Sons of Anarchy 5.06: Small World

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.

“Who’s doing this to us?” Gemma asks at the beginning of “Small World,” referring to the home invasions that have been plaguing Charming. The same question has been on everyone’s mind, Gemma was just the one who happend to voice it. At the end of the episode, we finally got the answer to her question: Clay. He’s been pulling the Nomads’ strings and orchestrating the break-ins, although he didn’t intend for anyone, let alone Roosevelt’s wife, to die. He yells as much at his puppets during the reveal.

Now, most everyone has suspected Clay since the close-up on Greg the Peg’s prosthetic leg in the season premiere, which is why I refer to the ending as a reveal rather than a twist.  This was always an Occam’s Razor scenario. Who else had more to gain from “stirring the pot,” as Unser put it? Who else had anything to gain? Plus, the Nomads have been parroting Clay’s every word at the table and working to undermine Jax’s leadership since the day they arrived in Charming.

Likewise, Clay’s had his mind set on returning to the head of the table ever since the gavel was taken from him. Despite losing his once-substantial physical power, he was never going to just lay down. Clay’s been using his wits to return to a position of power. And now, he’s even got some of that brawn coming back to him. In “Stolen Huffy,” we saw him lifting weights. This week, he continued to wear his oxygen tank, even after his doctor says he no longer needs it, so he can continue to garner sympathy and maintain his wounded warrior image.

“Small World” confirmed Clay’s misdeeds to the viewer, and based on the promo for next week’s episode, it seems Jax will figure things out as well. With six of the season’s thirteen episodes in the books, the action’s starting to ramp up. Moving forward, that means Clay’s return to his prominent position as the show’s main antagonist, plus some conflict with Roosevelt as well as the newly introduced con man played by Joel McHale. Not to mention that the club’s amicable relationship with Damon Pope simply cannot last.

This week however, SAMCRO ended a more short-term beef—that with the prison guard who helped orchestrate Opie’s murder. While Jax and the rest of the “good guys” have always walked the line between anti-hero and straight villain, all their actions in that scene outside of killing the man himself fell squarely in the latter category. They were affable villains no doubt, but they were still villains.  I know I smiled when I heard Jax say “get a pipe,” but Tig took it a bit too far with the whole murdering the man’s innocent wife thing. Yet instead of saying as much, Jax simply smiles and declares the woman “collateral damage.” However, it makes total sense for the guys to be holding a grudge. After all, Ope was Jax’s best friend, and Tig feels guilty that his actions played such a large part in causing Opie’s death.

As such, we’re finally seeing the intense behavioral and emotional reactions I expected after that cataclysmic event. But given all the callousness and cold-blooded murder in “Small World,” the happy-go-lucky tone of last week’s episode now seems problematic continuity-wise. In my review of “Orca Shrugged,” I noted that the guys seemed to have gotten over the loss of their brother (and Tig having his daughter barbecued in front of him) remarkably fast. It almost seems like their grieving process is going in reverse. Maybe they should have gotten the anger and vengeance out of their systems before being struck by the attractiveness of a transexual prostitute. Then again, it was nice to have a laugh after all the torment we’ve been put through this season, and Walton Goggins appearance may have been the single best cameo of all-time, so I suppose I’ll call it a wash.

There were a few other developments this week, all of them significantly less interesting  Tara fails to sway Otto back to the club’s side and then lies about it to Jax, saying she never got the chance to see him. Someone, namely Unser, finally calls Gemma out on her shit. Jax and Pope negotiate a deal for the club to mule even more cartel cocaine. But the event that takes the crown for most boring subplot of the week had to be Carla’s suicide. For a while we’ve seen her sulking whenever Gemma and Nero are together, hinting that she might have been Nero’s bottom bitch at one point. Now out of the blue she forced the two into bed together and killed herself. It wasn’t exactly scintillating television.

The scene was poorly handled, seeming to miss a few big points out of Storytelling 101. First of all, why reveal her backstory in the moments just before and after her death? If the audience hasn’t come to know, understand, and relate to the character before tragically ending her life, the event has no impact outside of shock value. The show killed off the character and then explained why we should care, instead of the other way around. It was truly a strange choice as “Sons of Anarchy” tends to do well with both serial and one-off story arcs. The only possible motivation I can see for the move is wringing a tad bit of shock value out of a character the writers knew was going nowhere, perhaps as an excuse to get Nero and Gemma back together (which everyone and their mother knows is coming).

Nonetheless, “Small World” had several strong sequences and was enjoyable in spite of its weak ones. And now that we know Jax and Clay are going to clash in the near future, I remain both hopeful and excited for the future of “Sons of Anarchy.”

Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.


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