Sons of Anarchy – “Caregiver”

“Caregiver”

September 21st, 2010

The Sons of Anarchy have positioned themselves as a morally complex guardian angel for the people of Charming, but that image can only last for so long – in the wake of an event like a shootout where an innocent child and an authority figure are gunned down outside a church, two questions emerge. First, how could SAMCRO let this happen; and, second, was this SAMCRO’s fault?

These are questions that, in the past, remained largely within the club: the series was, after all, about the internal conflict between Jax and Clay, specifically the former’s struggle to reconcile the current club with his father’s vision, so the external side of things wasn’t particularly important. However, with political forces swirling and legal troubles surfacing and resurfacing, SAMCRO is facing an uncertain future for reasons that go beyond their internal volatility.

“Caregiver” is another strong entry for the show’s third season, and one which nicely captures the difficult position of taking care of someone who runs off without notice, or turns coat with little to no notice.

When Nate returns from his trip to the river, a trip on which he seriously contemplated suicide, he tells Gemma that this is the worst kind of day: it’s the day when he remembers everything that he usually forgets. Hal Holbrook and Katey Sagal are predictably terrific in this brief scene between father and daughter, and it’s one of a number of emotional moments hidden within the chaos. You have Taryn Manning’s Cherry discovering that Half-Sack was murdered, and Maureen pondering on what might have happened if JT (we presume John Teller) had stayed in Belfast, implying some form of relationship. They’re moments, however, that are surrounded by a corrupt and challenging world of cleaners and “sex for guns” arrangements, which means that they can’t stop and reflect on those moments for long before something else comes up to put them to the test.

This is especially true for Opie, who struggles with Lyla’s willingness to remain a part of the porn business. He wants them to have a relationship free from such complications, and yet she wants to do what she does: she tells Opie that she wants to be able to get as much out of her body as possible, and she even wants to perform as part of the party being arranged for the visitors from Hong Kong so that she can help the club in their efforts to find Abel. He wants to have something to return to at the end of the day, but instead Lyla is tangled up in the club’s web in a way Donna never was (at least up to her death): there’s no escape, and thus his Old Lady becomes a liability (as evidenced in Opie’s explosion during the party) instead of a form of support. While Jax is concerned for Tara leaving her job for reasons beyond this, I do think that he sort of likes the idea that he has someone who isn’t part of this whole mess; he believes it helps ground him, especially with Abel no longer present, and so Tara turning into Gemma (which is the road she seems to be taking) is concerning.

It’s all connected to the town of Charming, who are officially turning against the Sons: Piney can clear a barber shop like nobody’s business, and Hale’s brother is set on punishing the Sons by revoking their bail and trying to force them to jail. The Town of Charming, much like Nate, suddenly remembered that the Sons are dangerous: while we may have a soft spot for their particular take on semi-official vigilante justice, and we can imagine Charming being a far worse place without them, the fact remains that there is a correlation between the Sons’ actions and the danger to the townspeople. The drive-by in the premiere was the most public display of gang violence that we’ve seen on the show, as the Sons’ interjection in Zobelle’s efforts last season kept it from truly overflowing into the streets. It makes their life more difficult in that the town has decided not to ignore them anymore, questioning just what role they really play in keeping them safe, at the exact time when the club is busy with its own problems relating to Abel’s kidnapping.

The title, of course, most directly refers to Nate’s caregiver (now former caregiver) who stabs herself with a knife in her efforts to escape Gemma’s captivity. It’s a visceral series of sequences, and there’s not a single unpredictable moment in it: we expect Tara to be stupid enough to cut her loose (because she’s not yet ready to become like Gemma, unable to be quite as cruel), and we expect her to end up dead instead of Gemma or Tara. However, the scenes captured the tension of the situation nicely, and Stephen King’s cameo as Bachman is a well-played bit of casting: King has a nice death stare, and the character is so intentionally esoteric that the stiff performance totally adds to his mystique. It’s a nice bit of subversive comedy, breaking down the tension of the earlier sequences in order to still allow the uncertainty to linger while eliminating the immediate threat (someone discovering a dead body).

The problem is that, even without a dead body, Charming has turned against SAMCRO; they’ve been transformed from a caregiver into a disease, adding a nice macro-level thematic element to the season’s complex interpersonal relationships.

Cultural Observations

  • Speaking of Abel, it appears the Irish intend on having a nice Catholic family adopt him, hoping that Cameron’s death will lead Jax to the conclusion that his son is dead. Isn’t the worst plan in the world, although I doubt it will go quite so smoothly.
  • Maureen ultimately only got Gemma’s non-fugitive cell phone number, sadly ignored by Piney, but I presume we all had the same “Crap, Gemma doesn’t know about Abel!” moment, right?
  • Always wonderful to see more Deadwood alumni on the show, so Robin Weigert was a welcome presence as their lawyer: according to IMDB, this is a new appearance, so looking forward to seeing more of her in the future.
  • Some nice Jax and Clay interaction here, like when the former tried to make the case for going to Canada on his own – their relationship seems pretty solid this year, which makes me think it’s headed towards a fall or something.
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  1. Pingback: Tonight in HD: June 1 | ScreenScribe

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