Sunday, July 22, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Desna Plots Her Revenge as Her Crew Worries About Her Sanity in 'Burn'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.07 "Burn"

When Desna with the help of Uncle Daddy and her crew plots revenge on those who betrayed her, she realizes that vengeance comes at a high cost.

How far is Desna willing to go in order to get revenge on Zlata and Ruval? Last week she found her strength and resilience again. She returned to town reenergized and ready to take on this fight. She stepped up and told her friends that she was going to be the one in charge of taking the two of them down. That was a very exciting and intense note because it promised that she would be handling things differently than how the Dixie Mafia did. Uncle Daddy went in hot because he was too impatient. That led to Bryce getting shot and Roller being waterboarded. He doesn't even know the extent his family is hurting and wanting to abandon this business. Bryce is telling Jenn that he wants to get as far away from the family as possible if he makes it through his second surgery. Roller learns that the baby isn't biologically his right after he confesses to Zlata that Uncle Daddy killed Chip. These are huge personal moments that are really changing the dynamics for these characters. Right now, Desna is personally motivated to get revenge as quickly as possible. And yet, she may be making the same mistakes as Uncle Daddy. She may be too rash and impulsive. She is not taking her time trying to figure out the best way to strike while also continuing to play along with what Zlata and Ruval have going. Instead, she is very susceptible to suggestion. Uncle Daddy is leading her on a very specific path. That points her to hitting Ruval's drug warehouse at the docks, then stealing the cocaine and then planting it on the Russians in order to start a war. In the end, it may not be a bad idea to turn Zlata and Ruval against each other in the hopes that the Dixie Mafia will emerge as the last criminal operation left standing. But it comes at such a personal cost for Desna because she is scaring everyone in her life. She is compromising all of those relationships because she is so focused on this mission of taking down Zlata and Ruval. She may not have perspective on how to balance the concerns of her family with her own personal drive for revenge. And in the end, it seems like that comes at such an immense cost for her.

Of course, it's very convenient that the Haitians just so happened to be getting a huge shipment of cocaine delivered while only a skeleton crew was working at the warehouse. Uncle Daddy knew all of this. And yet, it also seems forced that he now understands that the Russians and Haitians are getting the drugs from the same supplier. They are working together. He assumes that must mean they are just sharing this product instead of separately being in the cocaine business. That's the assumption he makes that the audience has to go along with. As such, this operation at the warehouse is against both Zlata and Ruval for Desna and not just Ruval. She wants them to both hurt equally. It should be more of a betrayal that Ruval seduced her and made her fall in love with him. Sure, there is some amount of love and admiration within Desna's relationship with Zlata as well. She was willing to let her new Russian boss get away with so much because she was also so encouraging of Desna's dreams. Zlata understood what she had with Desna and actually gave her more responsibilities in this business. She nurtured that relationship and made Desna dependent on it. As such, Desna is baffled as to why they chose to manipulate her in this way in the first place. She doesn't understand why she is so important. It's once again up to Uncle Daddy to explain something that Desna doesn't know about herself. That's awkward and lame. But it does put more importance and priority on her story. She learns that the license for the clinic was done under her name. As such, she is the only one who can open new clinics for the Russians. As such, Ruval wants to marry her and then gain that designation upon her death. That means Desna is once again afraid for her life and believes that all of this is bound to end in tragedy for her.

And yet, that doesn't lead Desna to leaning on the support of her family in order to strike back in the way that is unique to them. Instead, Desna leads Ann, Virginia, Roller and Uncle Daddy into Ruval's warehouse with the intention of setting it on fire. She wants to burn the entire business to the ground. She wants to destroy every aspect of Zlata and Ruval's lives. She makes that decision unilaterally. She does inform everyone at the salon about Zlata and Ruval's betrayal. She isn't keeping that a secret from everyone. Well, she's still keeping it from Dean. She doesn't want him to worry even though he's freaking out about her right now. He finds her sitting by the fire pit in the morning just formulating her plan and not interacting with the world around her. Burning the wedding dress had the potential to destroy her ability to keep playing her role as Ruval's fiancé. Instead, it's no big deal whatsoever. The same can also be said about the group that attacks the warehouse wearing masks. They make such a big deal about Virginia bringing animal masks. It's not a style they wish to be embracing in this moment. But over the course of this strike, they all basically take off their masks even when they are firing at the gangsters who are still protecting the stash. Uncle Daddy is even hit in the shoulder. So, someone got a good shot at him. And yet, it's still important that Ruval doesn't know who stole from him. He suspects that it could have been Uncle Daddy because he is now missing. But he also worries about it being the Russians as they are planning on going back on their deal. That sets up the whole conflict later on for Roller to plant some of the drugs on the Russian who was torturing him to ensure that Ruval would be willing to start a war. Again, it may be a smart plan in the end. But it comes at such an immense cost for Desna. For so long, she didn't want to be in the illegal drug business. She could always rationalize the clinic by saying the prescriptions were legal. But now, she can no longer say that because she is more than comfortable storing cocaine at the salon.

That's such a huge betrayal to Ann. She is the one who actually stands up with moral objections to what Desna is doing. She doesn't want to be involved in any of this. She stands opposed to it because she understands that she has so much she could lose if she gets caught. She doesn't want to return to jail. Nor does she want to be killed because of this gang war for control in the area. She wants a family with Arlene. That seems like a possibility for her again. She deserves that happiness. And yet, the audience is keenly aware that Arlene is lying to Ann at the moment. She is pretending that she's nothing more than a mall cop when she is still the detective investigating Desna and the Russians. But that's what makes the conclusion of "Burn" so exciting. The first season saw Ann having to make a choice between Desna and Arlene. She ultimately chose Desna. And now, she is faced with the same choice and makes a different decision. She no longer wants to be at the salon working for someone who could so carelessly ask her to risk so much of her life and safety. Desna doesn't really care about what any of the consequences will be for her or her crew. She just wants Zlata and Ruval to pay. But instead, she's the one who ends up getting arrested. That's such a surprise. It's the show somewhat teasing that it's Ann who ultimately turns on Desna. That's a stunning reveal. Arlene was already building a case against Desna for her role in the money laundering operation. That's why Ann needed to betray her in the first season. But now, it seems like Arlene has the determination to actually arrest Desna for her crimes because Ann returns home completely destroyed. She is wreaked by the choices Desna has made. In the moment, Desna wants to be looking out for Ann who is apparently being deceived by her girlfriend. But that's what makes this situation all the more complicated. Desna is looking out for her own interests and those selfish tendencies are now coming back to hurt her.

All of this comes after an episode where it seems like Desna doesn't have to do anything to ensure that Zlata is dealt with. Desna has no idea that Arlene is still running an operation and trying to take down the biggest fish she can find. She had a full-on confession from Polly recorded about her being a madame. That's her breaking her parole. And yet, she doesn't care about arresting Polly or turning her against the Russians at all. She is aiming higher with her targets. Yes, Polly is committing crimes. Ken doesn't want to do anything if it is going to ultimately hurt Polly and ruin their relationship. He still needs that confirmation that they can go into witness protection together even though he hasn't told her about what he's doing. In fact, no one is aware that Ken has turned against the operation even though he's an absolutely terrible liar. But that still allows him to be in that room with Zlata when she is waterboarding Roller. Again, there's no real reason for him to be in that room. He just happens to be at the right place at the right time to do something against Zlata. She says it's good to have a doctor in the room. But her men basically do all of the work to ensure that Roller stays alive. Ken is thrown aback by the whole thing. His presence isn't really necessary. But it does come with the tease that the police are about to arrest Zlata. Desna doesn't have to do a thing. And yet, she doesn't know that. She doesn't know what Ken has been doing. He hasn't been forthcoming out of fear that he would be killed for snitching on the criminal organization. However, his tactics may be the ones that ultimately take down Zlata. Desna just happens to get caught in the crossfire as well. She's going down and that's bound to be an uncomfortable and traumatizing experience for her.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Burn" was written by Sigrid Gilmer and directed by Jamie Travis.
  • It's not confirmed that Ann is the reason why Desna is now being arrested. That's a mystery for the next episode. It would certainly give Arlene more confidence in the arrest. But it could also be a part of her plan all along just to get Zlata. That's the big fish she actually wants. Desna may be another stepping stone to that goal just to see how Zlata will react upon this news. It's just traumatic in the moment because Desna is so caught off guard.
  • Ruval really doesn't suspect that Desna knows the truth about him at all. Before now, he was always seen as a smart and capable character. He was dangerous because the audience knew how powerful and criminal he was. And now, he doesn't doubt Desna's loyalty despite her crying at the salon and wanting to refrain from sex until their honeymoon. But again, he may not have time to react considering her arrest.
  • With Desna's eyes wide open about Ruval now, she is able to overhear him on the phone conducting his illegal business. That seems to occur fairly easily for her here. She is able to sneak up on him while he is telling his men to investigate the Russians for this potential theft as well. Then, she is able to just casually find a way out of the situation by using Dean as an excuse. She is capable of pulling off this lie. It's just a little forced in some instances too.
  • After his brush with death, Bryce is really stepping up and taking responsibility for his role in the destruction of his family. He understands that it was him going to work with Uncle Daddy that led them all down this path of chaos and destruction. That's why he wants to move away and find that happiness again with Jenn. It just seems incredibly unlikely. He is in the middle of surgery after all at the end of the episode.
  • Jenn also has a moment where she is extremely tempted to just kill Zlata. It's a power move on Zlata's part in coming to the salon wanting to bride Jenn into continuing being loyal to her. It ensures that the family won't have to worry about Bryce's medical expenses after two surgeries and physical therapy. But Zlata is still the one who sentenced him to all of those problems in the first place. So, it's absolutely twisted for her to still want Jenn around. But that too may just be a way to keep Desna happy.