Sunday, June 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Virginia Tells an Outlandish Story While Desna Impresses New Clients in 'Quicksand'

TNT's Claws - Episode 1.03 "Quicksand"

As Virginia's lies deepen, Desna plays catch-up covering their tracks. Desna still has a small shot at her dream salon, and with the help of her crew, she is determined to get it. Something goes awry at the clinic, putting Desna and Bryce in danger of Uncle Daddy's wrath until they can figure a way out.

In its first two episodes, Claws proved that it could be a broad and ridiculous show. It's very arch and wildly over-the-top in its depiction of life in Southern Florida. The accents are thick and the situations the characters find themselves in are often very extreme and out there. That quality is still there in "Quicksand." And yet, there is a more uniformity of tone throughout this episode as well. One that makes it more successful because there isn't a tonal dissonance from story to story and character to character. Everyone feels like a part of the same world. Yes, things are still extreme and broad whenever Uncle Daddy shows up. He's a character who still needs a lot of work. And yet, it was more difficult to treat him as a punchline throughout this hour. He came across as more of a real character whose actions carried consequences for the rest of the people who find themselves in his orbit. That's crucial for the storytelling. Building connections between the characters is important in order for the stakes to feel genuine. The audience needs to feel something towards these characters. We need to feel something as Desna strives to get her dream salon. It can't just be story for the sake of giving story while it's inevitable that she'll be trapped in this criminal life forever.

Things are at their most ridiculous at the top of the episode. It's a straight continuation of where things left off last week with Virginia bursting into the funeral spinning a tale that Desna didn't plan at all. She's been a big personality this season. And yet, things are taken to a completely new level as she shares a story of being taken by the people who killed Roller and tortured by having peanut butter spread on her feet and animals licking at her toes. It's absolutely ridiculous. The show even acknowledges just how crazy this all is. It makes a point of revealing to the audience the obvious holes in her story. Desna is aware of them because she knows it's a lie. She's doing her best to contain the situation and make it a reliable cover story for them. Virginia doesn't always go along with that. She often enjoys talking and can share one too many details. And yet, it's still played completely straight to the rest of the characters. Dr. Ken agrees that she needs rest. The ladies at the salon welcome Virginia back because they pity her for all that has happened. And Uncle Daddy shares all of these new details with the detective investigating the case, who goes to verify all of it. It's something the show wants the audience to accept as something the characters would take seriously while not asking the same of us. It's an interesting dichotomy that works because of the later personal details that emerge through Virginia's interactions with the other characters.

Virginia has come across as young and entitled. She deserved to be knocked down a peg. She didn't deserve everything that ultimately happened to her in the first episode. And now, she has fallen back into her old life of working as a prostitute. She has the details to make her story believable but she lacks the foresight to know that the police will check all of them out. She shares too much and Desna has to clean up her mess yet again. It's one more thing that Desna needs to do in order to handle this investigation. She does it largely because Virginia getting exposed would lead back to her as well. And yet, Desna's concern for Virginia's well-being seems to be growing as well. She wants Virginia to know that she no longer has to have sex with men in order to buy them off. She does that in order to get her story to check out. It's something she's willing to do. Desna doesn't judge her for it but wants her to know that life could be better if they work together and genuinely care about each other. That's a crucial moment. So is Virginia interacting with Dean. She recognizes that he's different but is also able to connect with him as well. In that moment, she sees and sympathizes with everything that Desna has to do in this world. That's a crucial moment of understanding.

And then, Desna gets a major victory in her desire to own her dream salon. That's been a major plot point this season so far. It hasn't had a whole lot of nuance to it. She thinks she has it only for some new complication to seemingly take it away from her. Now, she believes she has lost everything. The deal fell through and her realtor wants to quit. This is a case where seeing the character take action makes it easy for the audience to get caught up in the story and want this for her. She decides not to do nothing. If she wants this bad enough, she's willing to take action in order to get it. That's empowering and helps the audience connect to the story. Plus, it's just so fun to see Desna and the rest of the girls interact with the bachelorette party. It's such a simply and funny piece of the story. It's completely detached from the rest of the narrative. And yet, it's necessary to show the character dynamics and the personalities of these women. It's important because it helps inform their backstories while allowing them to forget about everyone else that is happening in their lives that could compromise their dreams. It's a brief moment of fun that is infectious to see - with the major victory of Mandy believing in Desna's dream more than ever before.

Of course, that moment doesn't last long. It's the life that Desna wants to be living. She wants to franchise her salon and live as a legitimate businesswoman. She wants out of the life as a money launderer for the Dixie Mafia. But that life always finds a way to come back and corrupt her. She chose to take action by killing Roller because he refused to give her what she wanted. And now, that has created more chaos at the clinic. Chaos that Desna can't deal with right now because she's already doing so much. But chaos that she has to control nevertheless. When she doesn't, big things happen that ruin many lives. The clinic is robbed in the middle of a busy shift. Bryce has come in to replace Roller in the job but he has no idea what he's doing. Desna teaches him a little bit but is distracted by her own business. When a man has a seizure and a delivery man arrives, it's a very confusing time for him. He's just been thrown into the busiest and most chaotic environment possible. His choices lead to a ton of product being stolen. That's product that Uncle Daddy is furious about. Of course, it's not surprising later on when it's revealed that Uncle Daddy hired the people to steal it. He did so in order to ensure that Bryce, Desna and Dr. Ken would be indebted to him for a long time. They were talking about this only being a temporary thing. But now, he's made it so this business will continue to be profitable for a long time. It's him exerting his control in a way that destroys the lives for a number of people who wish to escape to something better.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Quicksand" was written by Jamie Travis and directed by Howard Deutch.
  • It's fun to hear the stories of the other ladies at the salon in that bachelorette scene. That reveals that they too are shocked that Quiet Ann was once married to a man and they were both cheating on each other with the same women. Meanwhile, Polly shares a story about getting married at 14 because her family was in a cult. And yet, was that story true or just one of her many elaborate lies that create a more interesting life?
  • The bond between Desna and Jennifer is getting really strong. It's clear to the audience that these are two women who have been friends for a long time. They know each other's histories and how they will react in any given situation. That's what makes it so tragic that Desna is keeping this big secret from her closest friend.
  • Dr. Ken is obsessing over the fact that a woman he loves is now engaged to someone else. It's a completely random moment that leads to him being out of the clinic when all of the chaos is happening inside. It shows that he is distracted as well and not thinking about the safety of the business. He's not worried about Uncle Daddy's wrath until it's too late.
  • Uncle Daddy's wife and their young man are just such peculiar characters who don't really serve much of a purpose. They just have these weird and over-the-top reactions to everything. It makes them seem like comic relief instead of multi-dimensional characters. Their appearances don't really work at all.
  • Meanwhile, Dean believes he needs to start working out in order to be the man who can protect Desna from this cruel and violent world. And yet, his first work out doesn't go according to plan. It's nice to see him interacting with other characters. But Quiet Ann is too busy with her own drama to focus on being a good personal trainer.
  • Okay, what the heck is going on in that final scene? Desna returns home and goes to bed. She sees Roller alive and isn't surprised. They have sex once more. It's a completely shocking moment. And yet, is it real? If it is, it's going to be a daunting task for the show to explain how Roller survived everything that happened and how Desna was in on it the whole time! And if it's not, then the show should reveal that sooner than later to explore how all of this trauma is affecting Desna psychologically and why that could be a huge detriment to her life.