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.

  

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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 4.7 – Fruit for the Crows

This season continues to get crazier and crazier with each episode, and I’m loving every minute of it. Though the past three seasons have all been great for a number of reasons, this year has done an especially good job of making every storyline – including the ones involving the supporting players – feel equally important and engaging. And you needn’t look any further than what the show has been doing with the character of Juice for proof of that. I may have voiced my displeasure about the way that they’ve handled his subplot in previous posts, but I’m still really enjoying what Theo Rossi has been doing with the material. He’s really stepped it up this season, and tonight’s episode made me realize just how much I’d miss him if he was gone. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about the rest of the episode first.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised how Gemma handled the discovery of the death threat left in Tara’s car, because I thought for sure that she would either rip it up or take it directly to Clay demanding an explanation. Instead, she doesn’t even seem to consider that it might have anything to do with Clay, and instead shows it to Tara, who characteristically freaks out. Of course, when Clay hears about the death, he knows immediately that Unser is responsible and warns him to stay out of his way. But now that Unser knows that he was used by Clay in order to cover up John Teller’s death, I think that he’s willing to accept the consequences of the truth coming out if it means that an innocent life will be saved in the process. Granted, I’m not really sure how informing Tara’s supervisor Margaret is going to help protect her, but maybe Margaret will be able to transfer her to another hospital for a while until all this blows over.

And at the rate things are going, it could be sooner than later, especially now that SAMCRO knows that the Galindo cartel’s main competitors are targeting their associates – namely, the Mayans and the Sons – in an attempt to force Romeo and his crew out of California. Bobby has been trying to tell Clay that getting into bed with the cartel was trouble from the start, and he’s so disgusted with how everything has turned out that he’s decided to challenge him for the presidency. That’s a pretty bold move on Bobby’s part, but while it might seem like an easy win for Clay considering he got the majority vote over the last decision involving the cartel, now that the club has seen just how much danger they’re in after only a few weeks on the job, there’s a pretty good chance that at least one person will jump ship.

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Sons of Anarchy 4.6 – With an X

At the end of last week’s cliffhanger, it didn’t seem possible that Juice would be able to keep himself out of the crosshairs for much longer, but amazingly, he’s done just that, albeit at the cost of one of his biker brothers. Though the Sons and Mayans were quick to start blaming each other for the missing brick, the club came to the conclusion that the only people dumb enough to try stealing from them were the prospects. And after pretending to torture Miles in a failed attempt to scare Dirty Phil and Rat Boy into a confession (and, let’s be honest, have a little laugh in the process), they forced them to play a game of Russian roulette in order to prove their commitment. Anyone watching had to know that there wasn’t actually a bullet in the gun, and that was part of the problem, because although they both passed the test, it didn’t get the club any closer to finding out who took the cocaine.

With time running out until Romeo’s arrival, Clay decides that he has no other choice but to condemn the pair to death and try and save face with the cartel. But Juice, who doesn’t exactly want their blood on his conscience, suggests that they give the prospects one last chance to return the brick with no questions asked. If it shows up, they’ll be kicked out of the club, but at least they’ll still be alive. That gives Juice just enough time to run out into the woods, grab a sample for Roosevelt, and take the brick back to the warehouse… or so he thinks. Instead, he runs into Miles, who quickly puts two and two together and realizes that Juice is the thief. The ensuing chaos led to one of the series’ biggest “holy shit” moments yet, with Juice getting a hold of Miles’ gun and shooting him clean through the face. And now that everyone thinks Miles was the one responsible, Juice has been given yet another lifeline.

But how much longer can this realistically go on? Though the club was a little surprised that it was Miles who stole the cocaine, they don’t seem to be putting too much thought into why he might have done it. Chibs, on the other hand, is the only one who’s even remotely suspicious of the whole situation, especially after the way Juice was acting around him all day. Their conversation about the prohibition of color in SAMCRO must have come across as pretty random to Chibs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he started sniffing around Juice’s personal life. Those two appear to have a stronger friendship with each other than most guys in the club, so Chibs will undoubtedly want to do everything he can to get Juice out of trouble before the rest of SAMCRO finds out. The whole thing still feels a bit contrived to me, and even more so after Chibs admitted that many of the club’s rules were pretty outdated. After all, if one of its own members doesn’t even agree with certain by-laws, then surely there’s room for some change.

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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.

  

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