Sunday, August 5, 2018

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Polly Hits Her Breaking Point When Her Sister Comes for a Visit in 'Til Death'

TNT's Claws - Episode 2.09 "Til Death"

As Desna plans for a big day, she realizes she can play a two-faced #bossbitch better than the rest of them. After getting a disturbing message from Marnie, a reeling Polly gets an unexpected visit from her long-lost sister that sends her spinning out of control. Uncle Daddy and Roller join forces with their Dixie Mafia brethren and make a plan to take out the Russian and Haitian mafias for good.

This season primed the audience to expect a visit from Polly's sister, Lillian, at some point. Over the last few episodes though, it started to seem like the show was trying to cram too much story into the proceedings. That ran the risk of this sudden arrival having less of an impact because it has to share time with so much that is also happening this season. And yet, "Til Death" is able to devote a significant amount of time to dealing with Polly as she is broken following her breakup with Ken and Marnie deciding to return to her mother. It's in this fragile state that Lillian arrives. Moreover, the show is able to attach a surprise with the reveal that Lillian is nothing but a figment of Polly's imagination. Yes, there is evidence that she was an actual person at one time. The show introduced Lillian through Marnie finding an old picture of the twins when they were young. Polly just explained it away as saying that Lillian lives in Seattle and that the two of them aren't that close. It should come as no surprise that Polly lied about that. She lies so much about what her life is. She can easily just tell some fantastical story that could have happened to her even though it's way too ridiculous to believe it to be true. That's just what everyone has always accepted about her. She has a colorful imagination. But the true reality of her life is that she's simply working at the salon after being arrested for fraud. She may have found her calling as a madame but that still means she's a criminal. She is running an illegal business with the police already closing in on her associates. As such, it's no wonder that she suffers a mental breakdown this week. It's an action that is bound to carry so many extreme consequences. It's also significant that the girls at the salon don't notice it right away. They just see their friend distressed because Marnie left her. Polly wants clarity and control over her life. And now, she has absolutely none of that. It may take her friends awhile to understand the loose grip she has on reality. But they do come to that realization by the end of the episode and are sure to get her the help that she needs right now.

The show plays things seriously for a bit as well. It wouldn't be the first piece of too convenient storytelling the show has done either. Things should immediately be suspicious about Lillian because she just happens to suddenly appear after these two massive relationships fall apart for Polly. Throughout the season, it's been clear that Polly has been trying to replicate this relationship for her entire life. She has been trying to get what she lost with her sister. It was left unclear what had happened between them. At first, it's suggested that it was nothing more than a boy. They were two competitive sisters who both liked the same boy. That was what led to this estrangement. But it's also clear that Polly is damaged because of whatever actions the two took against each other. She has held these relationships with Ken and Marnie incredibly close. She became an instant family with them. She enjoyed that picture-perfect life that was waiting for her at home. And yet, she was very protective and controlling of this family unit as well. Marnie wanted to explore the world and Polly didn't want to loosen her grip at all. She wanted to be a mother. But she just wanted a child who would follow every single piece of direction given to her. She was projecting something onto this relationship that ultimately only pushed Marnie away. And now, Polly is completely spinning because of that. As such, she hallucinates her sister. Lillian is following her around everywhere she goes. At first, it seems possible that Lillian just tracked down Polly because she happens to be in town on business. But then, the ruse is revealed that she's nothing but a figment of Polly's imagination. That's such a damning reveal that also allows the show to be much more fun with this conceit especially once the other characters are brought into things.

Ken just wants to apologize to Polly for what he did. He believed he didn't have any other options. And yet, Polly and the rest of the crew feel absolutely right to push him away for expecting to be forgiven just because he has come clean to all of them. He shows up at the hospital for Polly. He wants a chance to explain himself. But he really shouldn't be afforded that opportunity right now. At this moment, Polly needs to focus on her health so that she can continue to be a strong friend for her girls and madame for her dancers. She is able to get relief only by telling her friends about what happened to Lillian. She died when she fell through the ice while out skating with Polly. It was a tragedy because Polly wasn't able to save her. It's absolutely devastating and the girls are there to comfort Polly in this moment of trauma. And yet, that's not the full story either. She continues to repress these memories in order to avoid dealing with the ramifications and guilt of her actions. In actuality, she pushed Lillian because she was jealous about a guy. And then, she didn't immediately go to save her after she fell through the ice. She still ultimately tried to rescue her. But by then, it was too late. She was already lost to the cold darkness below the ice. As such, Polly has been plagued with thoughts about if there was more she could have done to save her. She blames herself for what happened. In this moment, she only confesses to Desna. She's the only one who is still at the hospital. Night has fallen but the dark creatures of the mind still exist for Polly. She is still plagued by her sister. She is this messenger of mental instability. Polly can't move forward with her life until she faces these demons. And in the end, Lillian is seen as a beacon of hope. Sure, Polly may have no more clarity on the tragedy than she did before. But she confessed it to her friends. That opens the door for Polly to have a more beautiful interaction with this hallucination as they dance in the hallway of the hospital to Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." That's a wonderful moment that gives so much personal detail to the closing of this hour.

Elsewhere, it seems like the stories are mostly just in setup mode for whatever is bound to happen in the finale. It's a lot of fun when Desna takes the girls out shopping to buy a wedding dress. She has no plans of enjoying her marriage to Ruval. She expects him to be killed shortly thereafter by Zlata who continues pressuring Desna into forming more of a business partnership with the clinics. This moment is also made awkward by Matilde joining the girls to push her more traditional views on the celebration. She gets Desna into the wedding gown that actually makes her cry. That's a meaningful moment even though she doesn't want to shed tears for a ceremony she knows is all completely for show. She's not marrying for love. Instead, she is marrying for business in the hopes of building a better life for herself. That's such a key motivation for a number of characters at the moment. Jenn and Bryce are fleshing out the idea of moving to Tampa to get a fresh start with their lives. They find a perfect house that allows them to continue going to meetings and working at a nail salon. They just can't afford it. As such, Bryce basically has to prove his loyalty to the Dixie Mafia by killing Hank in order to get the money necessary to leave from Uncle Daddy and Roller. It's such a twisted moment that shows that Bryce still has so much anger inside of him. That's bound to come out in unexpected ways should this move actually happen. Jenn loves him but he is still bound to be a volatile character just like the rest of his family. Meanwhile, Dean wants independence in his life. He is building something with Virginia. And yet, he's very uncomfortable living out of a hotel with her. It's too loud and disgusting. He's absolutely right to freak out at the mold and bugs in the room. That's unacceptable. Meanwhile, Virginia painting over it doesn't fix the underlying issue. But it's also enough to show her devotion to making a future together work. That's sweet. Desna also stops by to give her approval and say that she's proud of Dean for making this move on his own for independence.

Of course, all of this also comes when Desna realizes and accepts that she is a criminal. She has always been trying to escape from this life. She didn't want to be working for Uncle Daddy any longer. Then she kept getting pulled into mess after mess with him. And now, she is indebted to Zlata. She has appreciated all of the encouragement and advice from her. But she's also been betrayed by Zlata. Their relationship could never be beneficial to both of them. Desna wants to stick to her guns of getting out of this arrangement after marrying Ruval, killing him and signing over his properties to Zlata. And yet, Desna soon discovers that Ruval owns much more than Zlata is aware of. Right now, Zlata is more than comfortable taking the few businesses that he has. But Desna breaks into his office and learns about all of the additional properties that he's been keeping to himself. It's over a million dollars in real estate investments. He owns several businesses that are bound to be very lucrative in this marriage should everything work out the way that Desna and Zlata are planning. As such, it could present an opportunity for Desna to get more of what she wants as well. In that moment where she is comforting Polly, she understands that they are two criminals who are much better at this way of life than they ever expected. They have to embrace that moving forward. Again, that may not be healthy at all. In fact, it may lead to only more problems for them in the future. But it also provides clarity and direction for their lives. Desna is finally accepting that she does love the chaos from the criminal lifestyle. No, that doesn't mean she should go back to being with Roller. She still deserves better than him. But it's also easy to understand that impulse especially as she is plotting so much at the moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Til Death" was written by Janine Sherman Barrois & Maisha Closson and directed by Jamie Travis.
  • The Dixie Mafia hasn't taken out the Russians and Haitians just yet but they are already planning for the future and how they can increase the financials for their businesses. They ultimately land on the idea of opening rehabs so that they can continue the cycle of getting people hooked on pain pills and then helping them get off of them. Of course, it's also ridiculous that they want to open a rehab right next door to the clinic. That's just too obvious as a scheme.
  • Moreover, the Dixie Mafia forces Hank to sign away his business space as vengeance against him trying to kidnap Jenn and the girls. He tries to walk away all of those actions. He doesn't want to be the stalker he's been painted as. It's ridiculous that he is able to just return to his normal life like nothing happened. But it's still so devastating when Bryce plunges a pen into Hank's neck and immediately kills him. That's dark.
  • Desna and Roller are just able to have sex at a shooting range. That's completely absurd. Yes, it's meaningful that Desna is learning how to actually use a gun. It's twisted that Roller is teaching her after she shot him at the start of the series. But it also shows that the two of them are getting that close again. They are just lucky that no one else is also at the range firing at the targets.
  • Desna, Jenn, Ann and Virginia all looked hot in their respective dresses that they first tried on at the bridal shop. Sure, they were also flaunting themselves off in front of Matilde and making a mockery of what is already seen as a fake wedding. And yet, none of them have the awareness that it's perhaps foolish to be doing this in front of her. She forces them to get serious. That's the quality necessary here instead of just grinding up against one another.
  • When Desna visits Dean at the hotel, he is willing to forgive her and asks if he can walk her down the aisle. He also mentions that the wedding is happening the next day. As such, it seems unlikely that Polly will be able to attend the ceremony. The doctor does say he wants to observe her for a few days to find a new balance for her. However, it seems so unlikely that she will miss something as important as that especially given all that is bound to go down during the finale.