The new show Claws is about nail salon owner Desna (Niecy Nash) and her friends’ attempts for a better life. While running her own salon, Desna also works for the mafia, helping them launder money through a health clinic. All Desna wants is enough cash to move to a bigger salon in a better neighbourhood with her girls.
Desna’s original plan was to work one year for the mafia and get out with the $20,000 that was promised to her. However, at the end of the year all she gets from the crime boss Uncle Daddy (Dean Norris) is $3,000. This completely throws her off track and now she must find other ways to take what is hers.
All Desna has is her brother and her crew. There are mentions of her parents or any other relatives, which shows just how far she has come by herself. What stands out about Desna is that her strength and power isn’t exaggerated. Her power isn’t put on display and we get a realistic portrayal of it. No matter how strong she is, she has no chance against fighting the bad guys and she knows it. She tries her hardest to stand tall against them but she has a limit. She knows she’s taking a risk when she goes to talk to the crime boss Uncle Daddy about her money and so she does it calmly instead of waltzing into his club because Desna knows he is extremely dangerous and wouldn’t think twice about hurting her. She’s constantly being told to be patient and to keep waiting for future work opportunities but Desna is desperate. She has to pay a deposit for a salon she wants to rent and she wants to keep her promise to her brother about moving to a new home where the ceiling doesn’t leak. So she takes matters into her own hands as always but this time with the help of unexpected people.
The original crew made up of Jennifer (Jennifer Lyon), Desna’s best friend; Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes), the lesbian ‘protector’ of the salon; and Polly (Carrie Preston), a white woman who was recently released from prison. Then we have the newcomer Virginia (Kerreuche Tran), a naïve girl who only wants the best in life.
Desna’s crew is beautiful. We have a group of women, who love and look out for each other. They are flawed and make mistakes but that’s what makes the show appealing. The characters’ differences are what makes them so strong. We have a young woman falling for the bad guy, a mother of two, a butch lesbian, and a typical white woman. The actresses are spectacular. Nash has no trouble taking on the lead role and it’s so good to see Reyes take on a different character.
The show is surprisingly refreshing. Instead of the clichéd characters we often see associated with struggling women, we see original ones. Desna is a strong and independent black woman, which is always a lacking character on TV and screen. She doesn’t have impossible dreams and she doesn’t just sit around waiting for them to magically happen; she works very hard for it. Even though we don’t fully know her backstory yet, it’s not hard to figure out she’s been let down before and she’s had to fend for herself and her autistic brother Dean (Harold Perrineau).
It’s rare we see any black autistic characters on TV or in film; autistic characters on the screen (like most characters) are usually Caucasian. Recently, the Power Rangers franchise made history with their newest movie by making the Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston, autistic. So Claws’ creating more representation for autism in the black community is amazing.
So far all of the men we are introduced to in the series are trash, with the exception of Dean. Starting with Trash #1 is Roller (Jack Kesy), who Desna works for and also sleeps with on the side. Roller is the one that made the $20,000 agreement with her but now has gone back on his word, telling Desna to know her place that he has power over her. Trash #2 is Uncle Daddy, who is the crazy boss mafia. His character is unpredictable, which is a little clichéd for a mafia boss but seeing him slap the bottom of half naked male stripper was surprising, so it’ll be interesting to discover even more about him. Lastly, Trash #3 is a minor character. Dr. Ken (Jason Antoon) who works at the pain clinic and whose only job is to prescribe ‘medicine’, which he can’t seem to do properly. So far, these are the only male characters on the show. Look forward to seeing Desna go against the men-driven mafia to get what she so rightfully deserves.
Author: Busra Mutlu
Editor: Trianna Nguyen
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.