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Claws - Muscle & Flow/Welcome to the Pleasuredome - Review

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In “Muscle & Flow” and “Welcome to the Pleasuredome,” Desna and her crew continue to build their “Claws” queendom as they are beset by baby daddies, female bodybuilders, horny governors, and even a talking pig.

We rejoin the women in “Muscle & Flow” as they’re reclaiming the nail salon, which they apparently bought back at auction (and sidebar – a looot of implausible things happen on “Claws,” but this really stuck in my craw. There’s no way a business seized by the FBI for being a front for criminal activities would be sold back to parties to said crimes, and certainly not so quickly. I know the show wanted to reset to this status quo, but they probably should have just skipped having them lose the salon in the first place. Anyway...). But Nail Artisans is now just one piece of Desna’s business empire – she announces a desire to franchise the salon (“If I wanna be Tony Soprano,” she explains to Roller, “I need a legit front”), cuts a lucrative deal with Uncle Daddy for the use of her pain clinic license, and plans to ensure she’s getting everything she’s owed out of the casino. To that end, she decides that one of the crew should be on-site at Bayside Rapture at all times, to keep an eye on the Lovestones.

Mac and Melba are, duh, not happy that Desna doesn’t plan on being a silent partner and try to swamp the ladies with work to keep them distracted. But in short order, they learn about a secret account the Lovestones are laundering money through and connect it to Penelope (Tiffany Hobbs, “Ozark”), a competitor in the Miss Florida Muscles contest going on at the casino. After warning Penelope about a death threat against her and smuggling her to safety, she gives them another piece of the puzzle – the money Mac and Melba are laundering is from the governor, who’s been taking bribes. Delighted that they can use this information to their advantage, Desna celebrates with a cigar, unaware that Penelope is being brutally murdered by the Lovestones’ fixer.

Desna is still riding high as “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” begins (this is actually when it clicked for me how far she’s come since the pilot, when she was begging for a minute of peace in the tiny bathroom of the craphole she shared with Dean), even splashing out for a fancy new condo. But her hubris comes back to bite her when she and the girls discover Penelope’s dead body in the salon, propped up in a pedicure chair. They freak out, naturally, but get it together enough to dispose of the corpse (when Desna got behind the wheel of Ann’s van, I figured she was taking it to the swamp like last week, but instead, it turns out a pal of Polly’s from prison works at the coroner’s office and takes both the body and a wad of cash). Shaken by this bloody reminder of the high-stakes game she’s in, Desna gets a pep talk from Polly and they agree to avenge Penelope with a sneak attack on the Lovestones.

Polly has learned about an event the governor is throwing/Mac and Melba are attending so the women decide to crash it. And because this is “Claws,” it’s less a black-tie fundraiser than a masquerade sex party. While the rest of the crew accidentally get loopy on champagne laced with Molly (hence the talking pig I mentioned earlier), Desna gets the job done. She manages to get the governor alone and, while shocking his balls with a taser (because, again, “Claws”), he spills that the bribes are for building private prisons. Disgusted that they’re profiting from locking up “people like [them],” Desna confronts the Lovestones with what she knows and threats fly as both camps try to force the other out.

Moving on for now, the major B-story across both episodes is the introduction of EJ (Bechir Sylvain, “Chicago P.D.”), the father of Jenn’s daughter Brienne. He’s fresh out of prison and wants to get to know his daughter. At first blush, Jenn is extremely resistant, not wanting that drama in her life after getting things back on track with Bryce. But then – in a grounded touch I found quite nice, and was nicely acted by Jenn Lyon – she admits to the girls that, as a “white chick with a black daughter,” she worries she won’t be able to give Brienne everything she needs. So she meets with EJ, to discuss easing into things with supervised visitations. But what EJ wants, and declares he’s legally entitled to, is joint custody (and sidebar – can that possibly be true? I can believe he would be legally entitled to some kind of visitation. But joint custody, when he’s never met Brienne, is days out of jail, and presumably has paid Jenn zero child support? Seems unlikely, but I know nothing about family law. Anyway...). A second attempt at talking things out with Bryce by her side goes poorly when, in classic Bryce style, he lets EJ provoke him into attacking him, which EJ records and threatens to use to get sole custody.

Determined to keep that from happening, Jenn and Bryce consult a lawyer (who amusingly marvels over how many times they’ve both been arrested), who tells them that sole custody is unlikely, but that EJ might have a case for joint custody. Jenn is hopped up to fight him, but in an extremely sudden shift, Bryce gets cold feet. He admits to Jenn that he was terrified during their split last season that she would keep him from the girls and he’s (all of a sudden) reluctant to do the same to EJ. Jenn in turn finally broaches the subject with Brienne herself, who’s amenable to meeting her birth father. When they go to do so later, though, she gets a case of nerves. But Bryce very sweetly reassures her, promising that no matter how things go with EJ, they’ll always be daddy and daughter (great work from Kevin Rankin in this scene). EJ arrives and things are cordial as introductions are made and he goes to push Brienne on the swings, but I don’t think this family drama is over quite yet.

Some other assorted plot notes – Jenn’s mother Brenda (who, you may recall, got caught about to go down on Bryce last season) shows up at Uncle Daddy’s rehab center so that will probably be a thing. Quiet Ann helpfully reminds us that her brother is planning on running against the governor so that will probably be a thing. Virginia (who’s eyepatch free as of “Welcome to the Pleasuredome,” by the way) bumps into EJ, who introduces himself as Eric, at the shrimp stand and there’s a definite vibe between them so that will probably be a thing. Finally, Dean meets Mac at the casino and isn’t hearing Desna when she tries to warn him away from his new “friend” so that will probably be a thing.

Last but not least, the cliffhanger. In both of these episodes, Roller is trying to convince Desna that he wants to be with her for real (hilariously, he mentions the times they both tried to kill the other as obstacles they’ve overcome). Desna’s reluctant to open her heart again, but after he takes some tips from Polly on how to woo her, she’s receptive to going on a proper date with him. Unfortunately, Desna believes she’s been stood up when actually, in a retaliatory move by the Lovestones, Roller’s been abducted.

Got your own take on these two episodes of “Claws?” Paint the comments section red with your thoughts on “Muscle & Flow” and “Welcome to the Pleasuredome.”

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