Recap: ‘Sons of Anarchy’ reaches a turning point in “Ablation”- but is it for the better?
One could say that I haven’t exactly been the biggest fan of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ this season. That doesn’t mean I don’t anxiously await for 10 pm to roll around every Tuesday night. It doesn’t mean that I’m not still deeply invested in the lives of these characters (seriously, Chibs, are you OK?). It just means that I, like most viewers, would have preferred to see Clay bite the dust at the end of last season. And when that didn’t happen, a permanent shadow was cast over the show.
But after this week’s episode, I can at least accept the story that Sutter is telling regarding Clay and the Club, even if I still don’t fully support it. All this season we’ve watched as Clay took a backseat in Jax’s presidency, but we haven’t left the Clay presidency completely behind, because Jax is is slowly and surely being corrupted by the president patch. He’s adopting Clay’s MO – he’s lying to people he cares about in order to get what he wants. He’s doing backroom deals in order to gain the upperhand and to fix the Club’s problems. And all the while Jax is turning into Clay, Tara is mimicking the same destructive tendencies that have become the Gemma trademark. Power corrupts, and the power of the club corrupts completely, folks.
In this week’s episode, a lot of blood was spilt; some SAMCRO, some random, some ex-porn star. But underneath that blood, was a foundation made out of lies.
Everyone was lying to everyone this week. Gemma was lying to Jax who was lying to Clay who was also lying to Jax. In this expertly drawn up and totally professional looking diagram of the episode, you can clearly see that Clay is the root of all evil.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re looking at that beautiful diagram and saying, “Kaitlin, you’re on crack. Also, it appears that Frankie might be the root of all evil.” But what we all know is that Frankie was originally only acting on Clay’s orders, therefore Clay is the diseased limb that needs cut off from the rest of the ‘SOA’ body.
The episode began in a much calmer way than I was expecting it to after the dramatic car crash that ended last week’s episode. Jax and Tara hadn’t even been told about the crash yet, and Jax, Tig, Chibs and Bobby were busy loading the body of the black man who Jax had killed into the back of Tara’s SUV.
It wasn’t until after Jax cut off the corpse’s hands to send to Unser and Pope for identification purposes that Tara got the call and ran out of the cabin yelling, “It’s my babies.”
I think Tara’s use of the singular instead of the plural is very telling – it wasn’t just a slip up on Maggie Siff’s part. Some part of Tara has to feel like she’s alone in raising the children, because with Jax at the head of the table, he’s often busy cleaning up messes and taking care of club shit, not home with his wife and sons.
But I’m afraid that her choice of words might also indicate that somewhere deep down she feels that she might have a family that doesn’t include Jax. Whether or not she thinks he might die or if she thinks one day she might actually be able to leave the poisonous life of an Old Lady behind, I don’t know. But Kurt Sutter doesn’t do anything without thinking. His words are carefully planned and executed.
When Jax and Tara arrive at St. Thomas, they find out, thankfully, that Abel will be OK, and that Thomas escaped unharmed. After everything poor Abel has been through since his birth in the first season, I couldn’t and wouldn’t have stood behind Sutter if he had decided to harm him. We already had the catalyst that flipped the switch inside Jax – watching helplessly as his best friend was murdered in jail was that catalyst. It significantly changed the tone and the direction of the story this season. So I’m happy to see that Sutter had the sense of mind to leave Abel in tact.
What isn’t in tact, is Jax’s relationship with Gemma. When Jax first arrived at St. Thomas, he was certain that Gemma had been drunk or high, but Clay jumped to her defense, claiming that she, too, was run off the road by the van that went after Jax and Chibs on their way to the cabin. And while I want to believe that he did this to protect the wayward woman whom he still loves and who is still his wife, he actually did it to put the bullseye securely back on Damon Pope and away from his own head.
But after Gemma confesses to Nero that she wasn’t run off the road, that she was, in fact, high at the time, I knew it was only a matter of time before Clay’s lie blew up in her face (as they usually do).
And after Frankie shows up to Nero’s new place of business and holds Nero and Lyla hostage until Jax and the club pay him enough money so that he can skip town, Jax is blissfully ignorant of the terrible crimes his mother has committed against his family. Nero gives Frankie his money and some nice watches and he takes off, but not before Lyla takes a gunshot to the leg. Poor girl, she really can’t catch a break, can she?
Before Jax leaves, Nero tells him that he doesn’t want to be dragged into the Club’s bullshit, that he is in this business to get out of the business. Somehow it makes sense on screen, but writing that just made it sound completely stupid. Anyway, Nero also tells him the truth about Gemma’s car crash, because, for some reason, Nero still cares about the woman, despite everything he’s seen. Gemma is a mess, a walking, talking shitstorm of trouble – and yet, Nero still cares about her and cares about Jax enough to try to get him to resist breaking the tethers that bind him to his mother.
The confrontation with Gemma that follows this revelation isn’t so much about Jax as it is about Tara. We’ve seen Jax act recklessly ever since Opie died, including killing the brother of the man who was hired (presumably by Frankie, but probably by Clay) to kill Jax. Whereas season one Jax would have let him go or only busted his kneecaps after pumping him for information, post-Opie’s death Jax shot him in the stomach and let the man fall from the roof of the building in a scene eerily reminiscent of McGee’s death by Clay in Ireland in season three.
Jax has been changed by the club, but I think it can be argued that as much as he has changed, Tara has become a completely different person because of her relationship with Jax and the subsequent relationship with the Club.
Tara started out as the outsider who didn’t want to be a part of Club bullshit, but her love for Jax kept pulling and dragging her back. Over time she’s become a fierce woman who is not to be trifled with. She is a woman hellbent on keeping her family together and keeping them safe, and when something or someone threatens that family, her calm and practical facade falls away to reveal an angry and bitter woman who acts first, thinks later.
She’s been slowly and quietly changing for seasons, but it hasn’t been in-your-face until this season. When she beat Carla to a bloody pulp, you saw the anger in her eyes, you saw the way the Club has changed her. She’s more like Gemma than she’s ever been – and I don’t mean the cartoon villain Gemma’s been this season, but the stone-faced, take-no-prisoners queen that she started out as.
After finding out the truth about Gemma’s mind state during the accident, Tara used her fist to deal with the anger as she added another bruise to Gemma’s already purple face. She was fully prepared to cut Gemma out of her life and out of the boys’ lives, but Jax, who’s been channeling Clay ever since Opie died, had a better idea. He wants to get rid of Clay, but he wants it on his own terms, and those terms include Gemma getting back in Clay’s bed. Because for all of the bad shit that Clay has done over the past five seasons, he still truly loves Gemma. And Jax wants to use that love to really break Clay.
I suppose if this is how the story of Clay ends, I should at least be happy that is has an ending. Even finding out that he’s the root of all evil (duh), I still can’t stomach the fact that he should have been put in the ground a long time ago. Every second that Clay breathes is another second that frustrates me. I want to believe that this week’s episode was a turning point. Let’s just hope it was a turn for the better.
Some stray observations:
- In a quiet scene cut between the crazy, Juice finally came clean to Clay after Clay pressed him about why Roosevelt has been riding him so hard. Afraid of what the outcome would be, I was sweating more than Juice as Juice recounted his season four storyline. He told Clay about his father, about the RICO case, about Otto flipping, about killing Miles. He told him everything. And I thought for sure Clay was going to pull out his gun and put a bullet through Theo Rossi’e beautiful head, but instead, he confessed his own crimes regarding the nomads. In other words, it was an incredibly tense group therapy session. So now, in addition to Chibs, Clay knows about Juice’s secret. And I’m more afraid for Juice’s safety than ever, because when Clay has dirt on you, you better be looking over your shoulder, because who knows when he’ll decide to use that dirt to save his own ass.
- Frankie made Chibs drive him out of Charming, and every second that passed in which Tommy Flanagan’s handsome mug wasn’t on my screen, I was a nervous wreck. Once they pulled over and Frankie made him get on his knees, I was in full-on panic mode. I didn’t really believe that Sutter would kill another Son (yet?), but I was still terrified for Chibs. A pistol whip to the head, thankfully, was all he received, as Frankie’s number two guy has very little patience. Thank goodness for that.
Note: Photo courtesy of FX.