” You know how people say that eyes are the window to the being? Well I don’t think so. For me, it’s fingernails .”
That’s what Niecy Nash’s Desna tells in an early episode of TNT’s riotous new drama Claws , about manicurists at a West Florida nail salon who find themselves cuticle deep in a spiraling misdemeanour reverberate. And Desna’s nails? They’re colorful, verging on flamboyant. They are adorned, studded, and swirled, fake as inferno but authentically hers. They are attention-grabbing. And “they il be” sharp, viciously so.
The selling point of Claws is the existence of the show in the first place. On its premise alone, it’s been described as” Steel Magnolias satisfies Breaking Bad “– and carries with it all the flaws and glories that sort of labeling connotes.
There are salons and antiheroes, outlandishness and melodrama. There are tropes and cliches. There is style and there is fun, and there may be an instinct to dismiss the show for those reasons. Just as for certain audiences( yours truly included ), there is an instinct to embrace the demonstrate for a slew of other reasons, including the casting, the feminism, the fingernails, and the baseline camp of everything there is.
Desna is the den mom of the Nail Artisans of Manatee County. She has her regal lion’s mane of hair and requisite penchant for animal publish style, but more importantly a ferociousness with which she protects her cubs: best friend and salon’s right-hand woman Jen( Jenn Lyon ); the enigmatic and loyal Quiet Ann( Judy Reyes ), who happens to be a lesbian; and Carrie Preston’s pearls-and-cardigan Polly, the poised fount of oddities with an eclectic past.
Desna is one of the freshest takes yet on what has become TV’s stalest archetype: the well-meaning, salt-of-the-earth everyman( or in this case everywoman) who gets mixed up in something uncouth, betrays her morals, and get in too deep–but always with the heart of amber. In his instance, though, the heart isn’t just gold. It’s striped and rainbow colored, brimming with more feminine personality than persons under the age of prestige Tv usually lets us see.
When we satisfy Desna, she’s mixed up with the Dixie Mafia through her current boyfriend, a grills-wearing buffoon named Roller. She’s been helping Roller launder money through a very illegal” ache clinic” at a strip mall–junkies come to get their prescription pills–for his boss, Uncle Daddy, played by Breaking Bad ‘ s Dean Norris in the series’ most important and perhaps most ridiculous performance.( The network’s official described in Uncle Daddy:” a larger than life, dangerous, profoundly Catholic bisexual .”)
For Desna, it’s the means to an terminate: her dream of opening a more upscale salon away from dingy Palmetto in the more affluent Sarasota. But she necessity her payout from the crime reverberate to make the down payment, and when Uncle Daddy and Roller stiff her, she’s pissed. Adding insult to trauma is Roller’s dalliance with Virginia( Karreuche Tran ), a stripper whom Roller insists Desna hire at the parlour, but who begins sleeping with him, too.
To tell more about the plot would spoil it–beyond saying that Desna and Virginia end up friends despite their mutual hatred–but likewise would devote more credit to the weakest element of the series.
It’s the girls’ descent into a life of crime that surfaces the most maddening genre cliches and predictabilities. Do things look they’re eventually going well for Desna? Does it seem like she’s gotten away with something? Might she be happy? That the house of cards is going to fall each time there’s a moment of peace is so inevitable you want to give it a good huff and blow it down yourself to save some time.
( Though we’ll admit that critics were given three episodes, which end on a cliffhanger that seems as if it could redirect the entire series in that considers .)
What you bask in while watching Claws is the world that’s been created, and the women who inhabit it. It’s a world perhaps you don’t quite understand but is so meticulously crafted that it doesn’t become hick tourism, but instead a heightened version of an already colorful reality.
These are women and characters that we have determined on screen before–the stripper who enters the room sucking on a lollipop, the diva prance in her catsuit and fake fingernails, the unassuming laborers at a salon–but whose narratives are marginalized or discounted. They’re in the background of a room while “the mens” talk, a “scene-stealer” never to be heard from again, or a narrative tool meant to further the plot , not direct it.
The trick of Claws , and when it really operates, is the dignity the actresses give these women and their stories. As she’s proven time and again–most recently in Scream Queens and her Emmy-nominated turn in Getting On — Nash is adept at attaining the “big” believable, managing to crackle with personality and still be soulful, and find just as much payoff in brash, brilliant slapstick readings as she does in the silent moments.
And it’s when the demonstrate springboards off that kind of established realism into its unbridled ridiculousness that it really excels.
” He wanted you to wrestle on the pizza, didn’t he ?” is an actual line. There’s a funeral procession that includes strippers on poles, a buffet of Little Debbie snacks at the memorial service, and a reading from Total Recall , the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In one pivotal scene, Nash in a skintight denim jumpsuit and Tran wearing a fur coating and lucite heels scramble to hide a dead body, a vision gag that is both surreal and likewise perhaps the exact storyboard that sold TNT on the wild aesthetic of the entire demonstrate.
The tonal balance Claws attempts is ambitious. And though it doesn’t ever, it’s a real hoot when it, ahem, nails it.