Sunday, July 15, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Desna Runs Away After Tragedy and Betrayal Consume Her Life in 'Double Dutch'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.06 "Double Dutch"

Faced with an agonizing dilemma, Desna and Dean take a road trip to seek guidance from a beloved childhood mentor. Back in Palmetto, Jenn must lean on Polly and Quiet Ann for help with a personal crisis. Virginia struggles to run the salon by herself.

The weight of the world is currently crashing down on Desna. She is completely destroyed after seeing Zlata shoot Bryce and learning that Zlata and Ruval have been working together and manipulating her this entire time. That was so hard for her to watch. Her entire life is gone now. She sees Zlata as the sociopath who never had any genuine interest in her with Ruval being so manipulative in getting close to her for some reason that is yet to be fully revealed. "Double Dutch" even makes it seem like Desna has lost the love and support of her salon family. Jenn blames her for Bryce getting shot. That's absolutely silly even though Desna was willing to look past a lot with Zlata. She saw her as a genuine businesswoman and colleague who wanted to help expand Desna's importance in this world. But at the end of the day, Uncle Daddy and Bryce were still foolish to attack Zlata in that way while Zlata was the one who ultimately pulled the trigger that led to Bryce's hospitalization. As such, there is no reason for Jenn to stay angry with Desna. It's just something said in the heat of the moment when she fears she's about to lose everything she loves in this world. She needs to pray that Bryce is okay while lashing out at those she blames for hurting him. Desna refused to see the danger of Zlata. And now, she is dealing with those consequences. "Double Dutch" is a very important episode for Desna's character arc for the season. It's the episode that cements that she is going to be the one who makes the final strike against Zlata in order to take down the organization that has caused so much pain for her and her family. She is betrayed by both Zlata and Ruval on a deep, personal level. She needs to be the one to plot revenge and fight back. It just takes an entire episode for her to deal with all of this shocking information and find the spark that will be necessary in order to take them down. As such, it leaves the character in a very exciting place for the second half of the season. The fire has been lit within her. She is passionate about hurting Zlata and Ruval. She is making sure they'll pay for their crimes. It's so badass to see her light the newly arrived wedding dress on fire. That shows that her days of complicity are over. And yet, does it really take the entire episode to get to that point? For most of the running time, it just seems like wheel-spinning as she goes on this personal adventure before reaching the inevitable conclusion.

The show has explored Desna and Dean's past in the foster care system as well. They were abused by foster parents. That's what made it easy for her to frame an elderly couple for her various crimes last season. She was simply getting her revenge for what they did to Dean. Every time the two of them talked about their childhood, it was through the lens that every home they were sent to was bad. They could only rely on each other. And now, "Double Dutch" reveals that they did have one foster parent who actually cared about them and didn't abuse them. It just seems like a random inclusion here that may actually be a little too revisionist. The show plays Ms. Wallace as this woman who had a lasting impact on Desna. In this moment of turmoil, she feels the need to track her down and seek comfort in her wisdom and advice once more. She's the person she can go to in order to get her head on straight again. The world has gotten so crazy that she doesn't know what to believe or trust anymore. The show plays Desna and Dean's final goodbye with Ms. Wallace as children as this very emotional thing. They were sent back to live with their mother before ultimately being returned to the abusive system. And yet, the show also wants to present this moment as being the first time that Desna has actually sought out Ms. Wallace again. She hopes that she is living in the same house. That only leads to the revelation that she has moved into an assisted living facility with no real memory of those lasting final words she imparted on Desna. They haven't seen each other since that day. Of course, their time together was special. But it's mostly just an excuse for a new character to remind Desna that she is strong and has the power to fight back. She is determined to win and that tenacity is the spark that has always been present within her. It's just lame that she needs to be reminded of that through a piece of her history that has never been mentioned before and probably will never be important again either.

The walk down memory lane is enough to once again prove to the audience that Desna has always had a rough life. She has always been protecting Dean. She always feels the need to do right by him even though he's been making plenty of his own life choices for many years. He's really worried about her right now though because he simply doesn't understand what's going on. He doesn't know just how evil Zlata is or that Ruval has betrayed Desna in such a horrifying way. He doesn't know any of that. He just has the clarity that he needs to be there for his sister and protect her in a way that only family can. It's so dark when Desna seems to be running into the ocean. Was she actually trying to kill herself in that moment? That's definitely the worry that Dean has even though she is able to quickly bounce back with a new direction to go in. She understands that she needs to seek out Ms. Wallace even though she hasn't been an important fixture in her life in a very long time. Seeing the old house and the school only brings back these traumatizing memories. It's difficult for her because she sees the life that could have been if she and Dean got to stay there instead of being returned to their mother. In the end, Desna finds her inner spirit once more simply by playing double dutch with her younger selves. That's random and a slightly forced moment. But it still puts her in the right headspace when she returns to the hospital and is immediately forgiven by Jenn. This was a traumatic and difficult day for all of them. At least they are being open and honest with each other. Jenn is glad that Bryce woke up. She knows that Desna isn't to blame either. Meanwhile, Desna knows that Zlata and Ruval can't be trusted. She's going to fight back. But will she be able to succeed as a secret agent while still working with both of them? That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, it is confirmed that Bryce will survive after getting shot by Zlata. It's touch and go for a little while there with Jenn and Uncle Daddy having no idea what's going to happen. Bryce spends most of the episode just in a coma. He's in critical condition with the doctors not knowing if he is going to wake up. As such, Uncle Daddy makes the foolish decision to stay in the hospital praying over his boy despite being an open target for the Russians there. An attempt is even made on his life. Roller knows that this threat is coming. Zlata wants to force him into compliance by threatening to kill his son. That's the reveal that ultimately gets Uncle Daddy to take this threat seriously. It's only after Bryce wakes up that Uncle Daddy starts to listen to what Roller has to say. In fact, Roller seems to be the most rational person at the hospital. That's startling because he has never been a very rational character. He has always been doing things impulsively. But he has the clarity of how dangerous the Russians can actually be because he is personally intwined with them. He knows what Zlata is capable of. And yet, the show plays it too cryptically once the Russian goons arrive at the hospital and are greeted by a bunch of guys who resemble Uncle Daddy. It's unclear if that is purely coincidental or something that Roller organized in order to protect his family. It means the Russians have to leave right away after killing the wrong guy. But a man still ends up dead because of the Dixie Mafia. That's so horrifying and the show seemingly doesn't want to make a big deal about it at all. It's perfectly okay that this guy dies so that Uncle Daddy can live. It's mostly an afterthought because the true focus at the hospital has to be on Bryce and Jenn. Will their love be enough to heal these wounds? That's the question the show is asking throughout this story.

Of course, it also felt inevitable that Bryce would survive these injuries and that his brush with death would lead to him reuniting with Jenn. That just seemed to be the obvious storytelling decision. And yes, that does feel like the direction the show is going in even though Hank has also been brought back into things with some scary stalker connotations. Jenn wants nothing to do with him though. Instead, she desperately wants Bryce to return to her and be a family once more. That's the picture that is painted by the end of this hour. The kids are brought to the hospital after Bryce makes it out of the woods. He is on the road to recovery. It seems like Jenn played a significant role in helping him heal though. That scene of her in the hospital room all by herself is so absolutely genuine, emotional and completely ridiculous. She starts off simply talking about the first time they both relapsed while dating each other. She found it to be karmic that they would both go to the same bar in order to do drugs and alcohol. She saw that as the sign that they couldn't keep secrets from each other because they were both infected with the same destructive disease. Hearing this must be arousing to Bryce. That proves that he is verging on returning to life. He just needs help from Jenn to realize what all he is missing in this world. They haven't had sex in a long time. And now, it's clear that that desire is still there. It's just absolutely ludicrous that Jenn gets on top of him and is able to essentially fuck him out of his coma. That's so strange, weird and also rape. But it's also so in keeping with what this show is. It doesn't really care to play things for the reality of the situation. It could be life-threatening for Bryce to be having sex right now. His body possibly couldn't handle the excitement. But here, it's played as the one thing needed for him to make a complete recovery. Of course, the show should still feature some consequences to this attack as well. He can't just be back to planning and carrying out schemes with Uncle Daddy. That honor now has to belong with Desna as she plots to take down Zlata and Ruval.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Double Dutch" was written by Sam Forman and directed by Clare Kilner.
  • It's so creepy that Hank just shows up at the hospital. He wants to be supportive of Jenn even though the husband she still loves is the one who has been shot. This is just not an appropriate place for him to make his move on her once more. It probably serves as evidence that he has been keeping a close eye on her and knows everything that's going on in her life. But that too is very creepy and sinister.
  • Virginia is left in charge of the salon for the day. She believes she can handle it. And then, a bunch of kids comes in expecting to get their first manicures. That's a lot for her to deal with. She tries to recruit additional hands into helping her so that she's not overwhelmed. But this is mostly a tangential story that builds to a moving conclusion with her having a greater understanding of what Desna actually does. It just feels like it isn't given the proper time to actually mean something though.
  • Dr. Ken is absolutely terrible at wearing a wire. Arlene isn't able to get any useful information by sending him in to get confessions from his criminal bosses. He just walks into the hospital room asking if Uncle Daddy has committed any crimes lately. It's just so awkward. But it also comes from him believing that he will still be able to live a normal and happy life in witness protection. He believes he will get to live with Polly even though that's not true at all.
  • And so, Dr. Ken proposes to Polly in the hopes that she can then always stay with him. She turns him down because she doesn't want the kind of future he is selling to her in that moment. Right now, she believes she has found her new calling as a madame. Yes, she knows it's illegal to be running an escort service. And yet, she enjoys promoting the business to the target audience while also being great at teaching the boys how best to perform sexually.
  • Of course, Polly happens to be recorded on Ken's wire when she confesses to these crimes she is committing for Zlata. She doesn't know that Ken has turned and is now working with the police. She is more worried about having to give up this life in order to prove her loyalty to Desna and the salon. But now, she'll be pressured into cooperating with Arlene or risk being thrown back in jail.
  • Chip's death doesn't really mean anything. He has never been a character of actual substance. He was just the local detective who was corrupt and kept Uncle Daddy in the loop about the various things happening in the city. This was only his second appearance of the season with his change in loyalty against Uncle Daddy happening very suddenly. Uncle Daddy shooting him also happens quickly with it being unclear if he will deal with any consequences from it.