Claws: Season 3 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Desna crying as Roller heads to Cuba.

While season 3 of Claws may feel formulaic as a whole, being able to note the growth of each character since season 1 compensates for that immensely.

While season 3 of Claws may feel formulaic as a whole, being able to note the growth of each character since season 1 compensates for that immensely.

Creator(s) Eliot Laurence
Genre(s) Comedy, Drama
Good If You Like
  • Politically Incorrect Comedy
  • Female Focused Shows
  • Crime Shows With A Medium to Light Tone
Noted Cast
Desna Niecy Nash
Mac Michael Horse
Melba Rebecca Creskoff
Joe Juan Riedinger
Benedict Nelson Lee
Polly Carrie Preston
Jenn Jenn Lyon
Virginia Karrueche Tran
Quiet Ann Judy Reyes
EJ Bechir Sylvain
Bryce Kevin Rankin
Dean Harold Perrineau
Dr. Ken Jason Antoon
Arlene Suleka Mathew
Roller Jack Kesy
Clay Dean Norris
Toby Evan Daigle
Brienne Aadyn Encalarde
Yolanda Andrene Ward-Hammond
Brenda Lusia Strus
Calvin Simms Glynn Turman

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Claws Season 3 Summary

Season 3 mirrors season 2 and in some ways season 1. Desna has reached a new level, is introduced to new villains, this time in the form of Mac and Melba, as well as their muscle Joe, later on, their superior Benedict, and she tries to navigate the drama they bring the best she can. Which, of course, she highly relies on her girls, Polly, Jenn, Virginia, and Quiet Ann, to help her with. But, this time around, things shift on who is the most active this season.

Jenn takes a bit of a backseat, even though we do see her reconcile with her mother, alongside deal with her daughter’s father EJ. As for her husband, Bryce? He also is put on the bench and those two sitting back allows for Virginia to show continued growth. First by becoming a weird prophetess, though that storyline is dropped. Then it shifts to showing who she is outside of Dean’s wife to be. If not, more so, her venture to establishing she is no longer this vulnerable girl Desna mentored but a grown woman. One who doesn’t need to appease Dean as part of her survival. Hence her checking out EJ, when Dean breaks up with her, and Desna giving her a promotion she takes serious.

However, the one who seriously benefits is Polly. Mac and Melba’s associate Joe, becomes her love interest after she breaks things off with Dr. Ken. Now, with Joe, unlike with Dr. Ken, Polly explores her dark side, and takes her grifting, just for fun, to extortion and even participates in a murder. All the while stepping into that best friend role we’re used to Jenn playing.

Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) asking where her wife is.
Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes)

As for Quiet Ann? Well, she spends a good amount of the season being an afterthought until something happens to Arlene in the tail end of the season. Once that happens, she comes roaring towards the front but, like previous seasons, as much as she may yell and lash out against Desna, you are led to believe once she gets over what happens, she’ll be right back with the shenanigans. That is until she does something drastic to essentially restart the crew’s life and maybe throw Desna off this highway to hell she had everyone on.

Lastly, when it comes to Dean, Roller, Clay, and Toby, they too show signs of improvement. Roller mans up and seems to want to make Desna his wifey. Clay, especially after a conversation with Virginia, seems to want to turn over a new leaf. One which makes him a bit more vulnerable, calm, and not necessarily the loud mouth representative of the Dixie Mafia we met in season 1. Then, when it comes to Toby? Well, he has a handful of major moments with Clay, but while he is shown to be more prominent, he isn’t fully utilized.

Oh, and Dean? Well, his issues with Desna trying to monitor him, arguably control him, they come to a head. It leads to a rebellion which causes him to push her away, and even their father when he comes around. Heck, thanks to his new obsession in Mahjong, alongside him cuddling up with Mac, he pushes away Virginia.

Thus giving us a season which thrusts many forward, and leads to the question of what can this show do moving forward? Especially if it doesn’t do a time jump.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. When Mac and Melba were killed, did Dean inherit anything?
  2. Did Desna get to have/ keep any of the various properties we saw were part of Ruval’s portfolio?
  3. Why didn’t the Russians, Haitians, or more members of the Dixie Mafia show up after the events of last season and the beginning of this one?


Character Growth

Desna killing a cop to bust Roller out of a prison transport bus.

What became clear this season is Claws will, or was, going to have an issue with escalation. Each season would have Desna get in over her head, drag her crew in, and completely upturn their lives. Making it so, despite whatever she has done for them in the past, at this point, she would owe them far more than whatever they owed her.

But, while Desna falls into a pattern, her friends and associates showed signs of growth. As noted, Polly and Virginia found, or rediscovered, themselves. Be it Virginia in the form of discovering her womanhood beyond sexuality, or Polly fully embracing both the suburban motif as well as her twisted, dark side. Also, there is Dean pushing back against Desna acting as if she has conservatorship over him. Him asserting, as he has before, he is a grown man but now taking it so far that he nearly cuts the string connecting them. Which is caused due to his obsession with Mahjong and Mac, but even with that, you come to realize that while Dean’s words may make him seem like an ass, the overall message is understandable. He is trying to find himself, and Desna has always kept him from being able to make mistakes and truly explore what life would be like without her over his shoulder. Heck, she even reveals she stopped him from getting adopted. Thus showing how controlling she is.

Which is a big issue for someone like Anne. Someone who pushes the idea, especially this season, she wants a life outside of being Desna’s muscle and the girl with a bit of a foot fetish. That she wants her own family and that, while she has Desna’s back, she can’t be the only thing she has eyes for. Mainly since Desna is all-consuming. As shown by her just assigning her friends to duties and never really checking what they want to do or really giving them the ability to say no and be firm about it.

Clay in a confession box.

Though, of course, Desna isn’t the center of everyone’s world. Clay, for example, while one could submit his growth comes from Desna humbling him throughout season 2, I think it also comes from age. Clay has been on the road Desna was on by trying to expand, get rich, and have it all. But, he nearly lost everything in the process. Thus coercing him to really think about his needs more than wants, and what was essential for him to feel fulfilled. Something Desna has long forgotten about as one opportunity, or threat, was thrown at her after another.

Bringing us the Roller. His evolution isn’t as notable, if only because it is less about bettering himself as an individual and more about being in service to Desna. But, considering the two almost killed each other, multiple times, in season 1, it makes their dysfunctional relationship one to note.

Everyone Airing Out Their Grievances & Secrets

Especially since the show displays an awareness of how far things have come, despite how they should have ended. For example, the Desna and Roller situation, Desna acknowledges how messed up it is and the crew. Polly’s relationship with Joe, called out and handled. Heck, when Virginia was checking out EJ, Jenn told her what she really thought about her vs. the kiki-ing they usually do in the shop – or the snide comments made when Desna says something worth a raised eyebrow.

Alongside that, the season ends without any secrets. Who shot at Virginia and Desna – solved. What happened to Arlene, revealed. Heck, even who burned down the casino and so much more, that is all exposed so that there are very few things the audience knows that the characters don’t. Leaving things where if there is a season 4, things can start fresh.

How It Touches Upon Social Topics

Dean noting he is a man and wanting Desna to respect that.
Dean: I’m a man.

It’s easy to forget Claws isn’t just about Desna trying to become a crime lord of some kind or the drama in her pursuit of that. Claws also is a socially-focused show which brings up Dean’s autonomy as a person with autism, racism, Brienne needing Black representation in her life, drug addiction, mental health in the form of Polly, among many other examples. Of which, admittedly, the show doesn’t go too deep and often presents a comical spin. However, mixing these different issues in is what brings a sense of humanity to Claws and pushes it to be more than a comedy based on stereotypes and

Low Points

Joe’s Kills Just Make You Hunch

While Mac and Melba are shown as crazy, Joe is the main one who executes their targets and desires. Yet, despite Yolanda and the other woman presenting this sense of Black women sticking together, as Desna bonds with them, their deaths ultimately feel meaningless. They are just collateral damage for getting involved with Mac, Melba, and Desna.

Dr. Ken

Personally, I find Dr. Ken to be the type of character a person has to love to hate. Not in the way of a really well-written villain, but Dr. Ken is just that kind of character who you hate for being who he is. He can be manipulative, is whiny, and hasn’t shown any real growth over three seasons. Hell, in season 3 he seems kept around just so Polly can heal her ego after things go south with Joe. Nothing more, nothing less.

Dr, Ken rebuffing the idea of dealing drugs.

Melba’s Confession in Episode 9

Melba dies an episode after Mac, but before she dies she decides to reveal to Dean, under pressure from Desna, her whole plan of robbing him after the Mahjong tournament and killing him. Now, the issue with this is she tells Desna before her confession she doesn’t think she has the uterus to shoot her. So why would she reveal to Dean the plan, rather than manipulate him to get free seems strictly to move the plot along. Specifically to get rid of yet another seasonal villain who doesn’t have long term potential.

More Could, And Should, Have Been Done With Toby

Toby shooting at Desna and Virginia could have been a major thing for him. However, it was just a baby step. One which showed how much he loved Clay but even in terms of their love, it wasn’t pushed much. Toby remained like a toy dog who was just around and yapped if he didn’t get enough attention. Which was unfortunate since so much could have been done.

Take note, Clay has hit rock bottom and Toby stepping up so Clay could return to some sense of prominence, get a new house or his own, that could have been something. Also, with Clay now just with Toby, we could have seen Clay be more intimate with Toby and treat him like a partner. Rather than someone we assume he has sex with but barely does a thing with on screen. And really, the list of what could have been done goes on and on.

On The Fence

The Church of Tanika Was Forgotten

Writing a show is a process. One which is time-limited and sometimes ideas evolve. In my mind, initially, there was going to be a kooky storyline about that gun shot making Virginia wiser or something of that ilk. However, it got dropped – to a point. But, one would submit that Priestess of Tanika storyline did remind us that while Virginia is a weirdo, she is also emotionally intelligent. Take note of her relationship with Dean. From what we know, she doesn’t have expert training or the experience Desna had, yet she learned how to calm down Dean, navigate his emotions, and generally do that with many without her default being making herself small. Heck, she even broke through to Clay and got him to change his life around. So while the beginning was rough, as you can see, as the writers and Tran proceeded, it seemed they took a joke and made it part of her evolution. One, I should add, even helped Jenn and Brenda get past their issues.

Your Usual Throwaway Villains

Mac, Melba, and Benedict die this season. Joe lives, but he was never treated like the major play he technically was. He was a complicated love interest to Polly and sort of bubbled above that at times but, ultimately, seems like an ex that we might not see again. Especially considering he and Quiet Ann burnt down the casino.

That taps into the show’s issue of having a constant need for escalation since, let’s be frank, the villains this season didn’t compare to Riva or even Zlata.

EJ aka Eric

The issue with Eric, or EJ, is that, like Toby, he was presented with potential that wasn’t met. Between him helping us understand who Jenn used to be or being a potential love interest for Virginia we could take seriously, he had a role to fill. Also, considering there weren’t any Black men this season playing long term, or notable, parts, there is that too. Plus, considering he seemed to be about that life, he could have, or his family, made interesting B-line villains, if not complicated characters, rather than Benedict coming onto the show.

The Brenda Storyline Abruptly Ending

Another character who popped in and out was Brenda. She, like EJ, was used to boost Virginia a bit, in terms of showing how she has outgrown Dean to a point, and Brenda allowed Virginia to show her emotional intelligence. To prove to Jenn, who dresses her down, she isn’t the woman she knew when they first met, and she evolved.

But, refocusing on Brenda, unfortunately, no sooner than she gets clean she is lowkey butting heads with Toby. Which doesn’t trigger Clay going in-depth about his sexuality, or his relationship with Toby. Instead, he is forced to choose, Brenda isn’t that choice, and she just goes poof! Similar to EJ, when he fulfilled his purposes.

Daddy Calvin Simms

Calvin Simms (Glynn Turman) shocked to see Desna after 20 some odd years.
Calvin Simms (Glynn Turman)

Lastly, there is Daddy Simms. As can be seen based on the many characters noted in this section, season 3 was ambitious but didn’t have the time to commit to each story it wanted to explore. Daddy Simms is another example in the form of how he was rushed into the show, despite how monumental meeting Desna and Dean’s dad should have been. After all, with their mother long gone, Calvin had the opportunity to give Desna something beyond her pursuit of money and power. It could have given her a real chance to heal since, as seen thus far, Desna hasn’t really recovered from her childhood. Heck, considering her relationship with Dean, which she clings to, having her take her time with Calvin, really get to know him and that could have given her an understanding of how unhealthy her relationship was with Dean before he had to blow up on her.

Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)

Season 3 of Claws is unquestionably ambitious. In introduces many characters who present opportunities to see different sides to those we’ve known since season 1. However, many of those characters don’t get the time and commitment they need to fully explore their relationship to our leads. Add in seasonal villains who, compared to Zlata, Ruval, and his mother, were a bit too cartoonish, and we were left with a season which felt unable to balance what good it wanted to do and what likely the writers believe to be Claws bread and butter.

Has Another Season Been Confirmed?

Premieres December 19th.

Thoughts On Another Season

I firmly believe the show could use a time jump. One that takes us, let’s say, 6 years to the future. The reason for that number is because it would allow Quiet Ann to have her child, her brother to be firmly established as a governor, now in his second term, and we could see a lot of the stuff the show has been building to pay off. Desna could very well become the don diva she has often struggled to be. Virginia could be running her own shop, after Desna finally franchised, and Jenn could be mentally prepping for her girls to go off to college.

Which would lead to the big issue of, despite the love each have for each other, they have found it best to love one another from afar – Desna in particular. Yet, something comes up, the big score, end game, what Desna needs to do before she taps out, and she can’t do it alone or with her new crew. She needs her OGs, and yes, I think season 4 should be its last. For with ratings falling, Niecy Nash reaching new levels, and Karrueche Tran honestly having potential to do more, it seems like a good time to end before the show doesn’t necessarily jump the shark but outlive its luster.

The crew dancing to "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue.

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