Sunday, August 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'Claws' - Desna Must Make a Difficult Choice Despite Her Crew's Moral Objections in 'Melba Toast'

TNT's Claws - Episode 3.09 "Melba Toast"

Desna and the crew have to tie up loose ends for the Triads if they want to stay alive. Meanwhile, guilt pushes Toby to do the unexpected, putting the entire crew in jeopardy.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of TNT's Claws.

"Melba Toast" was written by Emily Silver and directed by Erica Watson

This season probably went too big with its storytelling. It's an understandable impulse to increase the stakes and tension with each season. Things have to go bigger so that the characters aren't running into the same problems over and over again. It just makes it more difficult to pull the crazy stories off in a way that continues to be entertaining and compelling for the audience. This season struggled because it was very divided and didn't do a great job at explaining the various actions the characters were taking. It takes until this episode for Dean to talk about how he fell so in love with Mac and mahjong because it was a coping mechanism after killing Zlata. That's an explanation that absolutely helps better define what that bond was. It just comes at the end of the story at a time when everything seems to be magically fixed between him and Desna. In fact, this is the hour that seemingly calls out Desna for continuing to cause pain and chaos because of her selfish desire to run this world. She believes she's this badass boss. And yet, she struggles to take responsibility for how her actions led to Arlene's death. This hour does a stronger job in making that death actually feel like a tragic loss because of how it changes Ann. She can dream of the life they were building together knowing that it will never actually happen. It's emotional. But it also comes with the suggestion that all it will take is time for the crew to forgive Desna for all that she has done. That feels like it may be letting her off the hook a little too easily. Both she and Polly fell in love with the lifestyle afforded to them through the casino. That's unlikely to end now that Mac and Melba are out of the picture. The Triad will more than likely still call on Desna to keep running things and be loyal to them above all else. That's terrifying because Benedict presents as the most sinister and lethal threat that Desna and the crew have had to face so far. And yet, this hour feels burdened by the need to set up things for the future when the clear tension and uncertainty is already clear to see. That means Clint's body is found just in time for Toby's instability to come back into the picture. It was surprising when he was revealed to be the shooter who injured Virginia. The season following that reveal mostly painted him as the jealous lover who was concerned about Uncle Daddy's latest actions. In fact, that whole corner of the show has felt increasingly pointless this season. Sure, it may be amusing to see them turn their makeshift rehab into a sauna here. But it's also incredibly predictable how things will turn out as soon as Toby sends that text saying he's going to confess. It exists mostly to ensure that Desna's life will continue to spiral out of control. She will no longer be able to look at Roller as her rock. Now, he has been accused of murder and could be sent back to prison. Polly may have gotten away with killing the governor with Joe. Consequences still remain high in this world. It still has to be a matter of life or death. That's how the stakes usually play out in this world. The show just has been a little skittish to follow through in the past. Even now, it's unclear just how much the narrative actually wants to change. Does it agree with Desna's impulse that everything was simpler when she was just laundering money through her salon for Uncle Daddy? That's probably true but the narrative is unlikely to send her back to that version of her life. Things have only increased in their severity in this world. As such, it may be impossible to ever truly recapture that spirit. That also means that there needs to be more of a division amongst the central crew because they should no longer view Desna as their confident leader who is always right. She is not. She makes mistakes. That makes her human. Those mistakes just come with massive consequences that she doesn't quite know how to handle. And the show ultimately take some of the burden off of her by having Melba die by walking into traffic instead of Desna shooting her. That's a very lackluster moment that shows how the series can really be trepidatious.