Recap: ‘Sons of Anarchy:’ To Be, Act 2
I highly suggest that if you haven’t seen the season finale of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ that you stop reading right now. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
I’ve read several reviews already for this episode, and for the most part, my favorite television critics are disappointed in how it turned out. Was I a little pissed off that everything that happened this season was wiped away because Romeo is working with the CIA? Sure. I mean, who wouldn’t be a little pissed off? The show basically pulled the “it was all a dream” card. But here’s why I curtailed my career trajectory of being a television critic: You can’t ever just sit and enjoy an hour of television. You have to think about it, you have to dissect it, pull it apart and find out what worked and what didn’t. And no matter how much you love something, having to write about its strengths and weaknesses week in and week out for 13-14 weeks (or more depending on whether its a network vs cable show) will ultimately wear on you, make you hate the thing you used to love. So instead, I blog about it. I don’t have to turn in copy after every episode. I don’t have people counting on me to post a review or even mention the episodes. I still love television, and I still love ‘Sons of Anarchy’ as much today as I did last week.
So while many of my favorite critics were disappointed by this episode, and in some cases, the entire season, I disagree with them. If you don’t look at each and every frame of the season, you can see how well they actually worked. Kurt Sutter wanted and needed to push Clay and Gemma out and to the sidelines, and bring Jax and Tara in as their replacements as the King and Queen of SAMCRO. He had a story to tell, and only 14 hours to do it in. And I think that last montage made it all worth it. (Seriously need to buy that Songs of Anarchy album.)
Like I said, I was unhappy when it was revealed Romeo was working with the CIA. But I called that last week, and had been thinking about it ever since we saw the face of one of the men who tried to grab Tara (who we learned this week were only going to take her in and debrief her, keep her safe and out of Clay’s cross-hairs). It was kind of cheap. It meant that Juice turning rat will remain buried. It means Ray McKinnon’s Lincoln Potter, one of the best additions to a TV cast since Emma Caulfield joined ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ as Anya Jenkins, did all that work and now it has all been erased. It means that they still don’t know Otto betrayed the Club (but Bobby is still in a cell in Stockton, and he’s somehow gotten his hands on a guitar). But most importantly it means that Jax has to stay in Charming.
I will swallow the CIA card. But I won’t swallow the idea that the Irish won’t work with Jax. Who the fuck is this chump? We’ve known him for all of 4 minutes and suddenly, Clay is the only person he will deal with? I simply find that ridiculous. It was a way to keep Ron Perlman on the show. And as much as I love and enjoy Ron’s work, Clay needed to die. The story mandated it so. If there’s one thing the critics and I agree on it’s this: keeping Clay alive makes me feel cheated.
Sutter could have taken Sons to the next level by killing Clay, by offing someone so integral to the show in previous seasons. He could have taken it close to ‘Breaking Bad’ level of awesome. It would have been a wonderful payoff to a great season of story. But I can’t really fault Sutter. It takes a special kind of creator/writer to kill off main/integral characters, especially ones as intriguing as Clay Morrow. It’s what sets writers apart. If this were a Joss Whedon show (what a crazy fucking weird show that would be), I can guarantee Clay would have died. But this isn’t a Whedon show. This is Sutter. And what that man says goes.
Would it have hurt to say goodbye to Ron? Of course, but it would have all been worth it. It could have made up for the entire Ireland plot of last season. But instead, Sutter contrived to keep Ron on the show by one of the dumbest ways possible. I just don’t believe it. After all that Clay did, after everything Jax learned last week, all that happened to Clay was Opie took two poorly aimed shots at him and he got a demotion.
I understand that there was no way Jax was ever going to be able to leave Charming this season. The show will be over whenever Jax finally gets out. There’s no way it can continue without him. This isn’t Doctor Who. You can’t just have the lead character/actor exit the show and replace him with another person. It doesn’t work that way here. The show requires Jax to be in Charming, and since the show was picked up for a fifth season (and what will likely be a sixth and seventh as well), Sutter had to find a way to manipulate Jax into staying and taking over the presidency. I just don’t see why Clay had to live for that to happen. I don’t have a brain like Kurt Sutter, but I just feel like somewhere in the brain of that wonderful crazy man was a better way.
So with all my own frustrations out of the way, let’s talk about what worked and why this season, more than ever, I think the actors and the writers deserve some award recognition.
- Jax and Tara have officially become the King and Queen of SAMCRO, albeit very reluctantly. But while we all thought Jax was going to turn into Clay, it’s actually more accurate to say that he’s finally become his father. He didn’t kill Clay to become president. He took the presidency from Clay. He is still a better man than Clay will ever be. And the same goes for Tara. She’s never going to become quite like Gemma, because where Gemma would have injected the blood thinner into Clay’s IV herself, Tara doesn’t quite have that in her. She’s still one step removed, but she’s no longer playing the in and out game. She’s all in. And she chose it. Jax, though, was manipulated by the CIA into keeping Clay alive, and into taking his place at the head of the table. Charlie Hunnam was spectacular all season, but in this episode and in last week’s episode, he proved that he can say much more when he doesn’t say anything at all. Seething with anger last week when Gemma told Jax the truth about JT’s death and the hit on Tara, and now this week when he contemplated killing Clay in the hospital room. And that scene afterwards, where he told Clay what was going to happen? If Charlie doesn’t get some form of recognition for his work, then I will have lost all hope in humanity. He turned it some of the best work on TV this season and the world needs to recognize that.
- For a minute I thought that Tara would run. I thought she’d take the boys to Oregon at the end of the season and that Sutter would find a way to pull her back to Charming next season. This is still a character drama, and what would have been better than to mess up their relationship? I am extremely happy that Sutter didn’t go that route. Jax and Tara relationship drama is so seasons 1-3. Rehashing that crap would have been a mistake. Instead, he made her the Gemma to Jax’s
ClayJohn and it was was a great and beautiful moment, a moment the entire season had been building up to. Seeing her tell Jax that she wasn’t leaving and taking her place by his side at the head of the table made me both happy and sad. I hate to see how much Tara has changed and become like Gemma, but I also love the entire Jax/Tara dynamic. Tara grounds Jax and they have a healthy working adult relationship, as healthy as one can have in Charming, and I think it’s great to see their love and loyalty to one another. Even if it is a completely fucked up situation they are in.
- I’m really looking forward to the battle of Tara and Gemma next season. It’s been building up all season. Gemma took Tara under her wing and groomed her, but I don’t think she realized how quickly she’d have to give up her hold on Jax and the Club.
- For all the talk about telling the truth, I’ve never seen a show filled with so many lies. I hated that Jax didn’t feel that he could tell Opie the truth about the CIA (though, it should be said, I was certain he would tell Tara and I’m very glad that he did), about why Clay had to stay alive, about why he had to take the presidency. I think Opie of all people deserves to know the truth, especially if Jax wants him to be his VP. Opie has arguably lost the most because of SAMCRO and I think it was great that he didn’t show up at the end of the episode just because Jax told him to be there. (Though there were two nice fakeouts, one being Tara and the other being Gemma.) Opie needs time to think before he let’s Jax pull him back in, but when he does come back (and you know he will, because if Ron Perlman is staying, you better believe the powerhouse that is Ryan Hurst will be back) I hope that Jax confides in him. If Jax doesn’t want to turn out like Clay, he needs to tell the truth. Telling Opie will be the first step in telling the whole Club. They need to know. They have a right to know. Don’t let Jax get caught up in a web of lies too, Sutter.
- FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, CAN THE REST OF THE CLUB PLEASE FIND OUT THAT PINEY IS DEAD? I have a feeling that somehow Sutter will worm his way out of this one too. Now that we know that Clay will be back at the table, I don’t see his murdering Piney coming to light anytime soon. I doubt the Club would stand for that. But someone somewhere needs to start questioning Piney’s absence. I am certain this will be a big part of season five.
- Also part of season five? Those damn fucking letters. Which Jax hid in the garage. And of course Gemma witnessed him doing. I predict she’ll burn those magical letters next season, just like she did this season with the ones that mentioned her involvement in JT’s death.
- AND OF COURSE THE WOMAN TIG KILLED LAST WEEK IS THE DAUGHTER OF OAKLAND’S MOST PROMINENT AND CRAZY GANGSTER. OF COURSE. LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES, TIG.
- Looks like Roosevelt is sticking around. And I like it.
- I find it a little hard to believe that Jax’s rings sat untouched on his father’s grave for a year and a half. Do they not have weather in Charming? Don’t they have thieves? Is there a caretaker? I understand that scene and why it was needed, but I just think that the idea that his rings would still be there is a little too far fetched. Apparently I can handle Romeo working with the CIA, but I can’t handle two rings staying put on a headstone for a year and a half. I mean, come on. They didn’t even leave a mark on the headstone. Something sitting out in the elements for a year and a half would have definitely left a mark. Just saying.
- My wishes for Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy nominations (the first two are coming out this month): I hope to see Katey Sagal, Charlie Hunnam, Ryan Hurst and Maggie Siff get nominated. And for what it’s worth, I’d love to see Theo Rossi get some love too. And Kurt deserves some recognition for being the crazy motherfucker behind this show.
That’s it, guys. We have to wait another nine months until we get more from our boys. What did you guys think? I think the episode was stellar and the season was the best yet. For all my annoyance at the CIA crap, I think this was a fantastic ending to an amazing season that had me on the edge of my seat every week. I can’t wait to see what crazy shit Sutter comes up with for season five.