Flesh and Bone is an original Starz mini-series that ran for eight episodes and was beautiful from the beginning to the end. While the focus of the series was strongly aimed towards ballet, the personal issues in regards to many of the characters, for better and for worse, added dimension and drama. I hereby present to you my short summaries on each of the episodes, their ratings and my final thoughts on the series that was first of all visually stunning, as well as intriguing and full of seriously disturbing topics.
The force through an unsafe situation to extricate soldiers from danger.
As far as great character introductions go, Bulling Through delivers many of those in addition to the main protagonist Claire Robbins (Sarah Hay). Claire is intriguing from the start, she oozes strength yet it feels like she will break at any minute – and Sarah Hay portrays her brilliantly throughout the series.
The first episode focuses on how Claire auditions for the ballet company and becomes a new favorite of the company’s Artistic Director Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels). There is immediately a tide of jealousy among the other ballerinas, including Claire’s new roommate Mia (Emily Tyra) and the prima ballerina Kiira (Irina Dvorovenko).
The episode also introduces Daphne (Raychel Diane Weiner), an edgy ballerina, who also works at a strip club. Claire, who seems especially unraveled when it comes to all things sexual, finds her alluring. In addition to all this, the episode ends on a very disturbing note, a phone call between Claire and her brother Bryan (Josh Helman), reveals that her brother might not just be her brother.
An expendable soldier whose life is sacrificed for strategic advantage.
Claire struggles to come in terms with fitting into the ballet company, bullying included, as well as admitting to her role as the new star. She is asked to do things she is not ready for, all while her tendency to self-harm surfaces. Mia is having problems as well, with her not being good enough, she becomes envious towards Claire and her natural ability to allure the audience while she dances.
We also find out that Kiira has a drug addiction, and that the ballet company is struggling to keep afloat. Paul Grayson of course is too stubborn for change, and pushes his ballet dancers to their limits and beyond. This episode also shows Bryan driving to New York to find Claire, hurting a fellow traveler and being a little bit too creepy.
Gathering vital data about enemy forces or features of an environment for later analysis.
Bryan tries to track down Claire, and succeeds by calling to her dance company. Of course he is charming and manages to get her address. At the same time, a new choreographer is introduced to the company, her style innovative and teaching definitely less harsh than of Paul Grayson. Afterwards Kiira has rehearsals with Ross (Sascha Radetsky) and her drug addiction causes a rift between them.
There is a beautiful scene at the end of the episode where Claire tries to get in touch with sexuality by dancing in the strip club. Her joy of letting herself go is short lived when she finds Bryan at her apartment, in a not so innocent pose with her roommate Mia. Followed by a disturbing sequence that shows how uncomfortable and addictive Claire and Bryan’s relationship actually is.
Term used by soldiers to describe the total darkness found at night: a blackness that devours light.
“Fuck pretty!” is the kind of thing the new choreographer says to the ballet dancers, while Paul abuses his male lead dancer Ross during his one on one session. Later he replaces Ross with another dancer and then shows his penis to Claire in the hopes of breaking through her fear. What a healthy world of ballet, not that the regular world is any different.
Bryan continues to be creepy, adding rape to his resume, and even after he gets beaten to a pulp by the strip club security, I feel like his judgment day is yet to come. Claire of course is still struggling, emotionally, physically and mentally and tries to distract herself by making out with a guy she sort of likes. A guy that is not present for long, which is a shame, because he is probably the most likable male character in the series.
Missing in action: a soldier confirmed lost following combat.
My least favorite episode and I’m not even certain why exactly that is. A lot took place, and yet, it felt like nothing really happened. The focus from Claire sort of drifts towards Mia, when her struggles become more evident, and after loosing sight in one of her eyes, she tries to eat herself back to health. Her mother visits and it is clear that their relationship is not the healthiest either – none of the ballet dancers seem to have supportive parents, or strong role models.
The episode ends with Daphne and Claire going to a boat party with the Russian who owns the strip club previously mentioned. Claire is stunned by the reality of the business, the type of actions these men on the boat take in regards to the young and innocent children used as servants. Yet, nothing comes of it and it is another little side plot that ends up nowhere.
Military acronym: (fucked up beyond all recognition).
It’s Thanksgiving and feelings are running high. Claire feels homesick, calls Bryan and seems genuinely interested how he and their father is doing. This happens before the dancers discuss their holiday plans during which Paul Grayson comes in and ruins everything. He pretty much tortures the dancers into doing the piece over and over again, until one of the girls gets fired and everyone is tired beyond exhaustion.
After the rehearsal from hell, Claire goes back home, they cook a lovely meal with Bryan and well, then things get extremely weird. While the series so far has portrayed Bryan as the one in love with Claire, this episode brings up another question: what if the feelings are mutual? Weirdness begins: Claire climbs into bed with her brother and let’s be honest, they do more than cuddle. Weirdness continues: Claire reveals the biggest twist of the series, stating that her absence from the ballet world was due to a pregnancy: her baby girl was fathered by none other than the creepy brother. On top of that, Claire returns back to New York to find that Mia has tried to kill herself.
When soldiers wear full combat gear.
After her attempted suicide, Mia is in the hospital and Claire seems to be the only one visiting her there due to the grueling ballet world schedule. Despite their not so warm relationship, Claire is clearly worried and feels especially sorry for her after finding out her diagnosis.
Though the show is around the corner, the lead dancer is yet to be determined: Kiira and Claire fight for the spot. Kiira, who is older, more experienced and possibly more determined, struggles with her addiction and continues to go beyond and further to be the best. Claire on the other hand, shines with her natural talent and takes the lead. Despite her success in the ballet company, she is still struggling with her emotions, and her feelings towards her brother.
By the way, I have to admit that during this episode I also felt a little sorry for Bryan. Despite his actions, and his definitely disturbing nature, the way his father treats him indicates that his upbringing could have been the root of the problem.
Deliberate destruction of resources thereby denying their use to the enemy.
The final episode revolves mostly around the most important performance in the ballet company’s history. There’s the changes due to Mia’s absence, as well as Kiira’s, and Claire seems emotionally absent due to her little personal breakdown. Since it’s the finale, many ties are being tied, some maybe in a rush, some maybe too loosely to make sense. For certain, some of the supportive plot lines definitely raise more interest even after they’ve ended.
While Claire performs, Bryan meets his faith – maybe justified, maybe not so much, by the end I’m not even sure what I feel about his character. And then, it’s over, the audience loves the performance and a star is born – whether Claire accepts her new role is questionable, as she is still closed up, vulnerable and most likely, beyond repair.
From the last episode, I recall disturbing moments such as Claire smiling upon seeing her brother, Claire eating a piece of glass placed in her shoes, most likely by her fellow dancers, that raised various unanswered questions. By the end, Claire’s personality became a bigger mystery than it was in the beginning. Who exactly is Claire? And do her struggles make her a better dancer? And will she ever be able to stop hurting herself, or will she ever open up? Questions, so many questions raised and none of them really answered.
Biggest edge Flesh and Bone has is its cruel portrayal of the ballet world, with its struggles and its undeniable beauty. All the actresses and actors are no strangers to the ballet world and that elevates the experience: from every angle, the dancers are all dancers. Pretty much all the characters of the series are complicated, strong yet fragile, and interesting which is a nod to the series creator Moira Walley-Beckett. There are many issues raised during the series, some of them include incest, the question of teaching ethics, sexual abuse, eating disorder, drug use, marital problems, money issues, pedophilia and mental disorders. In other words, there is so much going on that it’s surprising, and a little disappointing that it all was cramped into just eight episodes. Despite my love for the show, it was too ambitious from the start because it tried to show too much having too little time to do so.
Therefore, as a mini-series, I think the overall focus got a little faded by the end of the final episode. Too many things piled up, too many loose ends needed to be tied up and well, it felt a little underwhelming during the final thirty minutes. What I’ll say though, and what I hope will happen, is that Flesh and Bone is stripped from its mini-series title, and gets another season because it has potential. Add more stunning ballet performances, and minimize the plot outside the ballet studio, and I’ll be thrilled to watch more despite the lack of focus and clarity in the very end.