Claws is one of three excellent shows returning in the next week, in which the leading women are on a quest to empower themselves. Unlike HBO’s award-winning Big Little Lies or FX’s acclaimed Pose, however, this one will air relatively inconspicuously.
It’s a shame, because TNT’s boisterous crime drama retains the kooky vibe it’s hoisted itself on for the past two years.
Everything about Claws is unapologetically loud, from the storylines to the costumes to the dialogue to, obviously, the on-brand nails. It doesn’t hold back from its unconventional premise: Five manicurists run a salon in the trashy city of Palmetto, Florida, that’s actually a front to launder money for the local drug lord.
The show has the makings of a perfect summer guilty pleasure, but don’t be fooled by its raunchy appearance. Yes, there’s murder, sexy hookups, catfights, and enough hijinks to keep viewers engrossed. But Claws finds a way to rise above the absurdity of its own narrative.
Getting into details of the plot might get complicated (a Claws specialty) but here’s the brief rundown: Desna Simms’s nail salon is used by her boyfriend Roller’s shady father figure (called… Uncle Daddy) to launder cash, but along with her loyal crew, she tries to overthrow their bosses.
It takes two seasons for them to succeed, but come Season 3, we’re getting unapologetic (crime) boss ladies in Desna, Jenn, Polly, Quiet Ann, and Virginia. The opening episode picks up moments after the second season’s cliffhanger, in which the latter was shot. It wastes no time in setting up new storylines, which include the ladies now co-running a casino inherited by Desna from her Haitian mafia boss husband who
was killed by her brother accidentally died literally the night of their wedding.
This season feels impactful because it builds well on the arcs laid out earlier, like Polly’s rehabilitation after her mental breakdown, Ann’s relationship with police officer Arlene, and Desna’s on-again, off-again thing with Roller. Season 3 doesn’t just put these central characters on a pedestal; it shows them as flawed human beings. What comes next after they’ve achieved what they thought was impossible: making lots of cash by heading a salon, casino, and their own little crime ring with their former leaders now working under them?
But Claws wouldn’t work as well as it does without the superlative cast that helps ground it’s far-fetched plots.
Niecy Nash’s Desna is just as fierce as she is vulnerable, embraces her curvy body and realizes her own sexual appeal. Judy Reyes has played remarkable roles on TV ranging from Scrubs to Devious Maids to Jane the Virgin, but her performance as Quiet Ann is sublime, whether she’s raging out on someone or crying aloud over heartbreak.
Carrie Preston is the highlight of Claws, giving everything — including the sweetest-sounding, bitchiest accent — to Polly Marks. Her arc in Season 2, as she hallucinated her twin sister, let Preston play around with even more dark material. I’d be sad to see her snubbed by the Emmys for another year because she continues to be prolific in Season 3. Karrueche Tran and Jennifer Lyons round out the show, the former standing out in an episode in which Virginia gets an abortion and the latter when her character Jenn discovers her husband slept with her mother.
These characters are on a journey to reclaim what they’ve lost in Season 3. It’s a familiar concept for fans of BLL and Pose but Claws puts it out in a way that’s lighter and more playful, but still powerful. Not all shows have to be serious to say something poignant. So let the juiciest binge of this summer commence.
Claws Seasons 1-2 are available to stream on Hulu, Season 3 premieres on June 9 on TNT.