As Bryan begins to infiltrate Claire’s world further and further, she attempts to get in touch with her sexuality through Sergei’s strip joint. But Bryan’s appearance shows exactly how intrinsically linked her sexuality and the violence she’s experienced are (including Bryan’s beating that precedes Claire’s breakdown on her client’s lap). Hey, wasn’t this supposed to be a show about ballet and a ballet company? Instead, we’re getting the travails of ballerina-turned-stripper who seems more interested in the club than the studio. I’m losing patience the more time they spend off the barre. As evidenced by the “Bulling Through,” an episode of television I thoroughly enjoyed (more than most) and saw great potential in, there is quite a bit of drama that can go on inside the ballet studio that has little to do with kindly Russian mobsters, tough-talking momma strippers and the type of guy who isn’t into strip clubs, but seems to find himself in them quite a bit (watch out Claire, Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman was a unicorn).
So we’re halfway through Flesh And Bone at this point and I don’t see the narrative arc anywhere to be found. The characters were introduced in “Bulling Through,” so that’s the clear entry point, but the next three episodes have not felt like a part of some grander rising action. Bryan got to New York and it never felt like a climax of an anticipated event. Instead, a traumatized Claire let him into her world, and then found heretofore unseen courage and kicked him out. Claire’s work within the company seems stalled, and shallow; we don’t actually get to see her work with Toni or, rather, see her shortcomings when working with Toni. Once again, wasn’t this a show that was supposed to be about ballet and a ballet company? There are so many accessory plots here that have taken over that there’s no semblance of a story here. Flesh And Bone isn’t about ballet or a ballet dancer anymore, it’s about so much more and that’s entirely frustrating when there are only eight episodes, and there could have been a good show about ballet hiding in here somewhere.
Take Paul coming onto Ross. Was there a point to that other than to establish Paul as not a nice guy? He threw a bird’s nest out a window in “Reconnaissance” so perhaps that was already well established (the same could be said for Bryan’s assault of Mia; we get it, he’s a clearly damaged person who is a danger to others)? Ross is a veteran company member introduced as a lady’s man, a virginity-stealer who was in a serious relationship with Kiira. He’s the antithesis of Trey, who he pokes and prods for being his opposite, too gay. So why distract with a plot about Paul crossing the line with Ross? Did this add to the show in any way? Sidenote: I haven’t binged watched Flesh And Bone, preferring to review after I’ve watched each episode, rather than take a long view on the miniseries, that will come with the finale, so there may be some sort of climax I just haven’t seen yet, but at this point there are so many of these small diversions that Claire sometimes does not even feel as if she’s the main character, which is a shame because when Sarah Hay is given something to do, she is quite good at it.
It’s when Flesh And Bone explores the politics of dance and the company itself that I enjoy it the most. When Paul sits with his rentboy and explains the tragedy of becoming a useless performer — “It goes away. One night there is a thousand people standing, applauding, and calling your name. The next, you are lying on your face in the wings gripping the place where your Achilles Tendon used to be. And then they forget you, just like that” — and it explains so much of who he is and why he is such an inherently bitter human being, why he makes power plays like making noise during Toni’s rehearsal or demoting Ross because he feels like it. That speech is so much more powerful than the faux salaciousness of Paul moving his hand up Ross’ thigh.
There are further connections between ballet and stripping, the high and the low. Paul talks about physically losing a piece of his body — “gripping the place where your Achilles Tendon used to be” — while momma stripper Yasmine (Dionne Figgins) warns Claire not to give up her real name because it would mean giving up that last piece of herself she has left. While Toni complains to Paul that Claire is a small town virgin who is not in touch with her sexuality, she’s really much more upset about Claire’s, and the rest of the company’s, lack of authenticity on the dance floor. She wants them to show her not how well they move but why they move, to break down their profession to its emotional core. Claire’s enthralled strip club client — the guy who just wants to talk despite paying for a lap dance — repeats the same thing. He doesn’t want “Angel” in the wig and thong and too much make up. He wants to see “the girl in the jeans” from the night before, the less gussied up version of Claire. I think his character may be be ridiculous be we share some common ground: I want the less gussied up version of Flesh And Bone.
- “Close your legs girl, all the envy is pouring out of your vag.” Trey, I love you, you may be a stereotype but as least you are funny and bring a little bit of lightness to the show. More of that please.
- So Romeo has the sight, huh? Alright then.