Sunday, July 29, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Desna and Her Crew Are Betrayed by Their Personal Connections in 'Crossroads'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.08 "Crossroads"

After a harrowing experience, Desna is offered a deal with Zlata that's more intriguing than nail art on acrylics. Polly and Ann get dealt some hard-ass betrayal from their baes. Jenn's affair comes back to haunt her.

There are some truly emotional and heartbreaking moments that occur throughout "Crossroads" as Desna gets arrested because of personal betrayals from Dr. Ken and Arlene. And yet, there are also just a bunch of random plots that all seem to pop up at the precise moment when they are least necessary. In addition to Desna possibly going to jail and facing the severity of her situation, the show also decides that now is a convenient time to bring back Marnie's mother, re-introduce Mandy the realtor, bring in more people from the Dixie Mafia and deal with the stalker turn from Hank. It honestly feels like the show had a bunch of ideas as it was heading into the final stretch of the season but didn't quite know how to fit everything into the episodes. Mandy mostly returns in order to give Desna someone to talk to while she is in holding. She is afraid for her life and she just happens to see this person from her past. In the moment, she is immediately able to understand that Mandy needs help and has to make some serious changes to her life. That's the same lesson that Desna needs to learn as well. She just doesn't have the clarity right now because it is so personal to her. Mandy can be held at a distance and used as an example of questionable choices lately. Desna doesn't understand how far she has fallen and just how compromised she has made her friends and family. She doesn't get that lesson until the end of this hour either. And yet, it's so profound when Dean decides to move out. That's an important moment that has had two seasons worth of buildup because she was essentially using him as a crutch in order to feel supported and needed in the world. And now, she's just starting to realize just how difficult things are around her. She isn't always the best person to be with. She gets that realization now even though she's continuing to go deeper in her relationship with Zlata. That's bound to get even more complicated. Again, these are the exciting elements of this episode. But they are too often bogged down by stuff that simply doesn't matter anymore - if they ever did.

Everyone is understandably freaking out about Desna getting arrested as well. It's a huge shock to the crew because they believed that their biggest problems were coming from Zlata and Ruval. They had no idea that someone in their organization was wearing a wire and recording damaging testimony against them. Ken is an especially bad liar when confronted about it as well. He doesn't know how to knock the suspicion off of himself whenever someone comes into a room detailing their latest problems. Of course, Polly is smart enough to understand that he is the one who snitched on her family. Roller is too dim to have that realization. He isn't able to see through Ken and know that he is the problem. It takes awhile for Polly to get there as well. She is further compromised by actually being in a romantic relationship with him. Up until this point, their romance has been seen as beneficial and healthy for both of them. Of course, he was keeping this massive secret from her. One that could radically change both of their lives. He wanted to run away together in witness protection. But that was never going to be a reality for them. Polly was either going to stay loyal to Desna or go back to prison for the crimes she confessed to on the tape. She is a madame after all. She said that very clearly while Ken was trying to propose to her. She didn't understand why he was doing that then. But now, she does. She is able to see him for the snitch that he is. That's the most devastating thing about all of this to her. She sees being a snitch as being worse than a killer, terrorist or pedophile. It's the one thing she could not condone. And so, she's left completely devastated with only Marnie left behind to comfort her - even though she's the child who needs the support right now after seeing her mother again who is claiming to be sober and responsible.

Meanwhile, Desna is completely surprised that Arlene is working with the FBI in order to stage this elaborate operation. She too was fooled into believing that Arlene was kicked off the force and is now nothing more than a security guard at the mall. She believed in that narrative just like Ann did. She understands that this is going to destroy Ann. As such, that highlights the complicated personal feelings throughout this relationship. Ann wanted nothing more to do with Desna. But she didn't actually turn on her. She didn't return home and tell Arlene everything about the illegal operations at the salon and the clinic. Instead, she remained loyal and even offered her help once Desna got arrested. She was still there to support her friend. And the thanks that she gets is the complete destruction of her happy life. She was once again ready to start a family with Arlene. She wanted to make that a reality. And now, she's questioning if the relationship was ever real to begin with. She fears that Arlene was using her all along just to get to Desna and the illegal operations. That's probably not true at all. The audience has simply seen too many small, personal moments with Arlene where she seems conflicted about Ann. But it's still this massive betrayal. They are on two different sides of the law. Arlene wants to take down the drugs and corruption in the area while Ann is willing to destroy evidence to save her friend. The confrontation that the two of them have is ugly and raw. It's such a moving moment because it shows how deeply hurt Ann is by Arlene. But again, it sets up a perilous future because there's no telling how far this investigation is bound to go. It seems like the FBI doesn't have anything against Desna except her name being on a taped conversation. But so many things could go wrong very quickly on this show.

Desna only wants support from her crew as well. She would rather hire Polly's lawyer than reach out to Zlata and Ruval in the hopes that they can do better. Of course, Zlata still ultimately finds out what has happened to Desna and does something about it. Sure, it seems like a waste of Fortune Feimster to just have her pop up in this cameo as Desna's lawyer who is able to get her out of jail fairly quickly. She is able to do a much better job at presenting a case on Desna's behalf than Desna was in front of the judge. That's entirely because Desna doesn't understand the process. She just wants to plead her innocence and her values in the community. Those are still the aspects of her life that allow her to post bail. But that means she is still indebted to Zlata. She delivers the money to bail her out. And then, she comes clean about everything that she and Ruval have been doing behind Desna's back. Zlata mostly does that because she can sense Ruval wanting to get rid of her soon because of the seeming betrayal over the drugs. As such, Desna hopes she can use that to negotiate a better deal for herself while also allowing Zlata and Ruval to take each other out. But it's still this elaborate conspiracy that she is doubling down on in the hopes that it will eventually lead to her getting out of this life of crime. That's too far for some in her family because this brush with serious legal consequences seems to have done nothing to get her to change her ways. Instead, it seems inevitable that that change will come from Dean leaving. He wanted to do everything right in order to save her from prison. He believes he knows how the system works thanks to Law & Order: SVU. But he still doesn't understand the complexities of the situation. It may be scary to think of him living with Virginia elsewhere. But it could also be healthy for both Dean and Desna to spend some time apart. It could afford them some genuine clarity over their lives.

And lastly, Jenn being taken hostage by Hank in the hopes of being able to start over as a family in Israel is just so completely insane and ridiculous. The show was hinting at this twist earlier when Bryce was in the hospital. But now, the threat actually becomes reality. At first, it seems so completely sinister because Hank is injecting Bryce with some unknown drug. But that may have genuinely been a hallucination on Bryce's part. The show leaves that too unclear because Bryce is ultimately vital to the rescue mission. When the time calls for it, Bryce is the person on the other end of the phone who helps save Jenn from this stalker who is obsessed with her. But again, it's so absolutely incredulous that Bryce would fear that something was going on with Bryce only to then have to sprint home in order to keep him from hurting his wife. It's ridiculous because there is no way that Bryce could have gotten there that quickly. Someone at the hospital would have noticed him leaving. Plus, he's slow because of the two consecutive surgeries and the minimum physical therapy he has had. And then, he had to have found some way of getting back to the house. He's smart in that he calls the police to actually handle the situation. And yet, that moment never reads as the police being there solely to arrest Hank for abduction. Instead, it feels like a swarm of officers comes in with a warrant to search the property for whatever can be used against Desna in court. But that's never explicitly said either. As such, it's a very weird resolution to a story that didn't really need to happen at all. There's no reason why Jenn shouldn't be at the salon with the rest of the girls when Desna arrives. That moment provides so much clarity for them but Jenn just happens to be away already to deal with this ongoing threat that could have been completely dropped several episodes ago.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Crossroads" was written by Jeff Augustin and directed by Cherie Nowlan.
  • Uncle Daddy has to reach out to the Dixie Mafia once more in order to potentially move the drugs from the Haitians he is now carrying. Of course, that means he has to reconcile with his family after killing one of them last season. But again, that moment doesn't really land because it was a twist that hasn't been important in a long time. It's mostly just complicating the system so that the Dixie Mafia falsely believes that the Russians and Haitians are their enemies.
  • So, is Matilde actually Ruval's mother? That's a plot point that still seems too unclear. She has always been introduced as such. Here, it's shown that she has connections to the mob as well. She is counseling Ruval on what to do next regarding the Russians. But she also does it while sunbathing and not seeming like the frail, older woman she was portrayed as earlier this season. Of course, is it even worth it for there to be some big reveal with her?
  • Dean doesn't know where Desna is currently being held or how much her bail is. And yet, he still feels compelled to solve the problem himself. He is willing to hand over all of his money just to save his family. That's how he wants to help her instead of destroying evidence for her. But again, it's not enough. He is angry and working harder as a dancer than ever before. He is making serious money. But that is no longer going to help Desna through this chaos.
  • Are Jenn and Bryce actually going to escape this life? That's been something many of the characters have been aspiring to over the course of the series. They no longer want to be in this criminal lifestyle. They keep getting sucked into it because of their friends and family. And now, Jenn and Bryce are making these plans in secret. They just can't actually do them yet because Bryce is in the hospital and Hank decides to kidnap Jenn and the kids.
  • Desna has now made a deal with Zlata where she will follow through on the plan to marry Ruval. But now, he will be the one who ends up getting killed. Desna will sign over all of his assets to Zlata because she'll get them in the will. And then, the two of them can go their separate ways being satisfied with what they got. It may be a solid plan. But it's inevitable that it won't work out because of everything else going on.