SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear every Wednesday following a new episode of “Sons of Anarchy.” It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects and events that have occurred up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.
I predicted the title of last week’s episode,”Laying Pipe,” meant something beyond the obvious: that Opie’s death would be the spark that lit the fire behind the rest of this season. As such, this week’s installment would offer both a proper send-off for the beloved deceased and begin to drive the story forward, laying foundation for everything to come. After what happened, a drop in intensity was unavoidable. I just didn’t expect the drop to be quite so far.
While “Stolen Huffy” did deliver that emotional goodbye, too much of the action was focused on wrapping up old plot threads instead of kickstarting new ones. The most obvious representation of this was the continuation of the same old shit between Gemma, Tara, and Wendy. When Jax took the gavel with Tara standing behind him, it was supposed to change things for Gemma. She was, both literally and figuratively, on the outside looking in. Instead, she keeps manipulating everyone, or trying to anyway, and stirs up drama from the same tired power struggle pot. Oh, and Wendy still wants to see her kid. Surprise!
There was also a lot of time to devoted to the aftermath of Nero’s brothel being raided. The gang the “companionator” is in league with believes Emma Jean (Ashley Tisdale) called the cops and wants her dead for it. Jax and company are forced to “rescue” the character, who we barely know and hasn’t done anything especially intriguing in the short time she’s been around. Besides the fact that she’s famous for starring in something on the Disney channel, at this point there’s not a whole lot of reason to give a shit. And by that I mean there’s not a whole lot of reason to give a shit. In fairness, all that stuff lead to Jax and Nero’s new partnership. But it took a significant chunk of screentime to get there.
That said, the story elements that did continue to develop were subtly engaging. Namely, I mean Clay’s continued behind the scenes plotting, which the club remains oblivious to. The camera work during the early scene at the table was revealing. Jax speaks and Clay retorts. Chibs and Tig back their president, while the newly-patched former Nomads seem to echo Clay’s concerns. It certainly lead credence to the theory that Clay is the one orchestrating the break-ins and likely notified vice about Nero’s establishment. Recall last season’s finale, when Jax first took his seat at the head of the table. Just sitting there made him the leader, and when Tig made a move for his customary position, all Jax had to do was raise his hand and say “no,” and so it was. Now these new guys think they’ve earned the right to spout off? They didn’t get that kind of gumption on their own. With Opie out of the picture, a weight has been taken off Clay’s shoulders. The old man is on his way back, regaining strength, as symbolized by his lifting weights. As long as Pope remains in the picture, it’ll be hard to return to his status as the series’ main antagonist, but this is Clay, he’ll get there before too long.
At the end of the day however, all that stuff was just a series of distractions from the last item on the agenda: Opie’s wake. More specifically, the various ways the characters coped with his death. Most of the club remained stoic despite the loss of their brother. Only Lyla and Gemma really seemed to outwardly struggle with the news.
The key word there is outwardly. After all, do we really want our big tough biker gang breaking down in tears? The montage sequence that ended the episode did a lot to show that despite their gruff exteriors, losing Opie really did hurt SAMCRO. Each dealt with it in their own way. Tig put a bottle of Patron in the casket, something for Ope to enjoy with his old man now that they’re back together (tequila was Piney’s favorite drink). Chibs did the Catholic routine and even sniffled a bit. And Clay, well, fuck Clay.
Protagonist that he is, it was Jax’s response that was the easiest to connect to. In tears, Lylya asked how she’s going to raise three children on her own. Jax replied by directing her attention to the people in the clubhouse, telling her “That’s your family.” It was a line that really hit home, especially when he placed the childhood photograph in the casket. Like Jax, I hadn’t really come to terms with the fact that Ope was gone until that moment. The move and all its connotations (that Opie saw death as more desirable than continuing the life he’d lead since that picture was taken, that he and Jax were once innocent children, that Opie’s own innocent children are going to grow up fatherless, etc.) hit even harder than seeing pipe collide with skull.
“Sons of Anarchy” is a series of peaks and valleys. After the ferocity of last week’s episode, “Stolen Huffy” did its best to be poignant and cerebral. That just means we can expect plenty of action to come, as foreshadowed by the shift from sadness to anger in Jax’s face as he slammed the hearse door closed. One can only hope it starts with fulfilling his promise to kill the prison guard that orchestrated Opie’s murder.
Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.