So maybe I was premature in wishing Flesh And Bone was a show mostly about ballet because that’s what “Full Dress” was, or at least tried to be more than any other episode. But it succeeded in being just as unengaging as previous episodes while exposing nearly every crack this show has experienced in its short run. There is so much going on that and rather than care about all the moving parts, I don’t care about any of it. Several seasons worth of plot has been jam-packed into seven short episodes and none of it coalesces.
Let’s take the Jessica storyline. Here’s a woman who I have no idea why I should be worried about her or her finances. She’s been embezzling money from the company and hoping that her deadbeat husband will come through in the clutch. He doesn’t considering his $35,000 check bounces, sending her scrambling to make things right so there will be booze at the opening night gala. Jessica started out this show as such a minor background character. She was essentially presented on the same level as Monica (Vanessa Aspillaga), the pregnant assistant company manager whose only function thus far has been to be the butt of fat jokes and to violate Claire’s privacy by giving Bryan her home address. But, all of a sudden, Jessica becomes a major focal point of the episode. But there’s no reason for me to care about Jessica. We know she has a kid, we know her husband is a dick, but there’s no empathetic space for her. There’s no reason for me to want her to succeed in saving her own ass, unless I want to hear more killer burns about twin sets. So, she’s figuratively gotten into bed with Sergei the not-so-benevolent gangster. Their handshake agreement was supposed to have this ominous feel to it, but I’m not particularly concerned about Jessica’s well-being because I don’t particularly care about her as a character. She’s been such a non-entity up until this point.
My empathetic reserves have also run dry for Bryan, or rather they never existed because they weren’t supposed to. Here’s a character who goes from beating up an old man to sexually assaulting Mia — fortunately leading her to discover her MS diagnosis? — to impregnating his sister to a guy we’re supposed to feel for because he’s stuck in Pittsburgh with his verbally, and perhaps at one point physically, abusive dad. While getting his dad out of the bathtub, the psychopath that beat the shit out of a random old man in a bus station for making small talk has the restraint not to harm his father who is verbally berating him. There’s certainly tension here, but that’s because almost everything we know about Bryan is that he’s crazy and violent. When Claire pleads for him to come to New York to see her, I’m not entirely sure what to think. Sometimes in TV shows, that’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with a little ambiguity, but this isn’t ambiguity at this point, it’s just a character that veers wildly from one extreme to the other. And Claire and Bryan don’t have enough of a metaphorical connection for me to see their incestuous relationship as anything but extremely creepy. At least Game Of Thrones uses their incest to say something about the characters involved with it. It’s just another taboo subject on top of a pile of taboo subjects.
The two aforementioned, and major, plots don’t even take into account the other major occurrences in this episode, both of which cast Claire as this supernaturally amazing being. Mia, for one, has MS, not a brain tumor and isn’t eating because she no longer has a will to live, even though angelic Claire is there to come to her rescue. Mia’s mother is yet another microcosm of how overstuffed this show is. She’s a bundle of cliche — the stage mom, the cougar mom, the racist mom (apparently she’s offended that no one speaks English at the Manhattan hospital her daughter is being treated at?) — and it’s all frankly too much for a minor character to burden (it also doesn’t help that Elaine, played by Dana Cuomo, looks nothing like Mia’s Emily Tyra). Then there’s Claire’s supposed rivalry with Kiira, and in this episode Claire eventually triumphs. The veteran versus the emerging rookie is a standard storyline, but this one, like so many other things about Flesh And Bone, was underdeveloped. We’re told their rivals, sure, Kiira talks about it a lot, but there have barely been any interaction between the two since Claire stole Kiira’s coke out of spite. And then there’s Ross and Trey’s kerfuffle, which, sure that also happened. But don’t forget about the sex slaves! And, oh yeah, and Claire lops off all her hair.
With one episode to go, it’s clear that all sort of people will be converging at this gala — the ballet-loving gangster, the psychotic brother, the embezzling company manager, the pissed off prima (and possibly her husband who we have witnessed five seconds of?). Maybe even Claire’s strip club pseudo boyfriend will show up! Perhaps they will all feel the collective joy by the epic dance performance I’ve been promised saves this series.