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 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.

 

  

Sons of Anarchy 4.4 – Una Venta

After racing out of the gate with a couple of action-packed episodes, the last two weeks have been a bit of a slow burn in terms of major plot revelations, but at least they’ve still been entertaining. Tonight’s show found the club headed down to Arizona to meet up with the local charter, SAMTAZ, which has been put in charge of providing protection to the cartel during the transportation of the guns across the border. Now, SAMCRO may not exactly be the cleanest MC around, but they look like saints compared to these Tucson guys, who are involved in all sorts of nasty stuff, including dealing crystal meth.

Clay is shocked that such a vote would even pass, but as the club’s president is quick to remind him, muling cocaine and dealing crank isn’t all that different. When SAMCRO looks deeper into the matter, however, they discover a shady plot by two of SAMTAZ’s officers that involved the murder of one of their members and the blackmailing of another in order to push the vote through. Though the decision is left up to the charter president to deal with the situation how he sees fit, he doesn’t really have much of a choice other than to kick them out, and even bemoans the fact that he’s essentially lost a third of his members as a result. He didn’t look very happy about SAMCRO poking their nose into his club’s business, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the last we’ve seen of SAMTAZ. Because now that they’ve decided to continue dealing, if anyone is going to cause a problem for SAMCRO down the road, it’ll almost certainly be them.

Meanwhile, back in Charming, Gemma is trying to keep herself busy while Clay is away on business, so she decides to visit the new floral shop in town about some dying flowers in her greenhouse. Lo and behold, the owner of the store just so happens to be Sheriff Roosevelt’s wife, who perhaps unsurprisingly is Gemma’s match in just about every way. I don’t know what kind of game Gemma is playing by making friends with the woman (not that she’s buying it), but you can be sure that there’s some hidden agenda behind her donation to the Save the Garden committee that Mrs. Roosevelt serves on. There’s always some selfish reason for anything Gemma does, and the fact that she’s using Tara’s name as the main benefactor suggests that she has ulterior motives.

If only Tara knew what Gemma was doing behind her back, but of course, she’s far too busy between work, taking care of the kids, and guarding her knowledge of Maureen’s letters to keep an eye on her future mother-in-law. Though Tara attempts to confide in Piney about the mystery of JT’s death, their conversation is interrupted by Gemma, who warns Piney to stop digging into the past before it kills him. I’m not sure if that was meant as a threat, but it certainly sounded like one, and it’s the second time that Piney has been warned in as many episodes. What do you think the odds are of him kicking the bucket before the season ends? One of the Sons seems destined to die before this is all over, and between Piney butting heads with the wrong people and Bobby voicing his disapproval every chance he gets, I have a bad feeling it’s going to be one of them.

Other thoughts from the episode:

* Gemma might think she’s pretty cunning, but Lincoln practically had her eating out of his hand within seconds of meeting her. She had absolutely no clue that she was being played, and now that she knows about Jacob Hale potentially losing the Charming Heights property, you can bet that she’s going to share that news with Clay the minute he gets back. And that’s exactly what Lincoln wants her to do, because he’s betting on the fact that the Sons will make a stupid move and he’ll be able to catch them in the act.

* Lincoln definitely isn’t wasting any time in bringing them down. Along with having Roosevelt rattle Juice’s cage last week, he visited Otto in prison in an attempt to get him to turn against SAMCRO as well. We already know that Bobby didn’t kill Luanne (Tom Arnold’s sleazy porn producer did), and Otto has always been very loyal, but if there’s one thing that could make him snap, it’s the discovery that Luanne was being unfaithful.

  

Sons of Anarchy 4.3 – Dorylus

We’re only three weeks into the new season and already the cracks are starting to show in what appears to be the inevitable collapse of SAMCRO. With members split over the looming vote about whether they should get into the drug business with the Galindo cartel, Clay is trying to do everything he can to swing the result in his favor. It’s a little strange that he would try to convince Bobby to take his side considering he’s one of the cartel’s biggest detractors, but he actually seemed open to switching sides when approached with the prospect of taking over as President as reward for his loyalty. Of course, Clay was just playing him, because he’s already promised Jax to give the patch to Opie when he steps down, but Bobby didn’t know that – at least, not at the time.

But after witnessing Clay make a similar verbal promise to the Wahewa chief knowing full well that he was lying through his teeth, you could tell that Bobby wasn’t buying Clay’s faux act of sincerity any longer. Not that it really matters, because the decision went through even without his vote, albeit with plenty of drama. Piney should have known better than to go behind Clay’s back and involve Gemma in club business – and it’s likely earned him a permanent spot on Clay’s shit list (not to mention a death threat) as a result – but Gemma also needs to keep her nose out of where it doesn’t belong. Still, the look on her face after Clay’s outburst suggests that she’s never seen that side of him before, so it’ll be curious to see how that affects their relationship going forward.

And at the rate she’s going, Gemma might not have many allies by the time this season is over. She was already pushing her luck by breaking into Tara’s office once, but by doing it again, she was practically begging to get caught, which is exactly what happened when Tara’s boss walked in on her snooping around. That may have forced Gemma’s hand to take the more direct approach and confront Tara about Maureen’s letters, but while she claims that nothing good can come of Jax reading them, Tara seems to believe that she has another agenda – namely, protecting the truth about John Teller’s death. Tara clearly already has her suspicions just from the way she’s been behaving around Clay lately, but the fact that she’s gone through the trouble to make copies of the letters proves that she thinks Gemma is up to no good. SAMCRO’s queen bee may have finally met her match, and I don’t think she’s fully realized it yet.

Meanwhile, after his RICO case was seemingly ruined following the death of his undercover agent, Lincoln has turned his attention to SAMCRO in order to use their criminal dealings with the Russians and Real IRA to keep the investigation alive. He doesn’t have much to go on at the moment besides speculation about the Sons’ involvement with the Galindo cartel, so he sends Roosevelt into town to shake things up by attempting to turn Juice against the club. Apparently, Juice’s biological father is African-American, and Roosevelt thinks that SAMCRO wouldn’t take too kindly to that information. I find it hard to believe that the club would exile Juice because he’s half-black (he doesn’t even look it), so I’m hoping that nothing comes of this revelation, because the writing on this show is far too strong to fall back on such a weak subplot.

  

Sons of Anarchy 4.2 – Booster

If tonight’s episode taught us anything, it’s that SAMCRO has gotten a lot smarter about the way it handles business – whether it’s selling guns or killing gangsters. Though dumping those dead Russians on Jacob Hale’s property development reeked of the club’s involvement, the decision to use Opie’s wedding as their alibi is already paying off. Not that Roosevelt is necessarily buying their cover story, but Lincoln knows that there’s nothing they can do about it for the time being. Of course, if SAMCRO is willing to sever their ties with the Russians so easily, Lincoln suggests that it can only mean one thing: they’re working with someone even bigger.

And as it just so happens, he’s right, with Alvarez serving as the middle man for introductions between SAMCRO and the Galindo drug cartel, which is run by a guy named Romeo, who, despite being played by the always intimidating Danny Trejo, actually seems like a pretty nice guy as far as drug traffickers go. Clay has struck a lucrative deal with Romeo to provide guns to the cartel, but when Jax learns that their new business venture includes transporting cocaine for them as well, he’s not a happy camper. Though working with Romeo comes with its benefits (namely, protection from the Russians and friends in high place), Jax doesn’t like that Clay has agreed to the deal without speaking to the rest of the club about it first.

There’s a reason for that, of course – no one would ever agree to it – but Clay is so desperate to make some quick money before he’s forced to step down as President that he asks Jax for his backing when he puts it to vote. Though Jax is completely against the idea of getting mixed up in the drug business, he agrees to help out Clay on one condition: when he finally does step down, Clay will back his decision to leave the club and push the vote for Opie to become the new President. Clay has no other choice to agree, but I can’t imagine how Tig or Bobby (who clearly have more seniority than Opie) will react when that day comes. Then again, what’s to say it ever will? Plus, Bobby isn’t on very good terms with Clay after locking horns over the vote, and he’s trying to get Tig on his side by convincing him that they’re no longer part of Clay’s inner circle.

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