September 22nd, 2009
In the world of Sons of Anarchy, everyone’s got a problem they’re trying to fix; heck, in every single show on television, people are looking for solutions to problems. Early on in its second season, it’s clear that the real conflict on this show is not within any single problem but rather the inability for various characters to see (either due to ignorance or due to being too traumatized by their situation) that there are two levels of problems. One is the growing threat of the League of American Nationalists against the Sons of Anarchy or, if you’re on the other side of the coin, the ongoing blight of SAMCRO on the town of Charming. However, there is also the internal struggle between Clay and Jax, not to mention Gemma’s own personal tragedy as well as personal struggles for Opie (Donna’s tragic death), Tig (who murdered Donna) and it seems like just about everyone else.
“Fix” represents the episode where three weeks of letting these secrets and struggles linger is catching up with just about everyone, and everyone wants a solution that will make everything better but has no idea how to really find it. The show continues to embrace an almost satirical sense of the genres it plays with, never quite delving wholly into melodrama, and the result is that the show remains a pleasure to watch even as it deals with serious subjects in an emotional fashion.
In a lot of ways this episode comes down to the decision of Deputy Sheriff Hale. When he comes to that meth lab, he knows that he was given every opportunity by Jax to bust that legally, and to do his job protecting the people of Charming from an initial flood of meth into the market. However, he also knows that he let Zobell talking him into the idea that you can only defeat SAMCRO if you are in their own game, mucking up their works by forcing them out into the open. We learn, through Jax’s research, that this is what happened at his last shop in San Bernadino: an entire MC was arrested for aggravated assault after attacking Zobell’s store, an attack incited by the various instigations placed before them. We know, of course, that this is what Zobell had intended for Gemma to be, the victim who would break down and give Clay reason to get himself arrested going after him. Zobell, having lost his wife to a drive-by shooting, is entirely without fear in instigating men like Clay Morell, and Hale is effectively allowing it to happen out of his own desire to see SAMCRO go up in flames – although Jax has said he has his own plans, Hale sees an easy way out and is willing to get into bed with the devil when a SAMCRO-less Charming is dangled in front of him.
In many ways, Zobell and Opie are not that far apart: both lost their wives, and both have thrown themselves into a dedication to finding vengeance for their deaths. For Zobell, this has become a finely tuned science, utilizing those who feel more strongly about white supremacy (A.J. certainly more radical than Zobell, who has never really preached the doctrine) in order to instigate while he pulls all of the strings. For Opie, however, it is (whether he’ll admit it or not) a death wish, a willingness to tempt fate to ensure that the meth lab is destroyed (refusing to use a remote) and being willing to go after Aryan bodyguards with guns because of what they represent. He has become the embodiment of everything SAMCRO stands for, but the problem is that no one can truly accomplish that goal. The supposed anarchy of the Sons is maintained through careful organization and “club decisions,” so Opie’s one-man wrecking squad is reckless and dangerous and potentially tragic for his motherless children.
The club, by and large, remains as screwed up as it was before. Bobby, newly out of prison and doing Elvis Bah Mitzvah gigs in order to make money to send to his baby mamas, knows something is up between Jax and Clay, and we see it here: Clay, seeing Bobby struggling, tells him to set up a salary position at the club new porn studio without telling Jax, leading to a conflict that’s as much about Clay taking power over Jax’s strategy as it is about helping Bobby. And Jax, attempting to balance a romantic picnic with Tara with this business, makes his move to try to convince the club that Hale wouldn’t be in Zobell’s pocket (“if he could be bought, we’d have him already”), only to have Hale lie to him about the information being bogus and to some extent prove Clay right. If Jax wasn’t dealing with the arrival of Zobell, chances are he might be working to take down Clay and uproot the club from the inside, but with Hale pulled between both sides and Jax busy dealing with everything else on the inside it just isn’t going to happen.
There’s no other character more aware of that change than Gemma, who has been pulling away from Clay for about three weeks and the tension gets to the point of an enormously physical confrontation. If Katey Sagal isn’t headed towards an Emmy nomination next year, something is very wrong: her reaction to Clay grabbing her from behind was stunning to watch, as their fever pitch argument (sold by both Pearlman and Sagal) suddenly gives way to the wave of memories from her rape just weeks earlier. Gemma is fine dealing with the physical or medical ramifications: she has no issues with the HIV test (even joking with Tara with “Here’s my pee.”), and she says herself that the “pussy isn’t the problem.” Instead the problem is in her mind, the trauma staying with her to the point of making her more friendly with the bird than her husband: the episode ends with Gemma considering opening the Bible in search of God (as Unser had suggested) while clay enjoys the oral pleasure of one of Luann’s girls, indicating that whatever gulf is opening between them can’t be filled by a simple conversation or anything else.
It makes us wonder just why Tara is so willing to open herself back up to this world, a world she abandoned back when she was 18. If her cat fighting days are over, as she insists, then she’s getting into the wrong organization. She insists on going with Jax to the porn studio, and eventually shows up at the wrap party, in an effort to exert her control over Jax, who we know is largely faithful but who also plays boy toy for the prostitute manipulating her way into his life. It’s true that it’s a business decision, keeping Luann’s biggest draw happy, but it gives reason for Tara to be concerned. However, seeing what Gemma is going through having been part of the organization, how can she so easily fall into the same kinds of behaviour, staring down the girl as she and Jax have sex in a bathroom? It’s an amazing look from Maggie Siff, owning the skateboard-to-the-face attitude of Gemma, but turning into her boyfriend’s mother who was just raped for being associated with the club is all sorts of messed up, and doesn’t seem like a solution to anything.
But, as noted, you can only fix what you can see. Gemma is so busy dealing with her own problem that she doesn’t see anything else, while Jax has found himself deemed the problem solver by just about everyone. When Bobby discovers that Luann was skimming off the club for years, she solves the problem by agreeing to have sex with him, but Jax is dealing with problems that don’t have libidos, and which have him trapped between about three different organizations. And right now, there isn’t really any way for him to handle all of it: he can talk to Opie, he can try to reassert himself with Clay, but Jax is trapped in a position where he can’t do what he wants to (take down the club) which is going to alienate everyone like it alienated Hale in due time. When that happens, fixing things is going to be even more challenging, although the more complex things get the more likely it is for all hell to break loose and for someone, or something, to slip up enough for things to change all over again.
- None of that sounds too fun, but the episode got some great mileage out of the Mad Men-inspired porno, “Meek Men,” which cracked me up and kept making me laugh even through the alcoholic sodomy committed. This is a dirty, dirty show, and I love it.
- We know that Gemma is technically fine with Clay straying when on rides, but that she doesn’t take as well to those women showing up at the club or in Charming. So, do we take his time at the wrap party as a necessary part of her life (that’s even welcome when she’s unable to perform for obvious reasons), or as a sign that he’s desperate for sex and willing to break the “rules” to get it?
- Tara reading “The Jungle” (Upton Sinclair’s tell-all about the disgusting conditions in meat processing plants which helped revolutionize labour regulations – can you tell I took a class on labour history?) is so damn perfect I don’t even know where to begin: note that the book made Jax want to become a vegan, while for Tara it makes her crave a steak. Perhaps there’s your explanation: she learns everything there is to know about the club, and all she wants is to own it (and thus own Jax). It’s a bit on the nose if you’ve read the book, but it’s such a bloody great choice that I’m too pleased to complain.