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Who's the Sharp Objects killer? Top fan theories, broken down

With the finale just days away, lots of secrets could still be revealed in HBO's Southern gothic mystery. Spoiler-free if you're caught up to Episode 7.

Sharp Objects

Camille (Amy Adams) in Sharp Objects.

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Warning: spoilers ahead if you're not caught up to the latest episode. 

First things first. I've read Sharp Objects. So I know who killed the two young girls in Wind Gap. Or do I? 

HBO might go a different route for the TV adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel and change the killer's identity. The show's creator came up with an addition as outrageous as Calhoun Day, right? Why not a different killer too?

But fret not. There aren't any spoilers ahead if you've watched through Episode 7 of Sharp Objects but haven't read the book. This is a roundup and analysis of theories for viewers who want to keep obsessing over the mysteries of the show as Sunday's finale, titled "Milk," nears (be sure to come back to CNET Sunday at 7 p.m. PT for my spoiler-filled explainer of confusing finale points).

John Keene

He was identified as the guy who dumped Ann Nash's bike in the lagoon by the pig farm, though both Detective Richard Willis (aka Kansas City) and Chief Bill Vickery brought the credibility of that witness into question in Episode 7. Now John's been hauled in by the police. Plus, he had quite the creepy exchange with Amma in Episode 6.

"I like to keep on you, Amma. Just know I always got an eye on you," he told the young Crellin in Episode 6, all while checking how she smeared herself with tanning oil. "It'll be your day soon."

You could say a suspect who's brought to light two episodes before the show's finale never ends up being the real killer. Plus, I, for one, believe John really loved his sister. Camille seems to agree. Still, Ann Nash did have a beef of some sort with Natalie. And John looks like the overprotective older brother. 

But then there's this exchange with Camille: "I want to rape them but I won't let myself because I can't control it. So I'll kill them instead. It destroys the desire," he half jokes, half not when Camille asks him to tell her if he killed Ann and Natalie. How many stories can he tell?

Sharp Objects

John Keene (Taylor Smith), Ashley Wheeler (Madison Davenport) and Camille.

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Ashley Wheeler, aka Jackie O

So, John could have gotten rid of Ann. Even Natalie could have gotten rid of Ann. The young Keene stuck a pencil in a classmate's eye back in Philadelphia. John told Camille he always thought Natalie and Ann were going to end up killing each other.

But John's doting girlfriend, Ashley, is the one with real reasons to want to get rid of his sister. We're pretty sure Natalie didn't like Ashley much. The young Keene might even have taken out a piece of Ashley's earlobe with her teeth.

In Episode 4, Ashley finds a blood stain underneath John's bed in the carriage house. She doesn't seem surprised. She's fast to clean it. She's also fast to point it out to the police in Episode 7. The blood was Natalie's, and John wasn't the only one with access to that place. 

Also, let's not forget this wanna-stay-a-cheerleader-forever girl sees murder as a sort of popularity badge. "Because it would make him popular," Ashley tells Camille when explaining why she thinks John didn't kill the two girls. And John doesn't want to become popular really, at least not like Ashley does. She wants to see her name in print.

Mama dearest

Forget about Norma Bates, Livia Soprano or Betty Draper. Adora Crellin could be the worst mom on TV. She's so bad, she even killed her precious Marian.

"She was sickly," Jackie explains when the detective asks what happened to Camille's sister. And now we known it was a sickness caused by mama Adora, who has Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental disorder that leads people to harm others to get attention and admiration as the caregiver. 

"Adora had been making Marian sick for a long time -- for attention, maybe, but also to keep her sweet innocent angel child weak and dependent (in contrast to the "willful" Camille -- who I'm willing to bet Adora regarded as a kind of rival for Marian's affection)," Reddit user maddiez0 reflected on a subreddit. The subreddit is full of theorizing about Adora's supposed poisoning of Marian before Episode 7 made that plot point clear.

And if Adora was capable of killing Marian, and also making Amma sick, she could just as well have killed her two mentees if she felt they weren't giving her the devotion she deserved. We're talking about a woman who told her older daughter -- who cuts herself -- that she never loved her. And that's far from the worst thing she's done. 

Then again, isn't this too obvious? In Episode 2 a boy named James Capisi says he saw a woman in white taking Natalie Keene. In that same episode we see Adora looking like this:

Sharp Objects

Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson) in Sharp Objects.

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Not very subtle. Then again, let's not forget John's words to Camille about Adora: "The only person who gave a shit about my sister was your mom."

Amma

If Adora gets points for worst TV mom, Amma deserves mention as the scariest, cruelest teenager on the small screen, though it's hard not to feel sorry for her now that we've seen the twisted mothering she's endured. She bullies and ridicules her older sister in front of the detective she believes could be Camille's love interest. She sticks chewing gum in Camille's hair. She even peer-pressures her sister to party and do drugs with her. She throws a tantrum because a piece of furniture in her dollhouse doesn't match her mother's real house. "We don't want more little girls showing up without their teeth," she tells John Keene without a hint of shame or fear.

Amma could just have decided to get rid of Natalie and Ann because she was jealous of all the attention the girls were getting from Adora. "Do you know what my favorite part of getting wasted is? Mama takes care of me after," Amma tells Camille in Episode 7.

"We need to talk about your daughters," Chief Vickery tells Adora at one point early on in the show. "One of them is dangerous and the other one is in danger." It could be interpreted like this: Camille is a journalist who might pose some danger with her reporting and Amma's the same age as the two victims. But what if he meant it the other way around?

Even Marian's ghost seems compelled to warn Camille when her sister falls asleep next to Amma: "It's not safe here for you."

But would Amma be strong enough to take out her schoolmates' teeth with household pliers the way the killer did? Plus, we've seen her raw, sensible side with Camille. She just seems like a teenager who needs to be loved for who she is, not for what she looks like or what she does.

Camille

No, she can't technically be the Wind Gap killer because she wasn't in Wind Gap when the first murder was committed and the second girl disappeared. But that doesn't mean she doesn't hide a killer inside.

"My demons are not nearly tackled, they are mildly concussed," she says to her good friend and protector Jackie. One of her demons might be the death of her rehab roommate, Alice.  

So far, the show has been playing editing tricks with what Camille remembers. We've only seen bits and pieces of it. There's no way to know if her recollections are correct. She has what look like hallucinations. Plus she's half drunk half the time.

What if she was the one who actually poisoned Alice, mirroring her mother's crime? She could have made herself believe Alice committed suicide with the cleaning product while it was actually her who poisoned her.

Sharp Objects

Alice (Sydney Sweeney) and Camille.

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Kirk Lacey

Amma's creepy drama teacher happens also to be the person who raped Camille so many years ago. And he would've known both dead girls.

Even after his botched attempt at an apology to Camille, he looks like the most obvious choice in this list. And obvious doesn't make for good prestige TV. Also, there was no sexual violence committed against Ann or Natalie, and that might not be Lacey's style.

Chief Vickery

We don't know who Camille's father is. And Adora and Chief Vickery are on more than just friendly terms. Would it surprise anyone if he were Camille's biological dad? It certainly wouldn't surprise reddit user KetoTeacher12.

"How is our girl?" Jackie asks the chief in Episode 7. He says his wife is fine. "No, I meant the other one," Jackie adds. Could Jackie be referring to Camille?

Maybe Natalie and Ann found out about Chief Vickery somehow while Adora was mentoring them. The girls might have tried to blackmail the pair. I can see how the policeman might have helped his former lover to get rid of the nuisance. He could've even taken care of it himself.

Anything to avoid the slightest variation on that eternal routine of mornings with coffee, eggs, bacon, the newspaper and kissing his wife goodbye before heading to the police station.

Jackie O'Neill

It looks like she knew Adora was poisoning Amma. Her name is all over Marian's medical records. And if she didn't say anything about that, what else could Jackie be an accomplice to?

Does she know about Adora's poisoning of Amma?

"I think Adora has something on Jackie," Reddit user ancientastronaut2 points out. In the same subreddit, user hazelfae84 says: "Yeah perhaps she [Jackie] feels guilty that she knows something but powerless because she knows that for whatever reason talking to police won't help. I think Adora has Vickery in the palm of her hand so he is useless." 

Useless because he might be Camille's dad and doesn't want to be uncovered? What else does Jackie know?

Alan Crellin

You can't be married to Adora and be truly sane. Alan is a tortured soul. And no one seems to remember or care that Marian was also his daughter. Ann and Natalie could've been an annoyance to him. Another way for Adora to avoid paying attention to her long-suffering husband.

Why would Alan murder two girls the same age as his own Amma though? (Aside: Well, maybe she's not actually his. Some fans theorize Amma could actually be the daughter of Camille, who might have gotten pregnant after being raped in the woods and Adora might've decided to raise the child as hers and Alan's.)

First published Aug. 18 at 6 a.m. PT. 
Update, Aug. 24 at 12:14 p.m. PT: Adds more revelations from Episode 7. 

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