What Happens After Sharp Objects' Ending In The Book
While the core of Sharp Objects' twist is the same as the book, the two tellings are very different in how they handle it: while the Sharp Objects show ends with Camille discovering Amma's secret, the novel goes further, showing the handling and impact of Amma's crimes.
After Camille's discovery - which is powered by the discovering of Amma's schoolmate dead - and her sister is convicted and found guilty, although naturally tried as a minor so may be free when she's older. Camille relapses after having her world flipped (again), cutting her back and heading back towards alcohol. She's saved by Curry, who takes her in and finally gives her the care she needs and craves.
Most of the show's changes center on the decision to end on the Amma twist - everything that happens can't be shown by the constraints of narrative as a result - which immediately makes for something more unsettling and less explained; most of the details of the twist are delivered in quick flashes during the credits. The bigger impact, though, is on Camille's recovery. The book is more pointed on her finally finding a family, which is thematically sound but rather idealistic; HBO's Sharp Objects has that same clarity come from a cumulative effect of resolution and compassion, a much more grounded take.
What Sharp Objects' Ending Really Means
Sharp Objects is an incredibly focused miniseries, knowing exactly what it's trying to explore and confident in a degree of disconcerting ambiguity. Chiefly, it's about the scars of the past and how they slowly manifest in both physical and psychological ways: Camille is affected emotionally by her upbringing in Wind Gap, something she brings to the surface through her self-harm; Amma is physically tortured by Adora and breaks mentally, yet on the outside appears youthful and "normal". The show's final conversation has Mae's mother comment on the only enviable part of being a teenager being the skin in the same breath as dismissing a deadly fight as a small disagreement, nodding that the real cost of any upbringing comes later.
It's a twist on the age-old nature vs. nurture debate. Camille enters still shaped by her past in Wind Gap and ends with the lingering threat she's inheriting Münchausen syndrome by proxy - is her kindness genuine or simply a mental block enabling her to hurt others? Wind Gap is every sleepy town with a toxic core that a lucky few escaped, yet the real horror lies in the family that created Camille's tragedy; everything that happened with other Wind Gap children starts at the damage in the Preacher house.
And it's here we get something approaching a happy resolution. In the epilogue, Camille gets past this past by understanding and acceptance in the life she has now. Of course, it's thrown for a loop by Amma, showing that some things are truly inescapable, but the decision to cut out her final descent from the book leaves the ultimate conclusion up to the reader.
The key distinction in the presentation of these themes is Gillian Flynn's exploration of the perception of women. From the very start, the suggestion that the killer could be anything other than a man is dismissed based on perceived strength and the paradoxical notion of feminine rage. Later, the final time we see Amma's friends, the real killers, has them reminded Chief Vickery that women can be dangerous drivers too. Sharp Objects is constantly dismissing women with a sheen of unassuming positivity, and while to challenge that is aggressive the series ultimately shows that's necessary; in the Preacher house alone, Adora and Amma are killers while Alan's a pawn, and the female stranglehold can be found all around. This similar idea was explored very differently in Gone Girl, where again Flynn tried to highlight skewed gender perceptions through an extreme story.
Sharp Objects is a show that begs rewatch. It carefully seeds clues in plain sight, using only its psychologically broken protagonist to obscure them. Looking back with a sense of clarity, suddenly the truth of the darkness becomes clear. And that experience coming out the other end may be the best emotive conclusion it could have offered.