'Sharp Objects': Gillian Flynn Explains Why Episode 3 Had to Be So Graphic

The third episode of the limited series showed Amy Adams' Camille in treatment for self-harm (while also explaining the cracked iPod she constantly listens to).
Courtesy of HBO

[This story contains spoilers from the July 22 episode of HBO's Sharp Objects, "Fix."]

Ultimately, the third episode of HBO's dark limited series Sharp Objects was an origin story for a cracked iPod. But really, the hour told the story of journalist Camille Preaker's (Amy Adams) life just before she headed back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Miss., to write about the murders of two teen girls in the small town.

She'd checked herself into a facility for her cutting, where her roommate was a sullen teen named Alice (played by The Handmaid's Tale's Sydney Sweeney) unimpressed with her adult roomie. Alice always thought she'd grow out of her self-harming ways. Why hadn't Camille?

But the duo bonded, particularly over music (when they were allowed to listen to Alice's iPod). Unfortunately, Alice couldn't overcome her own demons, and Camille walked into her room to find a graphic scene: Alice dead on the floor after drinking drain cleaner. Camille got in her car and drove away, finding herself on the road to Wind Gap before stopping and throwing the iPod out the window (presumably cracking the screen).

The episode lived up to the "sensitive nature of the show’s content," which inspired HBO to include an end card after each episode pointing viewers toward the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Sharp Objects author and executive producer Gillian Flynn, who also penned last week's episode of the series and sat in the writer's room, told The Hollywood Reporter that she was adamant about showing the audience something that's so difficult to watch. "I think you need to see it. I think you need to understand where that comes from. I think it's easy for people who have not been in psychological pain — which I find is a surprising number of people sometimes, or at least people who say they have not — to not empathize with someone who has scars all over her body, to sort of turn away. But I think it's really important to see how she got there."

Seeing exactly what Camille has gone through is vital to understanding her character, Flynn said.

"To me, she's a fucking hero. To me, someone who's been in that much psychological pain and still keeps her head above water, still manages to move through her day and be kind to people — you never see Camille save the cat, or run into a burning building, but you do see Camille be consistently kind to everyone. You see in Camille a consistent decency. For someone who has been through as much as she has, to do that and to be still alive, to me is heroic. I think it's important for people to see what has happened to her, and what she's been through. So for me it was a privilege to be able to be in the writer's room and flush out that episode and be part of that."

Plus, while television is full of people in pain (not to mention antiheroes doing all manner of self-destructive things), self-harm isn't something seen very often onscreen.

"I will tell you what, of all my books Sharp Objects is the one people write to me the most about, the one people linger after book events to talk to me about, to share their stories with me," Gone Girl author Flynn said. "And a surprising number of people have said that they've given Sharp Objects to people who are self-cutters and say they've given Sharp Objects to friend and family members to help give a vocabulary and a discussion, because there isn't enough out there to explain their pain. It helps show what it is, and what that pain is. I think people who haven't been there don't understand."

Sharp Objects airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.