leaked her secrets all over the episodes…what else could a rewatch reveal to an observant watcher?