Season One, Episode Eight
Airdate: October 22nd, 2008
Of the fall shows that emerged from the 2008 season, FX’s Sons of Anarchy is the one you know the least about, and the one that you should have been watching (I too was behind on the show, and caught up during December). Labeled as the spiritual successor to The Shield, the show introduces us to a world we don’t understand and a code they claim is anarchy and yet is maintained through a strict set of rules and guidelines.
When the show truly took off is, not coincidentally, the point at which it threw the rules out the window and embraced a side of itself which was entirely unburdened. “The Pull” may not be the single best episode of the show’s first season, that title perhaps belonging to the season finale which Alan Sepinwall pegged as one of the best episodes of the year, but it was the one that made me a believer.
It was the episode that took a wishy washy high school sweetheart relationship between Jax and Tara and turned it into something with real consequences and real dramatic value, and brought to a worthy conclusion what to that point had felt like a one-note stalker. By pairing all-out gang warfare, numerous hits on numerous people, with such a personal and tension-filled sequence as Tara’s harrowing ordeal, it became very clear that the strict set of rules that governs this anarchy are far too broad to encapsulate the kind of chaos we see unfurl within this episode.
Although it has very little to do with the central conflict of the season, Jax’s struggle to reconcile the club’s current identity with the club his late father envisioned in his memoirs, “The Pull” was the episode that made me actually care about that. It made the show, and the club and members at its center, something that you become emotionally invested in. Without any real sense of history, only quick asides and simple exposition, characters come into full view and what emerges is a stunning piece of television; yes, the season had better performances from the great Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal, but this one felt the most inspired for me.
The final scene of the episode is perhaps the second most haunting I saw all year, a sex scene made definitively unsexy due to the proximity of a certain object, and it is the kind of thing that sticks with you. For those who watched the series this fall, they’ll remember it: for those who need the Time Capsule to help them through, they’ll be hunting down the rest of the season before you know it.
[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]