Sunday, June 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Desna Meets Ruval's Mother While Jenn and Bryce Debate Their Marriage in 'Russian Navy'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.03 "Russian Navy"

Desna's relationship with Ruval deepens when he introduces her to his mother, Matilde. Polly grows concerned when Marnie continues to pull away from her. Still depressed by Bryce's recent indiscretion, Jenn falls off the wagon. After Uncle Daddy disrespects Zlata, he finds himself on the receiving end of Zlata's twisted wrath.

Claws feels more confident and imaginative with how it is presenting a couple of its sequences this season. Last week produced that brilliant moment where the show talked about the complexities of abortion as framed through a Brady Bunch title credits sequence. And now, the show presents this big argument between Jenn and Bryce about the future of their marriage as a political debate where they each have to abide by a very specific set of rules regarding the time allotted to make their arguments. It's another sequence with some very bitting personal commentary to it as well. It shows the imbalance there is between the genders of what's acceptable and what's not. It shows how women are frequently asked to forgive and embrace men for so many horrible things that they do while men are allowed to be stubborn the moment that women make one mistake. That's not completely disregarding Jenn's betrayal either. She did have an affair with Hank. It was a personal, ongoing relationship even though she suggests they only had sex once. She shouldn't be let off the hook that easily. But Bryce has done some equally monstrous things and just expects Jenn to be his emotional support at all times with no personal agency herself. He killed someone and had sex with Jenn's mother. Those are some heinous actions that shouldn't be easily forgiven. And yet, Jenn is willing to do just that because she still loves him. She is honest about her feelings while Bryce can't look beyond himself and his personal reactions. This sequence is so amusing because it's also asking the audience to weigh in on the debate. Yes, it's silly because Jenn and Bryce aren't able to follow the rules as Polly moderates them. She yells at both of them for speaking up during each other's time. But it's amusing how the news ticker below just has random facts about Jenn and Bryce - like what their favorite meal is at Denny's and who their celebrity hall pass is. But it's also directing the audience to a website to vote on whether or not the two of them still belong together and if it's okay to give a rimjob during the first sexual encounter. It's the balance of that sincerity and the ridiculous that makes this another surprising but earned moment.

All of it is building up to the moment where Jenn admits she's still in love with Bryce and he can't do the same thing. He feels trapped and bullied by these women. In fact, so many of the men this season feel like they have lost all of their control by women who they deem to be inferior to them in every way. It's so disgusting and despicable. But it's the show also being truthful about what these dynamics are actually like. There has always been the suggestion that Bryce was the best thing that ever happened to Jenn. She was able to get her life together because of him. She got sober and managed to start a family because of their relationship. And now, it would be so easy for her entire life to come crumbling apart without that stability. If she believes she was only sober because of Bryce, then it proves that she still has a far way to go before obtaining sobriety that will actually be lasting for her. She was doing it for someone else instead of herself. As such, that puts her in such a destructive headspace as soon as Bryce rejects her at the salon. He doesn't want to be together with her anymore. He refers to the women there as bitches who are completely disregarding his pain and feelings. He wants to be the man of the house where he's the one dictating the rules. He shouldn't have to compromise himself for the woman who loves him. She should have to abide by him. But it's also still possible to have sympathy for Bryce as well because he is ultimately in the right when he takes the kids away from Jenn as soon as she shows up at the door completely drunk. She believes she has found the trick around the system. She believes someone can only tell if she's drunk by the smell of alcohol on her breath. Instead, she soaks it into her body a different way by dipping a tampon into the bottle. That allows her to still get drunk while also feeling like she's kept her sobriety and sanity. It's so absolutely heartbreaking though because it proves just how far she has fallen this season. She shouldn't have to be with Bryce in order to be a stable human being in this world. He was her excuse for so long. And now, everyone is seeing that relationship for what it truly meant to both of them.

Elsewhere, Desna continues to enter more and more of Ruval's world. As I've mentioned in previous reviews this season, it's going to remain a problem that she is completely left in the dark about Ruval's involvement with the Haitian mob. The male characters all know about that connection as well. In fact, there are so many opportunities for Roller and Uncle Daddy to tell Desna about who Ruval actually is. They don't actually do so even though they love Desna. Instead, they are distracted with their own selfish desires in trying to take back their kingdom. And so, she remains completely in the dark and is falling more in love with him with each passing day. Of course, there's some uncertainty this week because she is introduced to his mother, Matilde. Desna believed this would be a nice and loving adventure out on the water with her boyfriend and her brother. She is impressed by the boat Ruval has and the crew who are working for him. Ruval is very generous and accommodating when it comes to Dean as well. It's all so special. And then, Matilde arrives on the scene. It's still a memorable adventure out on the water. It just proves that Matilde may actually be the most important woman in Ruval's life because he caters to so much for her. It could be seen as nothing more than a doting son ensuring that his mother gets everything she wants in her old age. But the show plays it as more creepy than that with Ruval actually feeding strawberries to his mother and then caring about how upset she is by seeing him and Desna kissing. She doesn't like public displays of affection which is a perfectly understandable position to take on the issue. And yet, her reaction is so extreme in locking herself in the bathroom and refusing to come out until Desna mentions just how much Ruval talks about his mother and her importance in his life. She isn't being replaced at all.

Of course, that makes Desna take a step back and re-evaluate this relationship as well. She worries that Ruval is no longer a perfect guy because of his close relationship with his mother. Sure, that's not the fear that she should have about him. She should be concerned about him being the head of the Haitian mob when she wants nothing more than to escape this criminal business. Zlata keeps pulling her more and more into the business though. Zlata has become infatuated with Desna this season. She sees a spark in her that makes her someone who should be groomed into taking on more responsibility in this criminal empire. She manages to get results while still thinking outside of the box. It still creates a pretty awkward situation where Zlata invites Desna and Ruval to a dinner party and Desna worries about having to lie to her boyfriend about the business that everyone else is involved in. She believes that he sees her as the owner of a nail salon and nothing more. She just happens to have a new boss who is actually very encouraging of her entrepreneurial efforts. There is just the confusion of if they are talking about the salon or the clinic. Desna is constantly running interference not knowing that Ruval already knows exactly who Uncle Daddy and Zlata are. In fact, he is probably using this dinner as an excuse to size up Zlata while getting a lay of the land of her base of operations. It's probably very beneficial in that way even though he still hasn't taken any action. Even though he has to leave early, this dinner party feels like a success for Desna and Ruval's relationship. It's just a much more tragic and uncomfortable evening once Zlata has to also put Uncle Daddy in his place to ensure he won't cause any more problems.

Uncle Daddy, Bryce and Roller are at least making the money runs now. They aren't just letting the stockpiles of cash just pile up at the clinic and be completely overwhelming to Dr. Ken. He's busier now than he has ever been before. He's dealing with patients with new problems as well as more sexual come-ons thanks to the viral commercial. Meanwhile, Uncle Daddy is still so incredibly reluctant to do anything for Zlata. He believes it's only a matter of time before Ruval takes her out and he regains his kingdom. It's just taking too long for Ruval to actually make a move. It's allowing everyone to form even more personal relationships with Zlata. Desna is getting close with her and Roller is actually stepping up as a father and protector of his baby mamma. It will be so traumatic once a move actually happens. But for right now, Zlata forces Uncle Daddy to lick her boot. It's a phrase that is so common when it comes to dominance and the need to show who's in control of a situation. But here, it's absolute torture to Uncle Daddy because this is something he just doesn't want to do. And yet, he does in order to stay alive. That's the punishment for him. And then, Desna is just able to go over to Ruval's house to demand him make a choice between her and his mother. She is able to be very persuasive as well with the moment eventually leading to sex. It all ends with her being ready to say "I love you" to him. And yet, it's difficult for the audience to feel as excited for Desna as she is while squealing in delight because we are aware of the massive secret that he is keeping from her.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Russian Navy" was written by Rick Cleveland and directed by Cheryl Dunye.
  • Does Ruval actually work as a doctor? That's the context that Desna knows him. She and Dean see him as a doctor who has done very well for himself since coming to this country. He is able to start a charity that helps children displaced by the recent hurricanes. And yet, his power and influence has to come from his mob connections. That line of work would appear to keep him busy. So, is he just a doctor on the side to protect his cover identity? Or is the mob stuff just a hobby for him? He is seen in scrubs here after leaving in the middle of the night which would suggest that he doesn't have much control over his schedule as a doctor.
  • The show features a website that the audience can visit in order to vote on the many different conversations started in the debate between Jenn and Bryce. That website is As of this writing, there is nothing at that web address despite a generic statement from Warner Bros. And yet, I have to imagine the show would actually create that the website to produce more interactive content for the audience as well. I'll probably even update this post after seeing what happens after the episode airs.
  • The show also reveals that Polly has a twin sister who lives in Seattle. They are currently estranged but Marnie happens to find a picture of the two of them when they were little. Of course, the show would only include this tease if Lillian were to be introduced later this season. As such, it just continues to showcase that this show mostly has Carrie Preston playing someone who embraces multiple personalities. It's still an amusing showcase too.
  • Dean wants to join Polly's dance troupe. That's a ridiculous suggestion that seems to come out of nowhere. He clearly wants to have a life outside of his sister. He's happy that Virginia is moving in with him while furious with Jenn for eating all of his clearly labeled snacks. And yet, this new story mostly seems to come out to give even more of a personal connection to the new version of the club this season.
  • It is definitely weird that the show cast Sheryl Lee Ralph as Ruval's mother and then promptly put her in a big grey wig and a wheelchair to signify that she is much older than she actually is. There had to be some aging involved in order to get around the fact that there is only a 12 year age difference between Ralph and Jimmy Jean-Louis. And yet, it's also annoying that a 61-year-old woman is asked to play a stereotypical old lady. As such, I'm thinking that some big reveal may happen with her at some point.