Sons of Anarchy 5.03: Laying Pipe

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear every Wednesday following a new episode of “Sons of Anarchy” (sorry it’s late this week). 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.

Opie Delivered

There’s really only one thing we need to talk about this week. Everything that happened outside the prison walls—Clay and Gemma’s drama, Tara and Gemma’s drama, Wendy and Gemma’s drama—it was filler. With the exception of the very last non-jail sequence, Nero’s place getting busted, it all felt like shit we’d seen it before. There’s no love lost between Clay and his (ex?) old-lady. Tara is now Gemma, and the new biker queen. Wendy wants to see her kid. Sure. Alright. Whatever.

Something real happened this week. Well, something “real” anyway. Opie, who’s always been both SAMCRO and the show’s moral center, is dead. Giving him that fuck yeah moment last episode should’ve been the hint. It was what Ope wanted. The guy chose to go to prison, ostensibly to help protect the other guys. But as I mentioned last week, how big of a difference could one guy really make when Pope owns everyone? Of course he’d have some prisoners, and if he’s got cops on the payroll then shit, why not some guards? Then we saw he’s even got the warden in his pocket. Four guys isn’t all that much better than three up against all those people and all that cash. Opie had a death wish. I just wish he could’ve taken Clay out with him.

Along with being the last bastion of righteousness, Opie has also been the club’s sacrificial lamb from day one. He spent five years in prison partly because he refused to turn on any of of the others involved in his failed arson. Nonetheless, his wife and father ended up dead at the hands of his “brothers.” It’s all ancient history. Point being: Opie never could catch a break.

As great as “Sons” is, one of its biggest issues has always been a refusal on the part of Kurt Sutter and the writers to actually kill a major character. Think about it. Although the full length of season four seemed to be leading up to Clay’s demise, even he is still breathing, labored though those breaths may be. Episode after episode, season after season, despite ludicrous odds, our favorite characters always managed to come out on top. As such, what’s stopped this show from being real, top tier television, is that at the end of the day, I never felt that fear. I was always certain that the main cast would survive.

All that changed with Opie’s death. It was just one of moments. Up until that final blow, I was still holding out hope he’d live to ride another day. You think it was tough to watch? I promise it hit Sutter a thousand times harder just to put those words on the page.

This episode was called “Laying Pipe,” and there’s more to that than “it was Colonel Mustard, I mean the Niners, in the prison, with the pipe.” Recall that “Sons of Anarchy” is based in part on “Hamlet.” Spoilers for the ending of Shakespeare’s version: everybody dies. Everybody. We can only expect some version of that moving forward, and this episode laid the foundation for everything that’s to come.

The war Jax had been trying so hard to avoid is in full swing. The new prez finally came to that realization when the light went out in his best friend’s eyes. Now, Jax is more alone than he’s ever been. Tig’s got to live with another death on his conscious, and sooner or later he’s going to recognize that like Opie, all his pain can be traced back to Clay. Tig might have been able to kill Clay, to succeed where Ope failed. Maybe. But Jax needs his step-dad alive, and as we saw at the end of this episode, Tig isn’t going to make the mistake of disobeying him. Was Jax’s promise to turn Tig over to Pope once things settled down genuine, or was it just more stalling to protect a friend? As for Clay, one can only hope that Opie’s death was Jax’s last straw, something will give with Romeo or the Irish, and he’ll finally kill Clay himself.

Things are really starting to heat up. “Sons of Anarchy” is intended for a seven-season run. And now that the big guns are out, it’s all downhill from here.

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

  

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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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Sons of Anarchy 4.11 – Call of Duty

After the events of last week’s riveting episode (are you reading this Emmy voters?), it didn’t seem like Tara would ever be able to forgive Jax for what happened. But now that she’s had a night to calm down, she certainly seems willing to try, even if she doesn’t look entirely convinced that they’ll be able to leave Charming as promised. Jax still believes that they can get out, though, and now that the hospital in Providence has offered Tara a job despite her recent accident, their plans to start a new life together are still alive. Or at least they were until Tara foolishly broke her hand all over again after freaking out following Wendy’s visit. Personally, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. Wendy is, after all, Abel’s biological mother, and if she’s completely reformed, then why shouldn’t she be able to get to know her son? Gemma sees the reasoning behind it and agrees to let Wendy into Abel’s life, but only under her rules. That could mean that Drea de Matteo is coming back to “SOA” full-time, but I wouldn’t place any bets just yet.

Meanwhile, with the rest of the club now aware of Tara’s attempted kidnapping, they’ve agreed to join Jax in exacting revenge on Lobos Sonora by teaming up with Romeo’s men to get rid of the cartel’s presence in Charming. The attack doesn’t go quite as planned, however, and they accidentally wander into a minefield just outside of the Lobos’ camp. During the ensuing firefight, Kozik steps on one of the mines and is blown to pieces – an event that will likely go down as the most pointless death in the history of the show. I don’t really see any reason why Kozik had to die apart from the fact that Kenny Johnson (the actor who plays him) has a new gig on NBC’s “Prime Suspect,” especially when he was just beginning to mesh with the rest of the cast. That whole sequence played really false to me, with Jax and Chibbs even using some rocket launchers (or as Juice called them, “‘Call of Duty’ shit”) like they were seasoned pros.

Apart from that strange detour, the rest of the episode did a great job of getting all the show’s ducks in a row in preparation for the finale. One of the biggest loose ends still looming in the background was the deal that Clay struck with Georgie to trick Hale into thinking he had new investors for Charming Heights. Unfortunately, the plan worked a little too well, and one of the Asian families went behind Georgie’s back and actually made a deal with Hale, ensuring that the property deal would go through. When the Sons learn that Georgie can’t do anything to stop it, Bobby forces him to confess the truth about Luanne’s murder before giving Tig and Opie the go-ahead to kill him like they should have weeks ago. As expected, Georgie was involved in her death, although he claims that it was an accident and she was only meant to be roughed up a bit.

Of course, that particular piece of intel isn’t going to mean much to Otto since Bobby already lied to him about killing Georgie once. And now because of it, he’s decided to rat on SAMCRO after Lincoln agrees to a list of demands that include giving Lennie the Pimp back some of his prison rights and moving up his execution date. Oh yeah, and he also wants to be the one to tell Bobby that he gave up the club, although that last one is going to blow up in his face as soon as he learns that Georgie was responsible for Luanne’s death. Then again, as long as Otto doesn’t sign off on his testimony, there’s always a chance that he’ll be able to retract his statement in time. And from where I’m standing, that’s SAMCRO’s only hope of getting out of this whole mess in one piece.

Other thoughts from the episode:

* Otto’s traitorous decision wasn’t even the biggest talking point of the night, but rather it was Opie finally discovering Piney’s body in the cabin. I’m not sure why Unser didn’t go finish the frame-up job immediately after speaking with Gemma, but now Opie knows the real truth, and Unser’s warning that Clay needs to die before he “kills someone else you love” suggests that Opie will indeed be the Son who puts him down for good.

* But it’s entirely possible that someone totally unexpected will be the one that pulls the trigger instead. If Tig killed Clay, it would continue in the tradition of the show’s other Shakespearean influences, although it would be more “Julius Caesar” than “Hamlet.” And after confronting Clay about being shut out in recent weeks and then turning over his Sgt. at Arms patch after seeing what he did to Gemma, Tig certainly has motive.

* And then there’s Juice, who’s trying to save the club and his brothers by essentially going against everything they stand for. If he would have just went confided in Chibs in the first place about the whole race issue (who claims that it isn’t an issue at all because his birth certificate says he’s Hispanic), he wouldn’t be in the difficult situation that he’s in now, which only makes it that much harder to swallow.

  

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