It was a ritual every Wednesday night over a glass of pinot grigio, you turned on your TV, sat back, and lived life through Carrie Bradshaw eyes. Comparing your best…
Our surprise discovery of the summer was the TNT drama Claws, starring Niecy Nash and Carrie Preston, which we binged all 10 episodes of this weekend. A magnificent achievement for the network that usually airs fairly vanilla-flavored shows – Claws has all the bite and, well, claws of the fiercest cable-drama, complimented by a diverse cast of women. We’re not seeing a ton of talk about the series and checked in with some friends only to discover they had never heard about it. So here we are doing our part to spread the word on this highly entertaining crime-drama set in the surprisingly seedy world of a Florida nail salon.
Manatee County, Florida is the trashy setting for the series, which follows a group of brightly dressed manicurists embroiled in an ongoing criminal enterprise that’s on the verge of totally unraveling, thanks to the dimwitted, greedy men running the operation. When we meet Nash’s Desna in the pilot, her life is actually in a pretty positive place. Sure, she’s dating a skeevy gangster named Roller (Jack Kesy), who helps move money from a pain-clinic that sells illegal amounts of opiates to Desna’s nail salon where the money is “washed,” but she’s about to get a huge bonus for her trouble. Her plan is to reinvest the bonus she gets from her illegal activities into a gorgeous new salon in a more upscale area and take her entire staff of women with her.
The girls at the salon are excited to change locations. Polly (Preston), who was recently released from prison, Jennifer (Jenn Lyon), who happens to be married to Roller’s brother, and Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) the salon’s baseball-bat touting security guard, are all aware of their bosses struggle to get them on the straight and narrow path. This is why they initially circle the wagons when a new girl, Virginia, is brought in by Roller to join the group as their new manicurist.
Desna’s distrust of Virginia (Karrueche Tran) is later confirmed when it’s revealed the new girl is sleeping with Roller. It’s here that everything begins to unravel, and these seemingly innocent estheticians are thrust into the criminal world, complete with murders, automatic weapons, and a lot of prescription pills.
The swampy setting of Florida informs nearly every aspect of the production from the vivid pastels that color their world to the characterization of the “Dixie Mafia” that runs this particular criminal landscape. This is perhaps best embodied in the performance of Breaking Bad star Dean Norris, who portrays a character named Uncle Daddy in the series. Norris is draped with gold chains, snorting massive amounts of cocaine and talking about his love for his male-lovers’ small penis when we first meet him in the strip club he owns and operates. However, thanks to Norris’ nuanced, if sometimes over-the-top performance, the character manages to remain equal parts ridiculous and unpredictably terrifying.
As petty crime gives way to major law-breaking, the women are pulled deeper and deeper into the not-so-complex, but certainly volatile world of the white-trash criminals. These women are all treated like they’re less-than, even though they exist in a world comprised of underclass losers and criminals. That’s maybe the most fun aspect of the series though – watching our heroine’s slowly turn the tables on the men who have done nothing but ruin their lives via their subtle (and overt) violence, underestimation and blackmail.
Actually, we think the thing we love best about this show is that it makes an effort to explore the humanity in characters that would otherwise be relegated to caricatures in the background of someone else’s story. Instead of sidelining these characters, or only using them as visual punchlines, Claws is a more nuanced examination of flawed these deeply flawed women.
Created by Eliot Laurence and executive produced by Rashida Jones, Claws wrapped up its first season last night, which means you’ve got an entire year to catch up on all ten episodes because the series returns next summer. It’s currently available on TNT or via your cable streaming service.