Sunday, June 17, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Virginia and Dean Make a Significant Decision About Their Future Together in 'Cracker Casserole'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.02 "Cracker Casserole"

Now pinned under the stiletto-tipped nail of Zlata, Desna must come up with an idea to generate more customers for the clinic. Quiet Ann helps Dean and Virginia get to a very important appointment, which leads to an unexpected moment of joy.

Claws frequently functions as an over-the-top, colorful and zany series. It blends comedy and drama in some ridiculous ways that aim to surprise the audience. The blending of the tones has always been a fine line for the show to walk. Struggling with it has always been one of its bigger issues. And yet, it's so absolutely powerful to see the show be able to tackle such a topical and controversial issue like abortion while still being so absolutely bitting and amusing. The show calls out the hypocrisy of those who protest a woman's right to choose while not caring for the life of a child after they are born. But it also has complete respect for Virginia's decision. She is torn not because of having second thoughts about keeping the baby. She is more concerned about what the world around her is saying about her and her recent actions. She wants to do better with her life. This could be seen as just another example of her messing things up. And yet, it's ultimately a victory for her and Dean. They get engaged and it is very sweet. Sure, it's absolutely infuriating to Desna. But that's what makes the story work so phenomenally well. There is the absurd comedy that comes from the foot chase Virginia and Desna get into and the explanation for why Virginia and Dean didn't use any protection during sex. But it's also so completely poignant when Dean speaks in front of the crowd of protesters who say they care about human life when none of them are speaking up on human trafficking and the abuses within the foster care system. Dean knows what he's talking about and proves himself to be one of the most knowledgeable and enlightened people in the crowd. That's an inspiring moment. And then, the show is just willing to have that frank conversation about the many different sides of abortion as framed through a parody of the Brady Bunch title sequence. There are people who are absolutely supportive of a woman's right to choose. But it also highlights the misinformation out there about the funding that organizations like Planned Parenthood receive as well as the generational and geographic differences of it even being an option for woman in this position. It's such a hot button issue that has received so much attention and legislation. And yet, it's crazy to think that people care about that more than families being torn apart on our southern border at this exact moment in time. It's ridiculous and the show has a lot of fun playing with that concept - especially in the end when the crowd cheers after learning Dean and Virginia are getting married and then go straight back to booing after Virginia confirms she got an abortion.

Dealing with Virginia and Dean is something that Desna just doesn't want to do right now. She doesn't want to have to worry about them and what they are doing behind her back. She has always been Dean's guardian and protector. She wants to keep him safe at all times even though he is also right to call her out for saying she always tells him the truth. He doesn't know about Zlata and the grip she now has over the salon and clinic. When Desna does let that information out, she is saying it's no big deal whatsoever. And yet, it is a massive deal that could ultimately tear this family apart. She is now working for someone who had no problem killing her own sister in order to take over her territory in America. Zlata is forcing Desna into doing things she isn't comfortable with at the moment. Sure, they may be smart business decisions that actually help Desna's endeavors grow. Desna needs this motivation in order to inspire action. She's afraid for her life if she doesn't comply. But Zlata is also encouraging Desna to step up and be a part of the boom in black woman starting their own businesses and making it work for themselves. Zlata is playing into that inspirational pep talk in order to keep Desna happy and motivated. And yes, Desna does love her girls and the work they are doing together. The clinic is something she simply got entangled into. As such, it is taking the priority right now because Zlata wants to expand the business very quickly moving forward. She wants to have ten more clinics opened by the end of the year. That's a fast turnaround on this business that everyone was struggling to keep up with not too long ago. It's bound to keep Desna very busy this season. But she wants to keep an eye on Dean and Virginia. She knows they are capable of great things. They just may be making some foolish decisions as well. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Desna has the bright idea to film a commercial for the clinic. It's such a risky business proposition because it would be them advertising for a criminal endeavor. That's completely ridiculous. And yet, Desna is still willing to walk that line of what's legal and what's not. She didn't want to move cocaine because it was illegal. But she is fine supporting a business that boosts the opioid endemic. In fact, she makes it appear to be this very flashy thing. Zlata wants to increase the numbers to ensure that the success of the clinic can be replicated elsewhere throughout the state. Dr. Ken just isn't the best spokesman for the clinic though. He has the degree to legally write the prescriptions. But he's completely clueless when it comes to acting naturally in front of a camera for this commercial. It also just highlights how no one really knows what they are doing in terms of production and trying to get this product made. They are just winging it. And yes, the show just asks the audience to accept all of that knowing what the final commercial turns out to be. Toby comes in telling Desna that she must start rolling in order to make their deadlines. And then, Dr. Ken fails take after take in increasingly ludicrous ways. That leads to Desna's big idea to make the commercial as flashy as possible by recruiting the new dancers for the club. They just happen to be there serving as the production hands. But it's much more inspired to have them on camera doing their newly learned routine. Of course, that makes it immediately clear that this isn't going to be a commercial that can air on television. That's absolutely true in the universe of Claws as well. Desna just puts it up online hoping that it goes viral. And then, the show somehow suggests that because one person retweets the video that it has gone viral. The show wants us to accept that and see the growth of the clinic as well as Dr. Ken becoming a local celebrity. But it going viral doesn't mean it will be seen by the local community. It means it would get national attention for just one location. As such, Zlata will have to move quickly with opening these new clinics.

Elsewhere, Jenn is spiraling immensely at the moment. Desna comes over to deliver the upsetting news that Zlata wants the two of them to trade houses. Desna doesn't want to move Jenn and her family out of their home. She knows the benefit for the kids simply by living in this neighborhood. It just means there is going to be more people living in this house. That could create some amusing moments with Dean interacting with those children - especially after the decision he and Virginia come to this week. Virginia is more than likely going to be around a lot too considering she and Dean are now engaged. But Jenn is welcoming to Desna and her family because she knows that Desna will always have her back. She knows she can count on her as a friend. She knows that they can find a way to deal with all of this. In fact, Desna and Jenn moving their families in together means that Desna's old house can now go to Polly and her expanding domestic situation. But more importantly, Jenn's mother is in town to help with the children. She knows about the separation between Jenn and Bryce. She doesn't know all of the details of course. Nor does she actively care to remember all of them either. She forgets that Hank is a rabbi. That's what makes it funny when the suggestion comes up that they should have a priest do marriage counseling. It's so amusing. But it's also so easy to understand and sympathize with Jenn at the moment. Sure, she deserves better than Bryce because he's an idiot who is just flailing around the city with Roller and Uncle Daddy. But it's significant when she has a panic attack during the line dancing competition with Hank. It can't just be simple fun between them. There is just too much complicated history that makes even the slightest interaction seem like cheating on what she actually wants in this world.

As such, Jenn runs away and goes immediately back to Bryce. That just comes with the unfortunate reveal that Bryce and Jenn's mother are in the middle of having sex. That's absolutely horrifying and ridiculous. Jenn can say that her mother has never been a great or caring parent. She has always been too self-involved to ever offer up an unbiased opinion. She's still opening racist to Desna and has such an affection for the Confederate flag. But this is taking things to a whole new level of betrayal. Jenn's mother was supportive of her efforts to win back her husband. Then, she went over to him herself to make her own move on him. She was even flirtatious to everyone in the family as well. It also shows just how easy it is to win over these guys. It just takes one recipe from a box of Ritz crackers for Bryce to fall in bed with his mother-in-law. It's a decision that he makes not caring what it would do to Jenn. And then, his wife walks in and starts a fistfight with her mother. That eventually spirals into a huge fight that involves everyone from the salon. They are beating up Bryce and Jenn's mother for this betrayal. Even Toby gets in on the action despite his skimpy outfit and unwillingness to actually throw a punch. It's a very funny fight sequence. But it also reveals the true heartbreak for Jenn. She never thought her family could betray her in this way. And now, she simply doesn't know what to do. As such, she is going to need the support from her family at the salon now more than ever before. The girls definitely have her back as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Cracker Casserole" was written by Janine Sherman Barrois and directed by Dale Stern.
  • Zlata's big theory is that men rule the world because they get to be on top during sex. As such, she encourages every woman who reads her book to be the one actually doing the hard work during the act to show that they are the ones who deserve the power. It's a metaphor for Desna when she makes this commercial. But it's literal during the sex scene between Roller and Marnie. She is the one doing everything because Roller doesn't want to be there at all.
  • Of course, the show should also be asking the question of if what is happening to Roller right now should be considered as sexual assault. He was forced to get married against his will. He doesn't want to be having sex with Marnie. And yet, he's doing it and choosing to remain a part of this family. He's plotting its destruction though. He's not a sympathetic character at all which makes this debate even more complicated.
  • Uncle Daddy and his nephews also happen to be meeting with Ruval when Jenn storms into the house demanding to know where Bryce is. At one point, Ruval is even talking with Desna on the phone despite just being a yard away. As such, there is the fear that his big secret is about to come out. And yet, his secret identity is still intact. No one from the salon goes out to the backyard because of the distraction upstairs.
  • There is also just a plainly ridiculous moment where Roller places a bug in Zlata's office which causes Uncle Daddy and Bryce to freak out when it seems like Roller is being tortured in there. Instead, he is just getting a massage which causes them to worry that he is turning against them in this war with the Russians. He's not. It's just him getting closer in order to be a spy to get all of the information required about what's going on with the drug trade.
  • In the big debate about abortions, Quiet Ann mentions that she got pregnant when she was really young. She wanted to get an abortion but her conservative parents forbid her from doing so. Then, the baby was sent away to live in California. As such, that creates many storytelling opportunities in the future that could be worth exploring. She is bound to have these complicated relationships with her family.