October 13th, 2009
When I fall behind on a particular show, chances are that it’s not intentional. I don’t “decide” to not get around to watching the most recent episodes of Dexter before the DVR goes kaput, it just sort of happens in the midst of catching up with everything else I didn’t get to post-vacation. With Sons of Anarchy, this is equally true: after simply not getting around to the season’s fourth episode, the fifth was a casualty of the vacation and it was only last night that I caught up with the adventures of SAMCRO.
And they have been adventures this season, one that has been the very definition of rollicking. It’s the season where storylines never sleep: while it and Mad Men are at the top of the serialized drama food chain right now, their approaches this season could not be further apart. While Mad Men likes to isolate its stories on a particular set of characters, the very point of Sons of Anarchy’s second season is that you can’t escape the coming storm, and that no one (not Tara, not Gemma, not Hale) is capable of standing on the sidelines and avoiding the fray. Rather than trying to depict a slow and tragic fall, the season has never shied from the fact that Zobell is not kidding around, and that the Sons are in some serious trouble.
Some general thoughts on the last few episodes and more detailed thoughts on “Falx Celebri” after the jump.
My favourite thing about the season, I think, is the way the Jax and Clay feud is being handled. At the core of this club is the battle between these two forces, and yet the show has only now begun to put them in direct opposition. They’ve always had different philosophies, but now the show is using them to create the kind of tension that makes these situations even more complicated. While Jax and Clay have different visions for the club, the question right now is survival not strategic planning: Jax can’t institute John Teller’s manifesto when they’re being hounded by the League, so he’s forced to try to sway each individual vote in his favour. The vote last week was legitimately tense, leaving Bobby as the deciding vote and clearly indicating that Jax has the right of it: ignoring the blinding rage (sorry for the pun considering what happened to Otto), the club can’t risk retaliation.
What I think I like most of all about their feud, which came out more in last week’s episode, is that both Opie and Bobby don’t know what it exists. Piney and Tig both know exactly what’s going on, that their feud has to do with Clay’s decision to have Opie killed and killing Donna instead. That fact has been underlying all season, much like Gemma’s rape, secrets that would tear the club apart but that are being kept under wraps in an effort to maintain the status quo (which, as we can see, is being challenged regardless). That Opie is taking Clay’s side in all affairs is that extra level of irony: the death of his wife, the facts of which would drive him to destroy the club, have instead seen him throw his entire life into it, ignoring his children in the process. Meeting up with one of LuAnne’s girls was confusing for him because of his sexual attraction, but the action figure in the car was more telling. He has his own kids, and by all accounts he is neglecting them, and all he has left is the very club that murdered his wife in the first place.
“Falx Celebri” ultimately comes down to how the Sons respond to the near death of a fellow member, an explosion that we know was Zobell, and that the Sons know was Zobell, and that the Charming PD know was Zobell, and yet no one quite knows what to do with it. The divergent paths of Jax (who goes to Hale in an effort to get Zobell off the streets for 24 hours to buy them more time) and Clay (who wants to crash Zobell’s party in any way possible) are the most direct indication of their split to date, but yet they all end up in the same place in the end as Jax is forced to tow the party line with no guarantee of when the Sheriffs might arrive to pick up Zobell. That they were walking into a trap, Zobell’s daughter having misinformed Hale about the nature of the event (kind church-going folk as opposed to, you know, ex-cons), proves Jax right, although it doesn’t do him much good when he’s going to end up behind bars. That Opie was the only one to get away is yet another piece of poetry, the one person who should be letting Clay rot in jail ending up the one who remains on the outside to try to fix things.
Not that there’s a legitimate outside, as Gemma knows all too well and as Tara is starting to figure out. I love the idea that both of them are starting to independently read Teller’s manuscript, providing Gemma with an alternate past and future (a fantasy that doesn’t have her getting raped) and Tara with hope for the future (a hope that’s being crushed by the mass arrest even as she sits watching over Davey). These two being placed as partners in crime is at times tragic (Tara helping Gemma through her ordeal) and at other times hysterical (while it stretched the realm of believability, shooting up the actress’ car was a whole lot of fun), but at its core is yet another generational conflict. While Clay claimed last week that he’s tried to bring Jax under his wing, Gemma is doing a far better job dealing with Tara than her husband did with Jax. Gemma understands that Tara is different, and that she can’t just be another Gemma: sure, she gives her a gun and teaches her how to use it, but that’s Gemma taking into account how different she is more than trying to turn them into the same person.
My one complaint about the latest series of episodes, however, is that the League of American Nationalists is turning into one of those antagonists who is just too many steps ahead of the game. It’s one thing for them to be intelligent and proactive, going after Gemma or even in this episode teaming up with the Irish in an effort to cut off all supply lines to the Sons. However, it’s another for this episode to unroll as a perfect plan, having Weston’s computer happen to have such a vague appointment and having Zobell’s daughter lying in wait to spread a lie to Hale and Jax. I understand the show’s thesis that the club’s disorganization is leading them to fall right in line with what their enemy wants, but the enemy seems far too prepared for these kinds of contingencies. Right now, the Sons are Wile E. Coyote, and the League is Bugs Bunny, and there’s a point where the thesis is getting a bit muddled.
However, it’s not resulting in a less interesting show, as the real heart of things is in the Sons themselves. Zobells will come and go (although not without consequences), but the Sons will remain in some capacity, and what’s most interesting right now is seeing how they adjust to all of this. By all accounts the show will head to prison next week (Kurt Sutter has compared the episode to Oz), so there’s still a lot of variety in the types of story the show is telling. Right now, the show is peddling in a lot of secrets and a lot of characters who could be thrown into harm’s way, and there’s no turning back…and really, there hasn’t been all season. The show has been firing on all cylinders all season, and it’s paying off with a lot of interest (even if I fell a few episodes behind).
- I wanted to note how Sutter pulled a self-Oedipus by having the character he plays (Otto) lose an eye, but then I realized that Oedipus will always mean unintentional incest along with the eye gouging. I blame Freud.
- The scene with Unser and the “Diet Pepsi” was all sorts of gross, but what I liked is how Juice is still kind of incompetent. If he had only told Unser of his actual plan, he could have more carefully tossed the cocktail onto the testing kit, but as it was it only angered the dude.
- I miss Half-sack when he’s gone, to be honest: I kind his more innocent, less complicated view into the club very interesting, and his quest for a replacement ball was the kind of comedy the show does well.
- Interesting point that the episode brought up is that the ex-cons wouldn’t be considered reliable witnesses, a reminder that the Sons wouldn’t either. Even if Gemma had come out with her story, and knew who it was, chances are she wouldn’t be taken seriously as a witness due to her connections to the club. The show never even brought up the legal options, primarily because (as the last few episodes have pointed out) the law is on the side of the people not in a Motorcycle Club. The League (and Hale’s brother, last week) are using the law as a weapon, and the Sons are powerless to stop them considering the law is about to rain down of them due to the car bomb.
- I’ll call it now: Tara doesn’t live to see the end of the season.