Features and Columns · TV

Drop What You’re Doing and Watch ‘Claws’

There’s an endless number of reasons why the crime dramedy is worth watching. Here are four.
By  · Published on May 17th, 2018

Do you like quality TV shows with good drama and a sense of humor? Do you have at least an hour to spare? Then I have the series for you. Claws is a TNT original drama/comedy that premiered last summer and will return for season two on June 10th. It’s also one of the best new shows from last year. It follows Niecy Nash‘s Desna, the owner of a nail salon in Florida who becomes wrapped up in money-laundering schemes along with her employees and closest friends. There’s so much more to it than that initial premise, but the trailer for season one provides a taste of what this show brings to the table.

Season one is now streaming on Hulu, which means if you haven’t seen it, now is the perfect time to catch up. If you have seen the show, then I’m inevitably preaching to the choir because Claws has something for everyone to enjoy and I don’t need to tell you that. For those that still need a bit more convincing, here are the top four reasons the show is worth your time.

1. The originality

Claws isn’t quite like anything else on TV. The best comparison is Big Little Lies meets Breaking Bad meets Orange Is the New Black. The heart of the show is Desna’s relationship with her fellow nail technicians Jennifer (Jenn Lyon), Polly (Carrie Preston), Virginia (Karrueche Tran), and Ann (Judy Reyes). They share a bond that rivals the ladies of Monterey and they manage to pull off some Walter White-esque criminal maneuvers week in and week out. All of this happens against a Floridian backdrop that is so saturated it puts the palette of The Florida Project to shame (more on this later).

What is most refreshing about Claws is how complicated and flawed and real the women are. The show explores intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class as Desna’s crew all strive for their slice of the American dream. The women all come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have unique struggles. Jennifer is a working mom who is trying to find the balance between her own life and what she needs to do for her family. Polly is trying to remain prim and proper despite her troubled criminal background. Ann, nicknamed “Quiet Ann” is the protector of the group who is fiercely loyal to Desna but who needs to learn how to put herself first sometimes. Virginia is the youngest of the squad, and she looks up to Desna, but she’s impulsive and naive, and this often lands her in trouble.

The women often make mistakes and fight with each other, but when push comes to shove, they’re always there for one another. The result is one of the most heartfelt and honest depictions of female friendships on television.

2. The cast

Of course, good characters are nothing without talented actors portraying them, and thankfully the Claws cast excels in that department. For starters, Niecy Nash is at the top of her game. Her portrayal of Desna is captivating and sympathetic; no matter how much she gets in over her head in a situation, it’s impossible not to root for her to pull herself out. Her vulnerable performance ensures that the series always feels real despite some of the more outlandish twists and turns of the plot.

The cast is also rounded out by actors who are always a joy to see on TV. Since the end of True Blood and The Good Wife, it’s especially nice to have Carrie Preston and her signature Southern charm back on my screen every week. Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris is on the other side of the law here as the head of the crime family that Desna works for. Lost‘s Harold Perrineau co-stars as Desna’s brother Dean, an autistic man who she strives to provide for and take care of.

3. Those working behind the scenes

There’s talent to spare on both sides of the camera with Claws. The show boasts writers such as Leila Gerstein, who won an Emmy last year for The Handmaid’s Tale, and directors such as Victoria Mahoney, who is making history as the first African-American woman to serve as a second-unit director on Star Wars.

Showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois has been working in the industry for over two decades, serving as a writer and producer for shows such as ER and Criminal Minds. For her work on Claws she has so far received an NAACP Image Award, and if there’s any justice to be had, there’ll be plenty more awards in her future. Sherman Barrois is joined by a producing team that also includes Rashida Jones and Pretty In Pink director Howard Deutch, who has also worked on shows such as American Horror Story and Jane the Virgin.

It’s worth noting that at a time when women and minorities are still fighting an uphill battle in the film and TV industry, Claws wouldn’t exist without the women, and especially the women of color, who make this show what it is. Half of the first season was written and/or directed by women, and this comes through in the way the series portrays the perspectives of its female characters.

4. The style

Considering that Claws is based around Desna’s nail salon, it only makes sense for the ladies’ nails to reflect their distinct and colorful personalities, and that they do. The nail designs are often elaborate, but they are created to tell a story about the characters. As Gracie Joseph, the nail specialist for season one, explains, one example is Polly’s nails, which become more dramatic as her character takes more risks throughout the season.

Sherman Barrois has discussed the show’s Florida noir aesthetic and the fact that no matter how dark the subject matter might become, Claws strives to maintain a bright and colorful palette. From the women’s nails and their clothes to the saturated colors of the Florida setting, the show pops with flare in every frame. Claws is unapologetically loud and in your face, but hey — this is Florida, after all.

The first episode of Claws ends with a moment that is sure to get you hooked on the whole series. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself and know that watching the show puts you in good company with legends like Stephen King.

Now go forth and binge.

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Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.