Monday, July 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Jennifer Confronts Desna About the Truth as Desna Plans for the Future in 'Escape'

TNT's Claws - Episode 1.07 "Escape"

After the big nail competition, Desna may finally get out from Uncle Daddy's grasp. Jennifer struggles knowing Desna's dark secret, while Polly discovers her previously unknown maternal instincts. Dean may have found his first feelings of romantic love and makes a discovery that threatens to destroy everyone he knows and loves.

Since the very first episode, Desna has had a very singular goal. She wanted out of the Dixie Mafia in order to operate a legitimate business. It's something she has worked so hard to achieve. And yet, every twist and turn of the narrative only drew her further into the world of organized crime. She and Virginia "killed" Roller in the first episode and have been scrambling to survive ever since then. Their lies have been complicated and have only caused more problems for them. Even when they seemingly put an end to this story, the repercussions were large because Bryce killed Desna and Dean's former foster parents instead of arresting them for murder. That wasn't the outcome that Desna wanted. But it did bring closure to this main story. And now, she is faced with getting everything she has ever wanted. She has the location for her next nail salon. She has her crew who will loyally follow her wherever she goes. She has the opportunity to ask Uncle Daddy for her freedom and he actually gives it to her. This is a pivotal episode for Desna because it seems like everything is finally going her way. That's how it feels to her even though the audience is just patiently waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Even though things are looking up right now, Desna and Jennifer aren't in a good place at all. That's because Jennifer has finally figured out that Desna was the one who killed Roller and accidentally got Bryce to kill two "innocent" people. That revelation has forced her to spiral. It's an interesting spiral only when she is forced to confront Desna about the truth. When she's potentially destroying her marriage, it's not that compelling because the audience hardly knows the Jewish, square-dancing guy. But with Desna, it's incredibly emotional material because the show has done a terrific job in mining their friendship. The two of them are old friends. Desna has always relied on her crew in order to get through the most trying times. But her bond with Jennifer has been special because they've been friends longer than everyone else. However, it was always destined to explode because Desna was keeping this huge secret from Jennifer. She killed Roller, her brother-in-law. That action forced Bryce deeper into the Dixie Mafia. He has had to do things that have completely changed him as person. It has threatened his sobriety as well. They may have a new, better life for themselves and their family. But it has come at quite a cost. That cost could be the loss of this friendship.

And yet, it's significant that Jennifer bottles all of this up for the longest time. She doesn't share this new information with Bryce or Uncle Daddy. She knows exactly what they would do. They would kill Desna because she was the one truly responsible for Roller's death. Jennifer is angry at her for keeping this secret. But the history of their friendship keeps Jennifer from acting impulsively. Yes, she's being self-destructive at Uncle Daddy's vow renewal ceremony. She's getting so drunk. She wants to blurt out the truth to everyone she talks to. But she doesn't. She can fantasize what the consequences would be for Desna. She still chooses to protect that friendship. That's important. It forces Desna to come clean to her entire crew about what happened on that day and all of the lies that have been told since then. Jennifer's reaction is this big thing that takes up most of the story. But it's also intriguing to see Quiet Ann's reaction to all of this. She was in the dark too. Her job is to be the protector for Desna. She's hurt that she wasn't allowed to do that job for her. It's a minor part of the episode but still very significant. The crew is damaged right now. But they are still keeping each other's secrets. That allows them to find some kind of peace.

It also allows them to celebrate when Uncle Daddy agrees to let Desna go off and try to be a legitimate businesswoman. That was her grand goal for this hour. She was planning on talking with Uncle Daddy and getting her freedom. And yet, this season has proven just how invaluable she has been to the operation. He has manipulated the situation before to ensure that she stayed on. He has exerted his influence and control to keep things as stable and secure as possible following Roller's death. When she shows up at the club, Uncle Daddy needs her help planning his last minute vow renewal ceremony. When she shows up at the clinic, he makes it clear to the potential new business associates that Desna will be continuing in the operation. This sets up the expectation that she'll continue to be trapped despite having the opportunity to move on with her life now with the new salon. She has the game plan to ensure that Uncle Daddy's money can still be laundered through her old salon. She has Toby ready to take over the operation. She has thought everything through. In the end, Uncle Daddy actually respects that. He allows her to leave with the promise that he'll be there to help her when/if she fails. It's a surprising moment. One that everyone is willing to celebrate. But it happening at this stage of the season likely means something big is about to happen that will crush all of these dreams for Desna. That's going to be so devastating when it occurs.

That life-changing twist will probably have something to do with Roller still being alive. Now, I haven't reviewed the last few episodes that have shown Roller in his Mr. Emerson life with Miss Honeychurch. It's a pretty ridiculous twist that questions the credibility of the narrative. How is he still alive after everything that Desna and Virginia did to him? It's something the audience has been asked to accept. We've even been asked to sympathize with him because this woman keeping him captive is completely crazy. Jane Adams is absolutely committed to the delusions of this character. It's just woefully over-the-top and ridiculous. It doesn't totally work. But this is the hour that forces this story to its climax. It merges with Dean's story of going to a bodybuilding performance. That happens to be the same art show that Roller is attending. That allows for the moment of Virginia seeing Roller in the crowd and getting scared immediately. It confirms to Desna that things aren't as over with Roller as she previously believed. Things were going so well for everyone involved. They were finally able to move on with their lives. And now, things are uncertain for their futures once more. Roller isn't a free man just yet. When he escapes, he is quickly snatched up by the Russians - who seem like a much more organized crime family than the Dixie Mafia if they knew where Roller was. It's a plot that has the potential to ruin everything for the main characters. But it also feels like plotting to keep things as complicated for the people the audience actually cares about. So, it's a little problematic but doesn't hinder the narrative too terribly bad.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Escape" was written by Bruce Rasmussen and directed by Shira Piven.
  • The dynamic between Virginia and Dean is sweet. She is very loving to him. And yet, the audience should be just as concerned as Desna is because of Virginia's track record and not being a good influence for anyone in her life. That may change. Being with Dean could force her to be a better person. But it's more likely that she breaks his heart because he sees their relationship more seriously than she does.
  • It's a little tragic that Virginia views this as the first time that Dean has had sex. The audience knows that's not true because he was abused as a child. He still has lingering trauma because of that. But that's largely manifested through hatred towards the foster parents who hurt him. The actual act of sex or being nude in public isn't compromised as a result.
  • There's a really weird subplot with Polly where her neighbor tries putting her and Dr. Ken together romantically. It reads as the show pairing two supporting characters together to see if there is a spark there. It's experimental and really forced in a way that isn't that genuine or interesting to watch. Also, Polly deserves better than Ken.
  • Quiet Ann's relationship with the cop is still going strong despite Desna's objections to it. And yet, the cop wants to know more personal details about Quiet Ann. She is struggling to pull anything serious out of her. But she does reveal that she was born in this city and has one brother. 
  • It is manipulative of the show to actually show Bryce shooting Desna after learning that she was the one who killed Roller only for it to be revealed as a fantasy. It's exactly how things would play out if Jennifer told the truth. It reconfirms to the audience just how dangerous things still are for Desna. But was it necessary? Did it tell the audience anything we didn't already know?
  • The most absurd thing that happens in this episode is a bunch of gangsters snorting drugs off of a turtle in the middle of the vow renewal party! That's just completely crazy while also keeping with just how absurd and weird this universe is.