19th Nov2014

‘Sons of Anarchy 7×11: Suits of Woe’ Review

by Nathan Smith


I gave up on writing about Sons of Anarchy because, frankly, I felt I covered everything in my advance review. It was the same machinations, with once reasonably intelligent characters doing dumb things and following blindly in the footsteps of Jax Teller (whose reign at the head of the table is far more violent and vicious than anything Clay Morrow did, but another day for that one, huh?). But as the season’s gone on and gotten so bloated that I’m worried how long the actual finale will be (this episode, the 11th is the longest of the season at 72:56, slightly shorter than a film), I’ve slightly come around on this season. Slightly. It’s still a show that relies on machinations, poor plotting (even when it’s trying to be clever), and acting that varies wildly. It’s also damned ugly, look at the rape scene between Ron Tully and Juice, which our “hero” laughs off as boyish shenanigans.

But amidst all the ruin of my once favorite show, something lies dormant that makes me still like the show I once loved.

It’s the relationships, for lack of a better word. Last week’s episode featured a scene between transgendered Venus Van Dam and longtime freaky-deaky sociopath Tig which all but would’ve hit the floor if the show was still making us believe it could get things done in 60 minutes or less. It was a quiet scene, acted beautifully and moved very slowly, with powerhouse acting between Walton Goggins and Kim Coates. It was touching in a way that Sons normally doesn’t play. It flowed against everything that the show thinks is brilliant. It resonated. Or Chibs’ abrupt relationship with the sheriff which has to be the quickest relationship in the history of anything. No, the dialogue falls on deaf ears with me (still with the racism) but here the dialogue felt real. It’s the one reason I damn the show with the teeniest of faint praise. The long running time, though excessive, still allows for quiet moments of power. But the long scenes ultimately don’t add up to much in the end. Watch as Juice gets walked all the way from his cell from the top of the stairs to go to kill Henry Lin. Look as the gang stands aside while Tig urinates on a tree.

However, we still fall on the machinations. Firstly, the whole season spent on the preacher’s wife and her son added up to nothing really other than entangling them with August Marks. Sure it made for quasi compelling television, but when a character dies on a show and you feel nothing, something’s broken that you can’t fix. And on to my biggest issue with the latest episode. For whatever reason, the show allowed Abel to be the little mouthpiece for the Gemma confession and we just got that last week. However, after watching “Suits of Woe,” I realize that having Abel overhear that confession and telling Jax was essentially pointless. Let me elaborate:

After hearing this news, Jax immediately goes to Unser and demands to see Juice. We can tie together that this is because he planted Juice in jail to kill Lin. Fine, we’re caught up. Unser confronts him about not being able to trust him now and drops the news about Lin and his impending death in addition to the info about “Tara’s killer” being in jail the night Tara was murdered . Jax was going to see Juice anyways, so why wouldn’t he be able to get the same info he gets from Juice later without a pointless Abel plot. He tied it together quite nicely anyways.

I’ll tell you why, child torture. We needed to see just how damning it was for a father to watch as his crazy behavior affected the one person he claimed to love (even Unser had the balls to finally call him out on it). But was it all necessary? No. It was pointless, violent and worst of all, exploitative.

For a positive angle, I did like the approach the show took to how the news was received, It was a quiet, roiling storm across everyone as their whole worlds are shaken up by this confession. Jimmy Smits does his finest acting as he’s literally dumbstruck by this confession of cold-hearted murder. Even as the show tried in vain to make us feel some sympathy for Gemma, it falls on deaf ears. Why would we have sympathy for someone so misguided and temperamental. And look no further than Charlie Hunnam’s angry, heartbroken reaction as Theo Rossi coldly lays all the whole brutal ordeal right out for him. It’s a tensely acted moment in an episode where everybody seemed to be holding their breath. Hunnam portrays all of the aggression of a man cuckolded into murder, into stupid machinations because he thought he was doing the right thing. But he wasn’t and we knew that. And therein lies the rub. We watched Jax’s decent into madness as passersby, as people in this car crash, unable to take the wheel. So every decision didn’t feel right, it felt stupid. It’s strangely potent, powerful stuff. But it’s also too little, too late.

I still hate to say that about this show. I’ll think about how I used to enjoy this show, not as it ended, but how it began.

I truly have mild faith that this show will pull its shit together and end well. Not great, but well. But even as Gemma rides off into the darkening world, singing and smoking a cigarette and forgetting all her woes, it seems as if sins on this show only follow you to an extent. Unless you’re Juice. Then, you get prison raped. And then murdered because you took a swipe at the king and failed miserably at it, for reasons so muddled they aren’t even visible. But the show’s leading towards some big cataclysmic event with all the other MC’s and Jax Teller staring down the barrel of their guns. Maybe sins will follow him all the way to Mr. Mayhem. But again, faith is leaden ‘round these parts. Mine is eroded by seven years of loss.


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