But the real reason that Claws works, even when the tonal disparities sometimes fail to land and the gangland antics start to seem absurd, is the writing. The show puts women front and center, and for all that the aesthetic might seem cartoonish, the relationships between the characters are nothing if not real. Recent TV has seen more care taken when it comes to the portrayal of friendships and relationships between women -- Killing Eve comes to mind -- and Claws is easily at the forefront. The characters are, like the show, only caricatures on a surface level (one is a Lilly Pulitzer-clad con artist, another a baseball bat-toting enforcer); the writing goes much deeper.
The show deals with their personal struggles -- the family fallout that can come with coming out, balancing being there for your friends with doing what’s necessary for yourself, the hard parts of motherhood -- as well as the way that relationships can shift and twist. The second season sees Desna Simms (Niecy Nash), who runs the nail salon, dealing with Zlata Ostrovsky (Franka Potente), a Russian mobster who, even in the season's earliest episodes, has already proven herself a singular villain. She wears huge gold chains and forces subordinates to literally lick her boots, yes, but she’s also much more insidious, twisting feminist rhetoric to manipulate the women around her instead of empowering them as she promises.
There’s so much going on in Claws that it’s sometimes dizzying, but it’s hard to complain when it does so much of it so well. I’ve found myself laughing and crying within moments of each other, and the cast carries those shifts magnificently. Niecy Nash is a powerhouse, and when combined with Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes, Jenn Lyon, and Karrueche Tran, Claws becomes nigh unstoppable.
Plenty about the show’s surface appearance suggests that it’s a trashy, wild romp, but to leave it at that would be to make the same mistake that its male characters do, ie. to underestimate the women of the nail salon. Do yourself a favor -- make Claws appointment viewing.
Claws airs Sundays at 9p.m. EST on TNT. Season 1 is available to stream on Hulu.