Sons of Anarchy 5.02: Authority Vested

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. 

The Pimp and the Prez

This week’s episode of “Sons of Anarchy” began with Lt. Roosevelt asking Opie where he might find Jax, Tig, and Chibs, who have outstanding warrants for the murder of Veronica Pope. Unbeknownst to Ope, the guys are hiding out at Nero Padilla’s place of business. The “companionator” has been one of the most intriguing developments  of the still young season.

Thus far, Nero’s been nothing but well, companionable. He and Gemma bang once and suddenly he’s the club’s best friend. Nero lets the fugitive Sons crash in his pimp shop no questions asked, telling Jax he’ll consider it “networking,” and that someday, maybe the club will get to help him. Things evolved further this week as Nero becomes a potential long-term love interest for Gemma and took on a business mentor (and perhaps even father figure) role for Jax. It makes sense, the pimp and the prez have a lot to bond over. Nero is a former gangster who’s left his criminal past (mostly) behind him. He now blends running an escort service with being a loving father, which allows for a (relatively) safe and stable existence. The desire to lead that kind of life has been driving Jax’s character arc for nearly the full run of the show. Plus, both Jax and Nero had children with women who used drugs during their pregnancies, leading to complications (Nero’s son has spinobifida, while Abel Teller was born with a heart defect and an abdominal tear).

Despite all that, Nero’s biggest character defining moment came during the episode’s chase scene. A bunch of Niners are hunting down Jax, but instead of dumping him on a side street, Nero burns rubber to spin around and drive straight at them in a game of high speed chicken. My point is that’s a lot of work and danger for Nero to put himself in for “networking,” and this being “Sons of Anarchy,” I can’t help but worry he’s got some kind of ulterior motive. Nero says he’s out of the game, but why should we believe him? He can’t just be Jax, Gemma, and the club’s guardian angel. Sure, he helped the Sons out in a big way, but isn’t that just what someone who’s trying to get in close to further his own ends would do? Nero could be working for the cartel, Pope, law enforcement, or running solo. I for one have no idea what the game is, but I’m positive he’s playing one.

Turn into Something

One of the show’s major themes this season (and reaching back into the last) has been the idea of transformation. A number of characters seem to be turning into others, whether through behavior, speech, mannerisms, actions, appearance, etc. The show even made explicit reference to the idea last week when Jax told Opie he’s “not going to turn into Clay.” To which Opie responded, “I’m more worried I’m going to turn into you.”

The two most obvious transformations have been those of Jax and Tara, the king and queen of our biker universe. The last shot of the fourth season, with Tara standing behind Jax mirroring the photo of Gemma standing behind JT, wasn’t exactly a subtle maneuver. Ever since Tara’s hand was injured, she’s been watching and learning Gemma’s best tricks and combining them with her unarguably superior intellect. At times, Tara still struggles to understand Jax’s mindset: that the club is part of him and must always come first. Some might even argue that she’s right in those instances and shouldn’t have to put up with that stuff. But it’s clear Tara wants to be with Jax, and becoming the First Old Lady is the only way to do it. In “Authority Vested,” she initially fought Jax when he said he’d need to help get Tig’s daughters out of harm’s way, saying “you have sons.” In the pause that followed however, things crystallized. Yes Jax has sons, but he also has Sons [of Anarchy], and they’re a part of him every bit as much as his own children are. Tara’s understanding of the situation as well as her help organizing things, dealing with the lawyer, and everything else she’s done for the club going back multiple seasons causes Jax to insist they get married immediately. Whether or not there is some symbolism in his smiling and nodding as she took off his “SO” and “NS” rings and replacing them with his wedding band remains to be seen.

Now let’s talk about Jax, the new gavel holder. It’s clear he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps: get the club out of guns and drugs and mold it to fit his vision. That said, Clay has been Jax’s most prominent father figure since he was 15 years old. Without letting this devolve into a nature versus nurture debate, it’s not difficult to see that Claudius has rubbed off on our Hamlet a little bit. As mentioned, Opie’s worried Jax will turn into his step-dad, though Jax is certain he can turn things around even with Pope and the feds hanging over his head. Whether or he will be successful is something that probably won’t be answered completely until the show’s finale.

Opie is in the midst of a transformation himself. Despite everything that’s happened to him and his concerns about turning into Jax, when he learned his brothers were heading to prison with no protection, he gave Lyla 20 grand and asked her to watch his kids for a while before socking Roosevelt to ensure he’d serve time too. Putting the club ahead of his kids? Punching a cop so he can “stay close?” Those are total Jax moves, which the two characters acknowledged on their way to the joint. That said, as big of a “fuck yeah” moment as it was, I’m a little concerned. How big a difference does it really make to have four Sons inside instead of three, what with all the inmates and guards on Pope’s payroll? But hey, this is television. They needed to inject Opie’s character back into the show’s main plot lines somehow, and no one can argue this wasn’t an exciting way to do it. Plus, this is fictionand these are our guys, so maybe Jax and Opie’s unbreakable friendship and us against the world mentality really will help them, Tig, and Chibs survive their sentences.

A Few More Things

-Let’s not forget Clay’s physical transformation into Piney, what with the oxygen tank and the heavy drinking. I discussed all that last week.

-Last week I also guessed that the Nomads who beat Unser were working for Pope. Now I’ve got a different idea, having seen Clay’s reaction to his home being broken into, specifically his harping about the safe, and the brief scene in which the nomads dump it in the dumpster and looked over the papers he mentioned. My new prediction is that the new guys are working for Clay, and with Jax, Chibs, Tig, and Opie in jail, the former prez is about to make his next big move.

-It was both scary and relieving to hear Romeo say that if he can’t get Jax out, he’ll “let black kill him [and] go to Plan B.” The Cartel/CIA boys don’t have a Plan B yet, but Romeo insists they will. It’s scary because it means Jax and the guys no longer have this “the feds will get us out of jail more or less free” card. It’s relieving because said card was beginning to turn into an overly convenient plot device: the Sons could do anything and get away with it with the CIA behind them. Now that we know that’s no longer the case, things could get a lot more interesting.

-Chibs flipped the cop who handcuffed him two birds. How could you not love that guy?

Check out the preview for next week’s episode of “Sons of Anarchy” below and be sure to follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

 

  

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Sons of Anarchy: Season Five Preview

Last season of “Sons of Anarchy” was a pretty big transitional year for the FX drama, and it doesn’t take very long for the effects of those changes to show in the first two episodes of Season Five. After Clay’s cold-blooded murder of Piney created a domino effect of bad decisions and more dead bodies, by the time the dust cleared, Jax was sitting at the head of SAMCRO’s table. But the season didn’t exactly end on the happiest of terms, with Clay nearly shot to death, Opie’s future with the club left undecided, and a potential gang war ignited with the One-Niners after Tig accidentally killed the daughter of ex-drug kingpin Damon Pope.

The fallout of her death plays a major part in the new season as the Niners look to retaliate, and viewers will finally be introduced to Pope himself, played by “Lost” alum Harold Perrineau. Though I was openly critical of the actor during his time on the island drama, and was pretty concerned when I heard that he had been cast in the pivotal role, Perrineau brings an intimidating calmness to Pope that makes him a completely different kind of threat compared to past foils like Ethan Zobelle and June Stahl. He’s more of a gentleman’s gangster, but ruthless when needed, as Tig is unfortunate to witness in the 90-minute premiere.

The other new addition this season is Jimmy Smits’ Nero Padilla, a former gangbanger who’s since built a lucrative career as a pimp… or as he likes to refer to himself, a “companionator.” Smits is another actor that I didn’t used to be particularly fond of, but he’s done some great work in recent years (like his season-long guest role on “Dexter”), and from what I’ve seen of his “Sons of Anarchy” character so far, he’s likely going to be the standout of the season. You can already tell that Smits and Charlie Hunnam have excellent chemistry, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Clay reacts to Jax getting a new mentor, especially since that’s not the only department in which Nero is replacing Clay. I’ll let you guys figure out what that means on your own.

Though it’s still unclear as to how much the other characters are going to factor into the new season, here are a few things you can expect to see in the first two episodes:

1) With the RICO case still hanging over SAMCRO’s head, Danny Trejo and Benito Martinez’s CIA agents are still very much involved in the club’s Irish gun deal…

2) And more importantly, Jax tells one of his fellow Sons all about it.

3) The body count gets pretty high in the premiere, including one very gruesome death.

4) Jax finally names his Vice President, and it’s not who you’d expect.

5) Jax also gets rid of his “SO” and “NS” rings, perhaps for good.

6) Though he may effectively be the club’s new Piney (omnipresent oxygen tank and all), Clay still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Check out the promos below for a taste of what’s to come this season (including your first look at Jimmy Smits and Harold Perrineau), and then be sure to tune into “Sons of Anarchy” when it premieres September 11th at 10 p.m. on FX.

  

Sons of Anarchy 4.14 – To Be, Act 2

In last week’s recap, I proposed that the only reason Romeo could have for telling Jax that Otto didn’t sell out the club was that he knew something SAMCRO didn’t, and as it just so happens, that something turned out to be pretty big. Shortly after Lincoln and his men set up surveillance on the Sons, Romeo and Luis roll into camp to announce that they’ve been working with the CIA and are shutting down the RICO investigation. I had a feeling this might be the case back when Lincoln was discussing Luis’ history with the Mexican military, but I had completely forgotten about it since then, mainly because it seemed a bit far-fetched at the time. And it still does, to be honest, even if this wouldn’t be the first time that the government has sided with the bad guys for the greater good. They’re essentially bankrolling the Galindo cartel so that they come out on top, because “whoever controls the drugs controls the politics,” and in order for that to happen, they need SAMCRO’s deal with the IRA to go through unimpeded.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy in the world of “Sons of Anarchy,” and although the Irish Kings seem open to working with the cartel, they’re only willing to do it with Clay as the intermediary. That puts Jax in a bit of a bind, who openly admits to Romeo that the club is already way over its head on this whole cartel business. Though he didn’t want to have to bring Jax into the loop on their CIA connections, Romeo’s hand was forced by the prospect of losing the IRA gun deal, so he explains to Jax that if the deal goes bust, the RICO case will be reopened and the club will be destroyed. All in all, it was a pretty clever way of keeping Clay alive and ensuring Jax remains in Charming. I also found it interesting that Romeo never intended to hurt Tara, but was instead going to put her into protective custody. That at least explains why the kidnappers didn’t just shoot the both of them when Jax came to her rescue in the park.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen Jax more pissed off than when he went to go visit Clay at the hospital (except perhaps at the end of last week’s episode), because despite every bone in his body telling him to kill the traitorous bastard, he had to keep him alive for the sake of the club. It’s hard to imagine a show where Clay can co-exist alongside Jax, Opie, Tara and Gemma now that they all know the truth, but Jax really has no other choice. Though he’s stripping him of the President patch, Jax is allowing Clay to keep a seat at the table and his vote for the sake of appearances, but what will the Irish think when they realize he’s no longer in control of the club? And while Clay may wish that he was dead now, that’s not going to stop him from putting up a fight when he recovers.

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Sons of Anarchy 4.13 – To Be, Act 1

After last week’s cliffhanger left many wondering if Clay was dead, tonight’s episode was quick to clarify things by confirming that, while he was definitely wounded, Opie hadn’t succeeded in killing him. (Surely a shot to the head or the heart would have been the way to go, but then there wouldn’t be a need for a two-part season finale.) Of course, Opie could have easily finished the job if Jax hadn’t shot him in the hand, but at that point in time, Clay was still innocent until proven guilty in his mind, despite Opie’s insistence that we was telling the truth. Jax wasn’t ready to buy into that theory just yet, and promised Opie that he would get to the bottom of Piney’s murder, to which Opie mockingly replied, “Just what I need. Another promise.”

It probably wasn’t the best idea for Jax to pin the shooting on “some black guys,” but no one could have expected that Tig would take the news so personally. I can understand why he feels like it might be his fault after turning his back on Clay, but to just retaliate on the Niners like that without any proof they were even responsible was really stupid. Tig was lucky to get out of that situation alive, because you can be sure that’s not the last we’re going to see of the Niners. Though Laroy made it out in one piece, his wife/girlfriend/someone important was killed in the initial attack, and two more of his men died in the ensuing chase. Geez, just when all the gangs in Charming we’re starting to play nice with one another and Tig had to go and mess it up.

Meanwhile, Gemma looks like she’s finally done protecting Clay (either that, or she just wants to be on the winning side) and decides to open up to Tara about all the horrible things that Clay has done lately. It was obviously just a ploy to make her feel guilty about using John Teller’s letters as leverage, but it worked, because Tara gave Gemma the key to the storage unit where they were hiding all along. After reading through the letters, however, Gemma took out the ones that implicated her and Unser and handed the rest over to Jax, which ultimately led to her spilling the beans on years of secrets – from Clay’s initial attempt to kill JT by sending him into a Mayan ambush, to rigging his bike to crash, to shooting Piney in the cabin and even putting out the hit on Tara.

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Sons of Anarchy 4.12 – Burnt and Purged Away

There was a lot more build-up to the season finale this week as the Irish Kings arrived in Charming to talk with SAMCRO about expanding their business relationship. The Irish aren’t exactly sold on the idea of selling RPGs and other heavy artillery to a drug cartel, but Clay persuades them to at least sit down with Romeo and hear what he has to say. And now that a time and place for the meeting has been set, Juice has contacted Lincoln to fulfill his end of the deal, meaning that whoever shows up to the powwow representing the Sons is screwed. But while all of this is likely to play a big part in the final two episodes, tonight’s show was mainly about one thing: the fate of Clay.

After Gemma learns that Opie has found out the truth about Piney’s death, she begins to worry that he’s going to kill Clay, and even scolds Unser for telling him. If Unser looked a little confused, it’s because Gemma doesn’t seem to know what she wants anymore, and the poor guy was left scratching his head just like I was while watching it. It wasn’t that long ago that she went to Unser demanding that Clay needed to die at the hands of a Son, so why the sudden change of heart? You’ve got me, but whatever the reason, she’s obviously decided that she no longer wants Clay dead, and even makes the effort to warn him that Opie is coming for him with a vengeance.

But before we jump to that juicy showdown, it’s worth discussing the events that occurred right before it. Is it just me or is Clay having second thoughts about killing Tara? The previews for this week’s episode hinted at Clay finishing the job himself, but after talking with Romeo about the botched hit, he didn’t seem too convinced that she needs to die anymore, even after Romeo offers to handle it personally. Instead, his visit to Tara’s hospital room was actually quite diplomatic, even if it was a bit of a threat in disguise. He claims that he’s willing to help Jax and Tara get out of town in exchange for John Teller’s letters, and I actually believe him. All he cares about now is saving his own neck, and if Tara is no longer a threat, then it’s actually in his best interest to get her and Jax out of his way so that he can continue his reign over the club.

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