Sons of Anarchy 5.10: Crucifixed

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 opened the previous two posts with some analysis of episode titles. I think we can all agree that won’t be necessary this time around. Instead, let’s begin at the beginning, with Juice’s future now that he’s been outed as a rat.

Few would argue that “Sons” isn’t entertaining, but whether it’s predictable and even a bit repetitive is another matter. That said, it’s always nice to get one right, and last week I called that rather than execute Juice, Jax would put him to work spying on Clay the same way he did Gemma. Just like Gemma, Juice is doing it to get back in the good graces of his family, which in his case is the club. Although the added bonus of, you know, not dying, probably didn’t hurt. He was never going to run after Roosevelt let him know what was what, because SAMCRO is all he has. It’s the same reason he snitched to begin with—in his mind, it was the only way he’d keep his patch.

Another part of my prediction, however, was that Jax showing mercy would be a sign that the wounds of Opie’s murder were finally starting to heal, allowing him to return to the levelheaded protagonist, we know and love. On that account it appears, so far anyway, that I was sadly mistaken. In his ongoing efforts to dispose of Clay, and thus mold the club to fit his (and his father’s) vision, Jax has morphed into the very thing he despises. He is continually lying, conniving, and plotting in an effort to achieve his goals. Case in point—he and Bobby bring Chibs into the fold regarding Juice, but the plan the three decide on and the one Jax presents to Juice are two very different things.

Juice is only the latest solider to be caught in the crossfire of the war between Jax and Clay, and given the survival rate of his predecessors, the forecast isn’t exactly promising. Much like Clay, Jax increasingly sees those around him as little more than tools he can use to accomplish his goals and then dispose of. He seems to be driven by little more than anger and blood lust.

Nowhere was this more clear than in his dealings with the Grim Bastards. He gives their president his word that he’ll allow Randall Hightower, the man who murdered Opie, to live. Then he turns around and has Chibs put a bullet through his skull. It was no accident that in the scene that immediately preceded it, Jax gave Pope his word that he’d hand Tig over once Clay is out of the picture.

This isn’t the first time the show has used the “you have my word” gag. In the season four episode “Dorylus,” Clay gives his word that when he steps down, he’ll support Bobby taking the gavel in return for voting his way on getting into the drug running business. Later on, Bobby watches Clay use the same phrase to convince the Wahewa chief he’s not making any additional money on their ammunition, which Bobby knows full well is a lie.

All this seems to indicate two things. First, that like his stepfather before him, Jax’s word no longer means shit. And second, that Jax isn’t going to give Tig up quite so easily. Which means all this playing nice with Pope, up to and including offering him the Charming Heights investment, is part of some long con, and there’s further conflict between the two in the horizon.

As Bobby points out following the Grim Bastards situation, Jax’s actions “hurt all of us.” Bobby’s mostly referring to the fact that in murdering Hightower, Jax “shit on two decades of brotherhood,” but the assessment had echoes in the (inevitable) conclusion of the Tara and Otto storyline. It’s become perfectly clear that there’s little the Jax of today isn’t willing to sacrifice, whether its SAMCRO’s relationship with another MC or his own mother’s health and safety. But through all of this, his family, Tara and his sons, have been the one thing he’s been unwilling to compromise. Ironically however, because she was trying to help the club, his wife’s about to be in some very hot water.

Tara accomplished what she set out to with her gratis work at the prison. Now that Otto’s once, twice, three times a murderer, the feds will have to throw out his testimony for the RICO case. On the other hand, the authorities aren’t going to have any trouble figuring out how he got that crucifix. The best case scenario then is while Tara somehow manages to avoid any legal charges, these events take a toll on her already fragile sanity (intentionally waking up your baby so you can feel needed is both creepy and masochistic). While at worst, she’ll face charges (and jail time) for being an accessory to murder. I can’t possibly imagine the show taking the Dr. Knowles in prison route, so just as Jax tells her, they’ll “get through this, like we always do.” But, as Tara responds, “that’s what scares her the most.” Given what we’ve already seen from Jax 2.0, those fears are entirely justified.

A few more things:

-I didn’t get into Clay’s side of things as much as I would’ve liked. Going to Galindo was a logical move him, but as he said to Juice, it might have been his most recent effort to “chase things [he] doesn’t even want anymore.” The only question remaining, then, is whether or not the remark, as well as his interactions with Gemma, were genuine. Does Clay know he’s being played, or is he really just a tired old man?

-When Tara woke up Thomas, it was painfully obvious the baby’s cries were added in post-production. It’s the little things that take you out of a scene.

-Upon finding out why Juice turned Rat, Jax says “maybe it’s time we changed a few bylaws,” to which Chibs responds “amen.” Amen to that amen.

-Speaking of Chibs, he continues to be the most downright awesome character in the show, but more importantly one of the last I can root for without it bringing up any moral conundrums. The man is a soldier, loyal to his very core, but still able to think for himself. You know what, fuck it, Chibs for president.

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


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Sons of Anarchy 5.09: Andare Pescare

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 began last week’s post with a bit of analysis on the episode’s title. Given the newest episode’s intriguing name, “Andare Pescare,” I’d be foolish not to follow that formula again here. The title is a (grammatically incorrect, apparently) take on an Italian phrase meaning “gone fishing.” Just like last week, that could refer to a number of things. None of them involve actual fish.

One possible interpretation is as a reference to Frankie Diamonds hiding out in a Tahoe fishing cabin. Another, given the involvement of the Italian mob in the plot, is that it alludes to the famous “Godfather” quote, “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” After that, we have to get metaphorical up in this bitch. Jax continues to fish for tangible evidence that Clay was behind the break-ins, as well as information about the “rat at the table” Roosevelt spoke of.

The list goes on, but let’s get into the Frankie plot. The meat and potatoes of the episode came from the club’s search for the last of the trio of ex-Nomad traitors. After leaving Chibs with a nasty bump on the head, Frankie met up with some mobsters he paid for protection. The club finds the mob boss at a restaurant and, after a bit of a scuffle, they’re able to get the information they need thanks to some trademark Jax ingenuity. Apparently, Frankie’s deal stipulated he give his guardians all the money he stole from the club. But Jax tells the Don Frankie stole half a mil rather than the $150 thousand he actually took. It’s a smart play, better to appeal to Mafia greed than rely on honor among thieves.

Meanwhile, Clay’s still on a mission to silence anyone who can prove he was involved with the Nomads, and Juice is still his butt boy. Clay gets a tip on the fugitive Nomad’s whereabouts from some (other) mobsters and uses it in the hopes he can find and kill Frankie before Jax and company show up. He doesn’t get that opportunity, as the guys show up just in time to stop him. Fortunately for Clay, the mob boss kills Frankie before Jax gets a chance to talk to him. However, perhaps fortunately for Jax (and by extension, the rest of us), Frankie tells Juice, “Clay put this whole Nomad shit storm in motion… We stole a safe, gave him back all that legal shit.”

Which brings us to Juice, whose initial reaction is to call Frankie a liar. But given the way the episode ended, with Jax following Juice home after figuring out he’s the rat, being privy to Frankie’s last words might be what saves Juice’s life. We still don’t know exactly why Clay is trying so hard to protect the documents in the safe, but the fact that he’s trying tells us all we need to know: they contain the information Jax needs to put Clay out commission with the club’s consent. As was the case with Frankie, Jax will need a unanimous vote in order for Clay to “meet Mr. Mayhem,” and whatever’s in that safe is how he’s going to get it.

The remaining question then is whether Juice is smart enough to realize that a man in Frankie’s situation, with a gun to his head, about to be executed for betraying his brothers, has no reason to lie. It didn’t look like it at the end of the episode, as Juice was still playing Clay’s bitch. Here’s my prediction: things will click for Juice when he’s the one looking down a barrel. He’ll tell Jax the truth, all of it. This episode seemed to be a turning point for our young president, for a while there, Opie’s death turned him into a bloodthirsty revenge addict, but the wisdom and leadership he displayed this week indicates a return to form. As such, Jax will let Juice live, but use him the same way he’s using Gemma. At least that’s what I’m hoping for anyway. If this season ends with Opie and Juice in the ground, but not Clay, well, that’d suck.

Speaking of Gemma, she took a whole episode to make essentially the same decision she made last week. More often than not in “Sons of Anarchy,” all that time she spent “thinking” and hanging out with Nero to reach that same conclusion would’ve seemed liked filler (when it comes to Gemma’s storylines in particular). But this time, this one time, it worked. This episode made Gemma (and us) realize just how well she and Nero work together. Although I think he was right when he said the whole “lovebirds” thing was “too on the nose,” if not for Gemma, than for the audience. Anyway, what it all goes to show is despite how happy Nero makes Gemma, her family, her son and grandchildren, are things she simply cannot live without. By putting some distance between the final decision and the car accident, it makes both Jax and the audience understand just what she’s risking, but more importantly giving up, to spy on Clay, and without all the anger that was clouding our judgment after she put Abel and Thomas in danger. Hopefully, Gemma will have Juice on her side next week, both in terms of getting dirt on Clay and in case her old man decides to bounce her around like a basketball again.

The only remaining plot thread then is Tara and Otto’s. Not much to say on that account, the show did a good job of putting it all out there. Although while I understand why the perfume made Otto cry and masturbate, I’m not so sure what it meant for Tara.

Anyway, things keep getting better and better in the fifth season of “Sons of Anarchy,” and 90-minute episodes start next week.

A few more things:

-Regardless of who you voted for yesterday, Jax Teller is the one president we can all support. Sorry, I just couldn’t allow a punpportunity like that to pass me by.

-Quinn, the Nomad who tips the club off to Frankie’s whereabouts, was played by Rusty Coones, the founder of the Orange County chapter of the Hells Angels.

-A theory on Tara diddling herself: Along with not telling Jax about the offer from the hospital in Oregon, it’s further representation of her transformation from doctor to old lady, with less middle ground as time passes. Going along with that, as she gets deeper into the nitty gritty, legal gray areas of being queen of bikerville, she hopes that her relationship with Jax will have the same raw emotion, that almost physical dependency, that Otto and Luann’s still has despite her death and his incarceration. Or maybe I’m way off, that scene was seriously confusing.

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


Sons of Anarchy 5.08: Ablation

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.

This post will have to begin like a drunk best man’s half-assed toast: The dictionary defines ablation as “the removal, especially of organs, abnormal growths, or harmful substances, from the body by mechanical means, as by surgery.” It makes sense, there was a whole lot of ablation (metaphorical and otherwise) going on in this week’s episode.

For Gemma, ablation meant hopping on the wagon—quitting booze and pot—following the accident. So she’s literally removing harmful substances from her body, or ceasing to put them in at least. But for Jax and Tara, Gemma is the harmful substance. Putting Abel and Thomas’s lives in danger by driving high was the last straw, and they banish her from the family. Earlier on, Nero told Jax, “You need to accelerate the endgame. Get away from all the shit that’s trying to kill you.” Cutting Gemma off was a step in that direction, or at least it was until Jax needed to use her to ablate Clay, the greater of two evils.

The problem then is that Jax, though fully aware that he’ll never get out of “the life” alive, has done nothing to accelerate the endgame. And with the events of this week’s episode, it’s not too large of a stretch to say he’s shifted into reverse and stepped on the gas. Every time Jax think’s he’s out he pushes himself back in.

You could argue Jax is forced to react to events around him the way a badass biker should and must, that it’s not his fault, that his actions are rational, justified, even moral (at least relative to the show, it’s a real low bar). You could, but you’d be wrong. There have been some subtle changes in Jax’s attitude since Opie died. It’s in his menacing smirk as he beats a prison guard to death with a snow globe or takes an axe to the corpse of the man Frankie hired to kill him. It’s a bit less subtle as he shrugs off Tig killing the guard’s wife as “collateral damage,” or puts his arm around the shoulder of the second attacker in feigned forgiveness before putting a few rounds in his gut. When he did that, even Happy gave him a “who the hell are you, man?” look. Happy, who’s so violent it’s funny (because he’s such a great character and, let’s face it, we might not like a guy who gets a smiley face tattoo for every kill if it was presented as straightforward or serious).

But back to Jax. Then, there’s his newfound buddy-buddy relationship with Pope. Not that much time has passed since the man burned one of Tig’s daughters alive in front of him. Yet Pope is now Jax’s trusted business associate, they do favors for each other, make money together, all the things gangster pals do. Every time they meet you can see Jax’s subconscious gears turning. Even if he doesn’t recognize it yet, Pope is a man he admires and looks up. Jax views him as a role model—a vision of his potential future as a kingpin. None of this depicts the attitude of a man who truly wants to get out.

One last example: Jax’s decision to allow Gemma back into the fold if she helps him to bring down Clay, his archnemesis. Granted, this is the one thing that you could argue (and maybe even get me to agree) is justified. Not only that, it actually meshes with both the purported goal of “accelerating the endgame” and taking the fast lane to kingpinville. The world isn’t big enough for the both of them, and for Jax and Clay, the table is the world. At the end of the day, using Gemma is a theoretically reasonable and potentially effective plan. After all the suffering she’s left in her wake, up to and including falling asleep at the wheel with two toddlers in the backseat, not to mention her role in JT’s death, which Jax doesn’t even know about (yet), you might even say she’s simply reaping what she sowed.

Yet none of those tallies in the “pro” column changes the fact that Gemma is still Jax’s mother, and not only does he decide to whore her out, it’s to a john that Jax knows has beaten her to a pulp for crossing him (at least once) already. Nevertheless, Jax still had my complete support right up until he told Gemma her options were to go along with the plan or “get used to living in a brothel.” The line paralleled Hamlet telling Ophelia to “Get thee to a nunnery,” which made it even more awesome for about five seconds before I realized how incredibly sad it and the situation were for both parties. But after another five it was back to “fuck yeah” because Gemma has been annoying the crap out of us all.

The shit covered fan is officially spinning, and it was announced on Monday that the season’s final five episodes will be extended. Next week, “Andare Pescare” will run 75 minutes (counting commercials) and the four installments that follow will run 90. Finding out we’ll get so much more time to watch the metaphorical feces drip down the wall was the best news I got all week. Please don’t quote that out of context.

A few more things:

-Let’s all say a prayer of thanks to the writers for keeping Chibs alive, I’ll admit they had me spooked. Please, Sutter, if you’re reading this, take any of your characters but never the one true Scotsman.

-I think we all know Clay’s little “moment” with Juice was nothing but a masquerade. He’s not relating to a peer with similar experiences but putting those tidbits in his back pocket until they’re useful. He needs a new lackey, what with Tig a born-again Jaxian, two Nomads dead and the other on the run. My guess is that right when Jax is starting to close in, Clay will throw Juice under the bus and use the controversy as a distraction, metaphorical pocket sand.

-Tara’s response when Jax says they need to cut Clay out and kill him: “How do we do that?” We. If she wasn’t officially an outlaw old lady before, conspiracy to commit murder (a Class A felony in the state of California) will do it.

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


Sons of Anarchy 5.07: Toad’s Wild Ride

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.

After the final scene of last week’s episode revealed what everyone already knew, that the Nomads were behind the home invasions and Clay was the one pulling their strings, the opening of “Toad’s Wild Ride” filled in some new information: the specifics of Clay’s deal with his new lackeys. When Clay tells them to get out of town for a while, Frankie Diamonds (who’s played by Chuck Zito, the former president of the New York chapter of the Hells Angels) responds, “What about our deal? We get you back at the head of the table and we get a piece of your end.”

As Unser put it, “Who has something to gain by making the club weak; turning the town and the sheriffs against them? Suddenly the pretty guy they gave the gavel too, he ain’t looking all that smart.” But we’ve always known it was Clay, and we’ve always known Clay’s only goal since losing the presidency was getting it back. So I suppose that stuff’s not really new either. Here’s what is: Clay’s finally dropped the whole “lion in winter” act.

Clay’s been slowly regaining strength (both literal and figurative) for some time, but he’s continued playing the weak old man. Last week, his doctor told him things were looking up health-wise and he no longer needed the oxygen tank. Nonetheless, Clay put it back on as soon as he left the office and lied to Juice about his uplifting prognosis. Now, he’s ceased putting on airs (pun intended), or at least modified his bullshit. He no longer argues with the people who hate him, he simply agrees that they have every right to. He tells Tara she’s “supposed to hate [him], like [she] does,” and Jax that “I know you think I’m the devil, son, and you’ve got every right to assume that I’d be the one setting fire to your table.” Although he follows up the latter by proclaiming his innocence, hence modified bullshit.

But let’s pump the breaks on Clay for a moment, with six episodes left there will be plenty of time to talk about his misdeeds. Instead, let’s talk about Juice. Last season, Juice was suicidal. Roosevelt blackmailed (hey, another pun) him into snitching and he was forced to kill his “innocent” brother Miles as a result (I put innocent in quotes because let’s face it, these guys are a bunch of gun and drug-running thugs, affable though they may be). Chibs noticed something was up with “Juicey boy” and tipped off Clay, who granted him the “Men of Mayhem” patch partly because of the adept way he’d handled the Russians and Mayans, but also as a way to lift his spirits.

Juice was a broken man. That patch, and the honor and respect it represented, as well as Clay’s words when he gave it to him (“I love you, son”) were exactly what Juice needed at that moment. Clay became the badass, white biker father he’d never had, and ever since, he’s been loyal to Clay to a fault. Now, Clay’s pulled his most devoted apostle into the whirlpool of his deceit, and that loyalty could land Juice on the wrong end of a gun.

Ever since we found out the tragic circumstances of JT’s death, there’s been no question Clay will lie, cheat, steal, and even kill to save his own skin. We saw that this week, when he set up the plan to eliminate two of the Nomads (including GoGo, whose DNA will implicate  him in the home invasions). In one fell swoop, he attempted to distance himself from his minions and regain some of Unser’s trust (although I don’t think old Wayne will believe it for a second). Based on the preview for next week’s episode, Juice is in for a double whammy. He’ll come clean to Clay about the blackmail and killing Miles, and Roosevelt is going to reveal to Jax that he ratted in return for Clay, who’s responsible for the death of the sheriff’s wife. It’s obviously well within Clay’s playbook to set up this mess as a distraction from his own misdeeds. The preview ends with a Son on his knees with a gun to his head. Here’s hoping it’s Frankie and not Juice, (WARNING UPCOMING SEMI-SPOILER FOR “THE SHIELD,” ANOTHER FX SHOW KURT SUTTER WORKED ON) who’s always been to SAMCRO as Lem was to the Strike Team (END SPOILERS).

One last thing on the Jax/Clay situation: At least one of the guys involved in the drive-by was black, which complicates things a bit. It could mean Pope is somehow involved in the Clay/Nomad deal. Alternatively, it was mentioned that Warren, the con man played by Joel McHale, runs with a crew. So it could’ve been his guys getting revenge. After all, it seems silly to get a name like McHale to play a one (and one-tenth) and done character. If he’s just going to disappear now, his familiar face did nothing but detract from the suspension of my disbelief, which is a point in favor of this option. But the far more likely scenario is still that Clay hired a random black gang banger so he could make Pope a scapegoat. After all, Clay’s really only ever had one move when he needed to bail himself  out of trouble: blame it on the blacks. Think about it, Donna got shot, blame it on the blacks, Opie shot me, blame it on the blacks, and so on and so forth.

Now, on to the episode’s last bit of drama: Gemma falling asleep at the wheel and crashing with the Teller children in tow. Filthy Phil had a concerned look on his face as Gemma buckled the kids in. After all, she’d been smoking pot and maybe drinking just a little bit earlier and had likely been awake for more than 24 hours dealing with her car getting stolen, Unser being attacked, and the rest. The sequence ended with what appeared to be Abel’s blood dripping onto his stuffed toad, hence the title “Toad’s Wild Ride.”

The scene was foreshadowed in Jax and Gemma’s earlier conversation, in which mama bear revealed that her overbearing, possessive love of Jax stems from the early death of his older brother Thomas. Said discussion led to Jax advocating for Gemma to watch the kids for the weekend, despite Tara’s misgivings, which in turn led to the fateful crash. Is the death of Tara’s oldest child (I know, Abel’s not technically her child, but still) the final step of her transformation into Gemma? Well…

Here’s the thing, I’m still not positive Abel’s dead. Jax and Gemma’s discussion could have been a red herring. Maybe it was Gemma’s blood, or some grape juice. Maybe Abel’s alive but seriously injured. Sutter’s been known to pull that kind of thing before. Remember when we were all convinced Juice had hung himself? Because I sure do. Maybe it won’t be Tara turning into Gemma because of the death of her eldest child, but Jax turning into Nero because his son is now handicapped.

The result could be any of these things, or none of them. Here’s what we know for goddamn sure: Tara is going to tear Gemma to shred regardless. Remember when she beat the shit of Carla for almost getting Jax killed? That was one thing, she knows the kind of life her husband lives. But her children? And after she continually reiterated that she was trusting Gemma in spite of her best instincts? Gemma is in for a (overly due) beatdown. Tara’s rage could also land on Jax. After all, it was his idea to trust Gemma with the kids in the first place.

No matter what, this episode moved a whole lot of interesting plot lines forward and set the tables for a few more. I have to admit I was worried about the show falling off after a few of the season’s weaker episodes, but after this week I’m sure we’re in for the same thing Toad was. Get it? A wild ride.

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


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.

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