Sunday, July 1, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Quiet Ann Makes Sure Her Voice is Heard as She Strives to Be Noticed and Appreciated in 'Scream'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.04 "Scream"

In an attempt to cozy up to Matilde, Desna puts together a spa day for her and a couple of young girls from Ruval's charity. Quiet Ann gets a surprise visit from her brother who convinces her to attend a family dinner.

This season of Claws continues to be firing on all cylinders. In fact, "Scream" may be the best episode the show has ever produced so far because it finds new emotional depth with one of the many characters in the ensemble. Quiet Ann hasn't always had a lot of focus as character. Her most defining characteristics are that she is quiet and intimidating. That's why she has that nickname at the salon. And yet, it's so empowering to start this episode inside Ann's head to realize that she still has a really powerful voice. This hour highlights how it's so easy for her to confront strangers in order to motivate them into action. And yet, she also struggles really expressing herself and her concerns with people whom she loves. She is shy and unsure of herself even though she is incredibly opinionated about what her friends are doing with their lives. This hour also showcases that she is still completely destroyed by having to get her girlfriend, Arlene, fired from the police force just to save Desna from the criminal investigation being built against her and the clinic. This season hasn't spent too much time on Ann so far. It has been more preoccupied with Zlata taking over for the Russians, Dean and Virginia's relationship, Jenn and Bryce's deteriorating marriage, and Desna being pulled in different but very encouraging directions from both Zlata and Ruval. Sure, Ann has still had importance this season. She has still been a loyal friend. She was able to tell that Virginia was pregnant and actually drove her to the clinic in order to get her abortion. Here, she is able to tell that Jenn has been drinking again and that Polly is losing her grip on what her relationship with Marnie actually is. Ann is very perceptive. But she can be inactive as well. She doesn't speak up to let the girls know that Jenn has relapsed and needs their attention right now. She doesn't tell Polly how to be less needy in her new family dynamic. And yet, that could also be seen as trivializing Ann's own pain. She is absolutely right to be spiteful of Desna and all that she was asked to do for her. She lost her chance at a perfect and happy life. And now, it seems like Desna is getting it all. She's the one with new responsibilities and a man who wants to marry her. Ann resents that. But all of these feelings mostly just fester on the inside. She is desperately hoping for someone to notice that she is having a really horrible day. And yet, no one ever does. That's when she bursts and forces all of these emotions out. It's a really dramatic and difficult story for the show. But it's also so rewarding and easily makes Ann into one of the most sympathetic and genuine characters in the series.

Early on, Ann wonders if Zlata can actually read her mind. It seems likely after she replies "yes" to the question that Ann just asked in her head. Ann wants to know if Zlata ever had to work at the bottom in this business. Ann sees Zlata's book as completely ridiculous. She doesn't buy into the advice that is shared in the novel. She doesn't praise it in the same way that Desna does. And yet, Desna is the one with respect and responsibilities while Ann is just the driver who has to pick up a bunch of random items throughout the day. Yes, she is happy to work at the salon with her friends. She is loyal to them. She just wished that loyalty didn't come at a price. She wants people to notice when she isn't doing well. She doesn't always want to be seen as the sturdy rock who can help people whenever they need it. Here, Virginia needs money, Desna needs supplies for the salon and Jenn needs help after she drunkenly makes a mess at a grocery store. Ann's internal monologue throughout all of this is really amusing too. It's fascinating to hear her inner thoughts and know that there is so much she wants to share but she has also been wired to keep some of these thoughts to herself. She is of the mindset that if these girls were truly her friends then they would be able to tell that she is having a difficult day. Instead, she is still just treated as an underling. She does feel that Desna is now acting superior to everyone else at the salon. She is now blindly loyal to Zlata just three weeks after she killed her sister right in front of her. That's a baffling transition. And yet, it's one that Desna has made. Ann doesn't see this as something that she can build a lasting and loving life with. Yes, it has afforded her more money to do with whatever she wants. But that's only one aspect of her story. There is still so much she wants to do. And she had to give the potential of it away just in order to protect Desna. She wants some appreciation for that instead of just continually being treated as a driver and servant.

"Scream" also introduces Ann's family. That paints a better picture of what her upbringing was like and why she is the way that she is. In fact, it makes quite a lot of sense that she internalizes a lot of these feelings because she was brought up in a family that didn't want to create any personal drama in the fear that it could ruin their aspirations in this world. She is dreading this dinner with her parents and brother. She can tolerate her brother even though he lacks the courage to come out as gay as well. But she is horrified of how her parents will treat her. She believes they have been alienating to her ever since she came out as a lesbian. She listens to them and only hears the theories of crazy conservatives who simply have no compassion for how difficult the world can be. But she's also willing to have that argument with her father about the plight of immigrants in this country and just how alienating it can be. She expects her family to have more empathy to that situation because they come from immigrants. And yet, her parents don't see it that way. They just want Ann's brother to keep moving ahead in politics and become governor of the state. That's very impressive. All of this is a complete lie though. For so long, Ann has believed these things to be true because her family was incapable of having an honest conversation with one another. It's still absolutely horrifying that she outs her brother knowing the kind of shame that could inspire from their parents. She should really know better than that. But that also leads to the great reveal that her parents don't judge or alienate her because she is a lesbian but because she tried to kill someone and went to jail for it. That is much more disheartening to them because she had such potential in life. And now, she simply isn't striving for anything more than being a security guard at a lame salon in a bad part of town. They just don't understand that. Sure, the show also loves the humor of everyone in this family being gay. But it also highlights the generational views on the subject. Ann wants to believe that the world has changed where they could all be accepted for who they are. She has had happiness with a woman. She was building a wonderful life for herself. And yet, it's also foolish of Ann to believe that people in the LGBTQ community aren't still being discriminated against. But it still leads to that wonderful punchline that also opens the door for Ann to be more honest with her friends.

Ann can no longer stay quiet. She can no longer expect people to just read her mind and understand what she is going through. This day started horribly when she was awoken with the phone call that a child was ready for her and Arlene to adopt. She could have been her perfect family right now. Instead, she is living this crummy life where no one seems to appreciate her. Right now, Desna is spiraling because she doesn't know who to be loyal to. She believes that she should tell Zlata that Uncle Daddy and the boys are making a move against her. And yet, this only inspires Ann to lecture Desna about loyalty when she asks for her opinion. She wants to attack because none of them realized just how much she loved Arlene and wanted to be a family with her. It's enough for her to actually slap Desna and tell Polly to shut up with all of her crazy stories. She wants to feel seen and heard by her friends. She wants them to get better with their own problems. They all have some pretty dysfunctional lives. They have them because they are involved with this criminal enterprise that has the potential of blowing up in their faces at any moment in time. Ann is absolutely right to attack her friends for the way that they have been acting lately. But it's also such a strong moment of personal growth as well. Desna would literally do anything for her girls. Yes, she has a hard time of actually following through on her promises and being a supportive friend. But she has every intention of doing so. That still has to be enough to comfort Ann during this difficult time. She wants people to mourn with her regarding this news about a baby whom she will never get to take care of. She sees herself as the woman with the best odds of actually being a good and healthy mother. She believes that it's something that she deserves. But she also has to find a way to speak up and ensure that her concerns and voice are respected. She can't just expect Desna to magically know everything. As such, this becomes such a big moment of catharsis. Everything gets out into the open so that the salon knows exactly what's going on with Ann.

It all comes back to Arlene as well. The girls encourage Ann to go to her in the hopes of being able to reconcile things. Ann believes that was completely impossible because she was responsible for getting Arlene fired from her job. It may be incredibly unlikely. And yet, she also reaches out in the hopes of being able to save this love. It's the most romantic moment that the show has ever produced. Ann is just being completely honest about everything. She is hopeful and desperate for Arlene to be at her house. When she's not, Ann just leaves a voicemail detailing everything that she has done to hurt Arlene with the hope of also being able to win her back. It may have worked as well. Sure, it seems like Arlene calls back way too quickly. She may not have been able to listen to the entire message to know just how destructive Ann was to her. But it's also so rewarding because it gives the audience and Ann hope and confidence that this bond is still worth fighting for. This romantic pairing really wasn't that notable or special last season. And now, the show puts in the work to make it such a crucial part of the series. Yes, it may be even more perilous and difficult to navigate moving forward after it's also revealed that Arlene is still working for the police. Her firing and breakup with Ann may have all been a ruse in order to leave the girls with a false sense of confidence. If they thought this threat to their lives was handled, then they would operate openly without the fear that they were being watched. And now, it's clear that the police never stopped monitoring the salon and the clinic. So just as Zlata was hoping to open more clinics, Dr. Ken gets arrested. That's a surprising conclusion as well that shows that the police are targeting what's easily the weakest link in this grand criminal operation. He could flip easily which should motivate everyone significantly in next week's hour.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Scream" was written by Maisha Closson and directed by Bille Woodruff.
  • This hour is mostly devoted to Ann and her story of making sure her voice is heard. The show plays that mostly seriously. And yet, there is also that pure fantasy moment where it seems like Jenn and Bryce are singing to each other at this AA meeting. In fact, Ann doesn't even know if that really happened or not. Of course, it doesn't end well either. Bryce officially wants a divorce after knowing that she has relapsed in her addiction - even though he did the same thing last season.
  • How difficult will it be for Jenn to maintain her sobriety? Last week she thought she was fooling everyone because her breath never smelled like alcohol. But here, she is once again getting drunk just by drinking straight from the bottle. She is no longer putting in all of the work to fool those around her. It's a full-on relapse. The girls do get her to a meeting and show up to support her. But her divorce from Bryce will likely leave her in a very fragile state.
  • Ruval and his mother are incredibly close. And so, it's likely that he told her about his intentions to marry Desna. That's certainly the impression that Desna gets after Matilde and the girls visit the salon to be pampered. However, that could just be Matilde keeping a close eye on this woman in her son's life. She must be special and wanting to get married if she's also asking Ruval to make a choice between them. That also seems like a possible motivation.
  • Polly desperately holds people close in order to avoid them abandoning her. And yet, it's that constant need for closeness and affection that frequently pushes them away. She has the support and love from the girls. But she still sees Marnie as her daughter. And so, her trying to be an overly involved parent only makes Marnie double down on the idea that it won't be long until she just leaves this life altogether. That's so completely devastating to Polly though and harkens back to the first person who left - her twin sister, Lilian.
  • Bryce is incredibly stupid for letting it slip that he is working on a plan with Uncle Daddy and Roller to eliminate Zlata from the picture completely. He thinks he's being coy about the particular details. And yet, he's doing this mostly to spite Jenn for her betrayal. He just refuses to act beyond this anger. But it also has the potential for Zlata to become aware of the threat and protect herself more. Plus, it's still destructive that he is willing to share this but not the truth about Ruval to Desna.