“MIA” is an episode that has it all: leopards with diamond collars, not-strip-club types with savior complexes, teen Russian sex slaves, lilies as a symbol of blackmail, and rentboys who shit on pillows. That’s a lot. But it’s not particularly cohesive in any way, nor does it all feel tonally at peace with itself. For real, there was a leopard casually walking around a party who is wearing a diamond collar. What world does this show exist in?

In its own weird way, “MIA” was about how we can really never know our partners, and how they will eventually let us down. Cameron — the savior has a name! — desperately wants to know more about the girl he knows only as Angel, something he communicates in an increasingly cheesy exchange. “That’s what I want to be, loved enough to become real,” Claire tells Cameron, while only revealing that she loves The Velveteen Rabbit. But she actively refuses to be real for him. (Also: Okay, so this guy is coming by the club twice a week and all they do is talk. What the hell do they talk about if he knows nothing about her and she refuses to give him any details? He’s got to be shelling hundreds, if not thousands, to be with her, and she doesn’t actually seems to say anything. Hell, I’ve gone on dates with a ton of guys who just talked at me for hours while I stayed silent. I would have been making bank if I knew I could get paid for it!) Paul is in a similar situation with Eduardo, who feels as if they have a deeper connection than they do. For Paul, Eduardo will never be what he needs. He will always be the guy who deserves some fanned out fifties on the pillow, and therefore Paul will become the guy who deserves to have a perfectly shaped turd on his pillow. Kiira is perhaps the most obvious example: She lives at once as a person who can lay about in a drug-added haze while a diamond-collared leopard sniff around her, and then as the wife of a man who is so WASPy his name is Prescott.

But the starkest example comes between Claire and Sergei. He has presented himself thus far as the gentle mobster with a patron’s heart, when he’s much more dangerous than that. With Daphne’s push, Claire chooses Sergei’s yacht over Cameron’s party. She’s attended on by girls in leotards who are not exactly paid help. The whole sex slaves thing was tough to swallow, and not in the way it was necessarily supposed to be. Violence against women, specifically sexual violence, has been sewn into the fabric of this series, but it feels entirely for shock, not for any reason. It’s for soap, not for substance. We knew Bryan was a psychopath before he assaulted Mia, although I do appreciate that Mia is experiencing trauma because they are showing the consequences. She is affected to the point where she’s having psychosomatic symptoms. But in the five episodes Flesh And Bone has aired, there’s been an abundance of sexual assault to the point where it doesn’t have an impact anymore. It’s just another reason to shock. And the trauma is specifically female. Paul’s assault of Ross is not nearly as violent as, say, Claire’s assault or Mia’s. There’s been a lot written on this topic (Maureen Ryan, a must-read TV critic who is now at Variety, is particularly prolific on it), but Flesh And Bone is just another show where sexual assault becomes white noise, and that’s distressing.

In each episode, there tends to be shades of the more traditional ballet drama. In “MIA” it comes in form of the photoshoot, where Kiira is decked out in the old school ballet costume, while Claire wears something more new-fangled for the original dance. The dichotomy of the two dancers shows what the American Ballet Company used to be, and the future Paul is investing in (Claire). Yes, it might be a cliche idea, but it’s scenes like these, where dance and the politics are around it, are truly the focus, that I miss the show that Flesh and Bone could have been.


Stray observations

  • So we’re agreed that Jessica is defrauding the company, right? Sergei gives the company $250,000 and all of a sudden her deadbeat husband pays up. Sure. (Also, jeez, New York private elementary schools are expensive. $35,000 is a year of college. Or a down payment on a house.)
  • Someone get out the burn cream!: “Fuck you and fuck your twin set” is literally the only time I’ve understood the point of Jessica as a character.
  • Also: “The fuck’s with you Cunty Malone?” is now something I will say on a regular basis.