Sons of Anarchy S5 Review Archive

5×01 – Sovereign

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kurt Sutter | Directed by Paris Barclay

When Sons of Anarchy ended last season, I was a little disappointed. It’s not that I hated it; I was just left with the feeling of longing for more. All throughout the season, we’ve seen our men in SAMCRO crushed by seemingly impossible odds, without any chance for escape. If there’s one thing that Kurt Sutter and company do best, it’s dropping the men into a hole and watching them try and escape. And the best part of this is the more they try to escape, the worse their situation gets. That’s why it was a bit of a disappointment when at the end of the season, they seemingly pulled the plug and left things out to dry. I mean, Clay Morrow was built up to be the villain of the show, and by the end of the season he would surely be pining for the fjords. And yet, he lived at season’s end. Everything that was constructed as tight as a drum, suddenly loosened up. It all felt constructed to buy some time, whether keeping Jax in Charming or even keep Clay alive. I kind rattled my head around and walked away. I was waiting to see where this new season would take us.

So, I sit here a year later, and think about the season as a whole. I liked the character of Lincoln Potter, and found myself missing him. He brought a sense of insanity to the good guys, which added a spice that Sutter wanted. I enjoyed the Clay storyline and the wrapping up of something that’s been kicking around since the end of season three. I feel monumentally different about the finale. I really have much more fonder thoughts about it as a whole. I like the looser structure that “To Be, Parts One and Two” adopted. Sutter always has a quiet way about his direction, and I realize that all the machinations at the end of the finale were ultimately there for the greater good. When you have a seven year plan in mind like Sutter does, you have to do a bit of wheel spinning and fortunately for him, it pays off handsomely in the premiere.

If there’s a mission statement that starts off the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy, it’s a new world order.

First, you have Jax is settling in comfortably, or maybe not so much as President of SAMCRO and having to juggle all the balls in the air. He’s got to keep Clay in the loop or the IRA will walk away, and that kills any safety his crew has. He also has to deal with the retaliation of local gang The Niners, who have a hate-on for SAMCRO, since notorious hothead ‘Tig’ accidentally killed the girlfriend of Laroy, gang leader and daughter of local impresario Damon Pope. He’s trapped in this town with seemingly no way of escape. He’s dragged himself into this situation and he’s trying to get himself out before his love, Tara and their children end up in a fate worse than death. I enjoy seeing Tara butt heads with Gemma. She’s always been the walked upon one, and Gemma always been mean mother hen, and her getting taken down a peg by Tara and rightfully so, was a moment that has been worth the wait. Her transition has been a slow burn story over five seasons and the premiere is when you start to see her arc take flight. I also enjoy Ryan Hurst as Opie, and while he didn’t have a lot to do or say in the episode, his actions and movements speak far louder than words. Hurst is just too damn good all of the time.

Then, you’ve got Clay Morrow exiled as he rightfully should be. He murdered Jax’s father way before the beginning of time and spent almost all of last season wreaking bloody havoc to keep it quiet. He nearly had Tara killed and murdered poor gentle giant Opie’s father, Piney, in cold blood. He had stepped right into the abyss and there was no way for him to come back. He’s moving slowly after Opie shot him and it’s interesting to see the villain beaten and broken. He can’t even mount up on his bike. As a matter of fact, he has shades of Piney, and even sits in his spot at the table.  It was very interesting to see Clay confess to murdering Piney before the rest of the gang. There wasn’t really any repercussions for this act, yet. But I’m certain as we move along; this is going to have greater and bigger consequences in the end. There was just no time to address this issue in the episode proper.

The reason there was just no time, is that we find ourselves introduced to two new characters in the world. Firstly, and most impactfully we have Damon Pope. The way he’s introduced is almost as a specter, a person that people cower from by just a name’s mention. Pope quickly and quietly dismisses any issues that the Niners have with the Sons by cutting through the ranks. It simultaneously erases a lot of storyline fat because this is going to be a loaded season. I especially love one of the later episodes when Pope steps out of the shadows to confront Tig and call him out on his reckless actions. I wasn’t over the moon with the bringing in of Rachel Miner specifically to kill in the pit, but as for deep character actions, it worked overall. Kim Coates is a fantastically underrated actor and he plays Tig in five thousand shades of gray. He sold the hell out of the scene where he watches his daughter die before his eyes, as he struggles against his restraints like a feral animal. Fantastic work. He’s killed and much worse for Clay and it’s finally hoisting him out to dry. I can’t wait to see just how this breaks Tig and how this affects the club overall. I’m simultaneously excited to learn more about Damon Pope, because he has to have a lot of pull in the town – he clearly has cops on the take – and how he can be a bigger enemy for the Sons overall. He’s got Jax, Tig and Chibs fingered for the highway shootings, and the death of his daughter. He knows how to make them hurt big time.

We were ahem, memorably introduced to Jimmy Smits’ new character Nero Padilla, in a manner befitting Sons of Anarchy. He’s having him way with Clay’s former old lady (and Jax’s mother) Gemma. She’s clearly fallen out of touch with who she is while not betraying who she is. Of course, she lies to him about her name, and maybe he has too. He’s obviously got some money to throw around and I’m very interested to see how he fits with Gemma and how he fits into the world of Charming. I’ve liked Jimmy Smits on other programs, but I was never an NYPD Blue convert. I hope we learn more about him, especially since it looks as if he’ll be providing safe harbor to our three fugitives.

The thing I wasn’t particularly over the moon about in the premiere was the shoehorning in of the new members of the Sons. They were part of the Nomads and they’re showing up to fill the ranks. It just feels random to me. It’s interesting to see Chuck Zito as one of the new additions, especially since he was a member of real-life notorious biker gang, Hell’s Angels. I didn’t enjoy the abrupt introduction, in the timespan that we were gone. I also hope that this storyline about him and the other two guys pulling off home invasions, all people involved with SAMCRO in one way or another, has a fruitful payoff. Even with all the stuff involving the CIA/Galindo cartel, it felt too easy to get Bobby out of prison, especially in light of the depth and gravitas that happened when prison Otto sold him down the river. Again, a storyline that may come to a head as we move along. Even on the flip side, I’m glad they ditched the Juice storyline, except for the whole deal of him communicating with the aforementioned Potter and new sheriff in town, Eli Roosevelt. Roosevelt will provide another foilble for the crew even as they deal with the dark clouds of Damon Pope on the horizon.

It feels like all the quiet of the finale has revved into overdrive almost instantaneously. They’ve found a way to loosen up the reins and still let the story breathe. The machinations are making more and more sense and it feels like the wheel spinning is about to have a fruitful payoff.

5×02 – Authority Vested

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kurt Sutter, Regina Corrado | Directed by Peter Weller

As our men in Charming have progressed over the past few years, they’ve faced many a great adversary. But to me, the worst of the worst, was Ethan Zobelle. He was the Everyman, the guy that was well-respected in the community, and yet hidden behind that façade was a hateful neo-Nazi hell bent on filling the bucolic California town with dirty drugs. He very nearly tore SAMCRO apart and after hat it seemed like they would never be the same again. And after last week hen we were introduced  to Damon Pope, I’m getting that feeling again. He’s already done more damage to the group then heir former adversary, June Stahl ever caused over the course of three seasons. He’s got them under his thumb and for these guys, that’s the worst place to be.

Look at how he affected Tig towards the end of last week’s episode. He killed Tig’s daughter, Dawn in a befitting eye for an eye trade off. He then threatened to do the same to Tig’s other daughter Fawn. The thing that I love about this arc is how Kim Coates sells the hell out of Tig’s anguish. First, there’s the scene where he holds his daughter’s charred body and rocks back and forth. It’s very heart wrenching.  Then, there’s the scene when he locates his daughter and wordlessly informs his other daughter about their recent loss. It’s all in his eyes and he knocks it out of the park. Even when you take the cheap moment where they descend on the house while seeking out his daughter. Yes, it sounds like she’s in agony but no, she’s role playing a strange sexual fantasy with her boyfriend. It’s reminiscent of something The Shield would pull in their day, but it was a cheap pull frankly. Still, it’s a minor moment that nagged at me.

Things haven’t really gotten easier for new president Jax Teller. He’s got even more things on his plate and it’s sooner rather than later going to come to a head. He’s still got that situation with the CIA and the RICO case. Romeo and Luis keeps holding the IRA deal over him and they don’t even care if he gets killed by Pope. They’ll have a Plan B when they need it. That’s the problem with Jax, for all the swagger and brute force he exudes, he rarely ever sees the forest for the trees. They want to use him to build the case but when he tries to get them to drop the local charges, they won’t budge. He’s also got the  case against Bobby to worry about because while prison Otto dropped the line on Bobby for history, they discovered they have someone dropping the line in the present. And we know by know this is blowback from the events of last season, when current Sherriff Roosevelt was squeezing Juice to be the inside man. So with all this craziness on his plate, Jax decides to marry Tara. He wants her to know that he means business when he says he loves her. This leads to the oddly touching scene where they unite in holy matrimony. Hell, even Chibs is uncharacteristically poetic when he speaks out.

Jax also has a new friendship of sorts with “companionator” Nero Padilla. He steps in and helps out Jax when the Niners try to attack him on the street. Nero is an ex-junkie who found a different tack in life after prison. He takes care of his child afflicted with spina bifida. It turns out that his girlfriend was using when she was pregnant. This ingratiates him with Jax as he had the same issue with his wife Wendy in season one.  Nero is a different kind of person in Jax’s life and one I think that could be very interesting to have around. If his behavior doesn’t turn on a dime. And clearly Gemma is falling for him, as we see in the closing montage, she asks to stay with him in his room. Maybe it’ll be nice for her to have a relationship where her man isn’t a violent, gun-running sociopath. Or things could turn for the worse, who knows?

Clay continues to be struck impotent by his loss of power. He appears only briefly in the episode, but the scenes are powerful nonetheless. He tries to appeal to Gemma while sifting through the aftermath of the home invasion that ended last week’s episode. He doesn’t get heard as he should, because he doesn’t deserve a single word edgewise. He’s pathetic and wheezing and Gemma just cuts him down to size. It’s fantastic payback for all his villainy last season. Then, he confronts Opie and lets him know that for all that Opie’s going through, the MC needs him.  And this is where the turning point hits us. Yes, it’s strange to think that Opie of all people would hear Clay out but something sticks with him. Whether it’s the fact that Jax is ready to turn himself and the other two men in, or the fact that you can take the man out of the club – well, you know the rest.

It’s also interesting to see former Sheriff Wayne Unser struggle with his loss of power. He was once the law in Charming but now he’s lost all of his power, and he’s ended up frustrated and slowly becoming more and more crippled by the cancer. He was a big part of the machinations last season with the letters from John Teller. However, this season he’s moving within the wings. When Roosevelt snips that Clay sent him in reference to the break-in, Unser bites back. he was always in dutch with the Sons, but he’s still his own man and he’s still got his wits about him. He can see that these break-ins aren’t Niners blowback, they’re something else.

Last week, Opie mentioned that he was worried that he would turn into Jax. That had to hurt pretty bad. This is not the life that Jax wants. He’s been trying to push his way out and keeps getting pulled back in. And I guess you can say the same for Opie. He’s lost his wife at the hands of one of his comrades and very nearly lost his children being sent away to prison. So, when he put his For Sale sign on his motorcycle,  it appeared he would be walking away for good. But, as Roosevelt took his gang away in chains, he showed up and socked our sheriff in the jaw. This is him becoming Jax. Because you can’ t take the club out of the man.

Lastly, we deal with the three new SOA guys from the Nomads. Frankie Diamonds, Greg the Peg, and Gogo. We saw them break into Clay’s house, and we see that they stole his safe. We only see a glimmer of what they stole, a marriage license and other documents. It could very well be a very interesting development and quite possibly a storyline that has very impactful, very crushing results.

I’m only curious how Damon Pope will affect our men in SAMCRO. He doesn’t even need to leave his office to do irreversible damage. We’ll see what Pope gets up to as we move along, I’m loving the conflict so far.

5×03 – Laying Pipe

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kem Nunn, Liz Sagal, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Adam Arkin

It’s not very wise to throw around the word “game-changer, ” especially when most people wouldn’t have the guts to follow through with it. The last time this was warned about “Sons of Anarchy,” we got the magnificent episode, ‘Hands.’  Hell, almost all of season four was a transistional phase, the midway point in Kurt Sutter’s planned seven year series arc. Now, he’s promised a game-changer again, and he’s done this in the biggest way possible: he’s unleashed Damon Pope, and Pope is gnashing his teeth. In the first two episodes of this season, Damon Pope clung to the shadows, while seeking his revenge on Tig for the death of his daughter, by killing Tig’s daughter. There wasn’t much to be made of him, except that he’s got the erudite businessman role down to a tee. So, after this week’s episode, he clearly shows he is not a man to be messed with.

Our boys from SAMCRO find themselves in a situation that they’ve found themselves in before. They’ve gone the prison route a few times, and this time is much worse. They’ve landed behind the bars with targets on their backs and just like that famous predator, the shark – they’ve got to swim or die. Pope shows up to present his bargain, the only bargain really. He wants in on their profits, and he wants a Son dead. Plain and simple. Pope wants Tig behind bars for life, and he’ll let the guys go. And again, we find Jax’s hand getting forced by the sway of outsiders. And as he gets locked up inside solitary with his good friend, Opie, he finds himself choosing who will be pining for the fjords. And damnit, it was Opie. Poor sweet Opie, who wanted nothing more of this life but found himself dragged in like Michael Corleone even as he wants out. And that heartwrenching moment where Jax is screaming his brains out behind the observational glass as Opie gets beaten to death with a pipe. And that moment where Opie smiles at him right before the killing blow. That hurt like hell, man. It’s hurt me in a way that Sons has never hurt before. Not to mention that Charlie Hunnam sold the hell out of that moment, as he’s been doing all season thus far. But thinking back over it, it makes sense. Jax laid it all out on the line to Opie. He told all the big secrets, all the CIA deals, the letters, the reason why Clay killed his father. It was locking Opie in to die. But, I just didn’t see it yet. I don’t want to sell the impact of his death short at all, but it makes sense in hindsight. Opie wanted to die and for his character to go out on his terms, was a magnificent death, even as his father’s was a sadder affair.

Elsewhere, and far less heartbreaking was Gemma’s continuing machinations in trying to wrangle Abel from Tara’s motherly embrace. I get where Gemma is coming from, she’s finally free of Clay’s abusive and very violent mitts but this incessant acting out is just going in insane spirals. It’s a character in need of retconning immediately. And bringing Wendy in, just to manipulate her and try to turn her against Tara was another moment where Gemma slips down on my radar. I wish they would’ve utilized Drea De Matteo a little more than a brief-ish appearance. Look, I’ve never always had problems with Gemma. Her arc in season two was fantastic, and the stuff with Hal Holbrook as her father in season three was just as aces.  I even get her need to try and push back now that she’s been usurped as Jax’s queen if you will but she can come off as annoying, and that scene where Tara finally bites back and lets her know exactly what lengths she would go to just to have Gemma stop meddling was absolutely priceless. Another bizarre moment for Gemma was beating up the prostitute that Clay left with after he abruptly showed up with Juice at Nero’s companionator business. Why would she give two salts about Clay, the man who beat her down, enough to beat an innocent person down? She’s done it before but as she’s been sleeping with Nero, isn’t that a bit of the pot calling the kettle black? I do enjoy her relationship with Nero and hope that gives her something to do rather than needlessly meddle, so here’s hoping to that. And even as I’m assuming that Clay had to be behind that bust at Nero’s, things don’t look to good for Gemma at the episode’s end.

Sutter is clearly trying to shake up the status quo and I like that. I thrive on that, not only someone who reviews the show weekly but as someone who is a fan of the show. I like that Jax is frustrated and broken. This isn’t that same Jax we’ve grown with over the past five years. He’s done caring, and as he gives Pope everything he wants, he subsequently lays Tig’s head on the chopping block for whenever the time comes. He even sharply cuts Tig down to size and lets him know his place. It’s interesting to see how Pope has broken the club, in a very damaging and very irreversible way. He’s getting revenge and doing it well. But what he doesn’t realize is that he’s poking the bear and sooner rather than later, the bear is going to bite back. Damn good episode, and a great hour of suspense at that.

5×04 – Stolen Huffy

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kem Nunn, Liz Sagal, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Paris Barclay

When a fairly major character dies or gets killed off on a long running show, especially one such as Sons of Anarchy, there usually isn’t time for grieving. Instead, ‘Stolen Huffy,’ for the most part focuses its gaze on other plot prospects, namely tying up the loose ends of the storyline involving Nero and his brothel getting shut down. That part of the story interests me the most because it opens up the potential endgame for Jax and the gang for SAMCRO. It’ll be quite a journey getting there because the gang has so much blood and pain in their wake that getting the clear of this hellish mess that they’re in now just isn’t going to be as easy as Jax forsees. I wondered when Nero and Jax’s paths would intersect story-wise, because before all this they were only involved in a very cursory manner.

Jax’s business proposal makes sense because with all the girls from their failed CaraCara porn business, they were bound to revisit it, even after the ensuing violence that occurred way back when. As an avid “Breaking Bad” fan, I can only see trouble for Jax trying to quit the drug runs but hey, you never know. My only problem with Jax’s new business proposal is that it came out of nowhere. I mean, first he was just talking with Opie’s now widowed wife, Lyla and then, he hops up and meets with Nero. I think it’s nice if her woes about taking care of his children and hers, inspired him to explore a new path for SAMCRO. Also, on that note, did she get custody of his children now that Opie died. Wouldn’t they go to Donna’s mother? The episode doesn’t really make that clear.

Another problem that the episode has, is that it focuses way too much on whomever called the police down on Nero’s brothel. Could it possibly been Emma Jean, the prostitute who was on the recieving end of Gemma’s super uncalled for beating? The episode doesn’t quite make that clear but that for some reason Nero calls down two unrelenting gang-bangers to kill Emma Jean, who is now AWOL. Nero, instead of calling off the two killers gets Jax and Chibs to find the girl first. Why he wouldn’t stop the two bad guys first is beyond me, other than creating drama and a reason for the two bikers to get in a chase and stir up some action. And the role of Emma Jean could’ve been played by anyone, casting Ashley Tisdale was nice for a shock but it’s a role that could’ve literally been played by anyone, even if she does good work. The sub-plot felt shoehorned in and very out of place for me. It also asks us to be invested in whether we care about Nero’s business that’s only been kicking around for a couple of episodes now and puts us face-to-face again with a character that annoys me just as much as Gemma, Nero’s assistant, Carla. She calls the gang members down on Chibs and Jax, so surely she had to have retribution coming her way.

You see, as much as I dislike what Gemma’s become of as a character, I like her as the violent mentor to Tara. Even when Gemma becomes this meddlesome monster trying to pull her grandchildren from Tara, she is just unlikeable. Why would she try to pull machinations on Tara and get custody to Wendy, the ex-junkie whom she had tried to kill previously? It’s just strange to me. But as someone who guides Tara and brings out this sociopathic side in Tara? I love it. And watching Tara dig into her violent place and beat Carla down was a great moment of victory. This is the place that Gemma needs to be, and Katey Sagal still continues to do excellent work with the character. You feel her anguish in what is becoming of the club, and it’s hopeful to see where they’ll take her as the season goes on. I also love that Jax wisely asks Nero to part ways with Gemma because he doesn’t want her to needlessly meddle in the new business, because she’s just as much trouble. I did feel a pang of sadness as she watched Nero walk away, because that’s one relationship that wasn’t as screwed as her relationship with Clay was.

But, sadly for me, it just feels like the episode all but forgot Opie, at least until the last act of the episode. The whole wake was a somber affair and really showed just how the death of Opie will affect every one involved. And yet, I wish the whole episode could’ve focused on their grieving, and not treated Opie as an afterthought. But this isn’t that show.  Maybe in the ensuing episodes things will be handled differently, but as of now, I’m a little disappointed. I’m also disappointed that they keep the lingering storyline of the home invasions going, I’m ready to see how this will affect the season-long arc instead of just briefly teasing it. This was also the first episode that Pope doesn’t appear in, he’s only briefly mentioned, but sometimes the club’s sense of smugness could get them killed. Why do they question Jax’s authority when clearly it’s the best route to take? It seems that once Opie died, the last lingering sense of sanity left the room, although Bobby does kind of fill the gap of logical Son.

It takes time to see where a season is going to find itself, and this episode just wasn’t as strong for a follow up after last week’s powerful episode. I just can’t wait to see how it escalates and see just what may happen to our men towards the end of this season. Will there be more blood? Oh, I’m so certain.

5×05 – Orca Shrugged

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Regina Corrado, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton

It’s a hell of a life being President of SAMCRO. Jax Teller spends all his days and nights trying to clear the thickness of the gun deals and drugrunners and gangsters, that his laser precision focus on partnering with new ally Nero Padilla is totally understandable. He’s running in vain to clear the woods and his struggle to get free of all the nightmarish business that Clay has dragged the club into. There is a moment at the end of ‘Orca Shrugged’ where Jax Teller arrives home after a hellishly long day and finds a cooler filled with a female breast and a thumb, part of the agreement he made with the gangbangers in last week’s episode, to save the prostitute from a fate way worse than death. He reclines back in his chair, his face bruised from a fist fight earlier in the day, and sighs. It’s an ending that fits perfectly for all the proceedings thus far.

It makes perfect sense that SAMCRO would have to partner with the mayor Jacob Hale, even as he tried in vain to destroy the town with his new Charming Heights proposal. We haven’t seen him since last season’s finale when Lincoln Potter threw a giant monkey wrench into his plans. Now, he’s still puttering around trying to keep his plans for the Heights going. And when Jax approaches him with the new proposal to start a legitimate business, he’s guarded. So, naturally they figure out a way to blackmail him using an associate and Hale caves signing over the lease to one of his buildings. It shows that Jax is having to figure out that you have to acquiesce, when he gives in to help Hale go forward with Charming Heights. I also enjoyed the cameo apperance of “Justified” actor, Walton Goggins as a transgendered prostitute, Venus Van Damme. It’s a throwback to fans of Kurt Sutter’s (and Goggins’) old stomping grounds, “The Shield.” The cameo totally works and fits in with the show perfectly. I also love that true to Tig’s character, they’ve kept him as a good old sexual deviant. Who else would have an erection while getting a bite on his bottom stitched up?

They also have to start tying up the loose storyline threads of the deal between the Irish and the Galindo/CIA. There was the awkward fight between Galen and Jax that went on during the meet. I get why Jax would want to fight him, because he’s causing him to feel like a caged animal. Galen wanted Clay alive to finish the deal and if there’s no deal, the CIA take SAMCRO down. So, if Jax can’t control the situation, he can at least let him know how he feels by going a couple of rounds. I imagine that SAMCRO want Galen dead after he tests his big machine gun by shooting up the Sons’ bikes up. I hope they wrap up this storyline soon, because if they want to continue on with Jax’s business proposal and Damon Pope trying to shoehorn in, it’s best to wrap up a storyline that’s been lingering since season one.

This was also the first episode in quite a while where Gemma wasn’t the single most annoying character in the show. It’s mostly because they’ve dropped the annoying battle of her trying to take Abel and Thomas away from Tara. That’s a storyline that doesn’t fit in, in the grander scheme of things. I feel slightly bad for Gemma when she confronts Nero and he pushes her away. This is the one thing, the one certainty in her life that could actually work for her betterment. But, her being opted out of the business is for the best. She’s a meddler and will drag them down big time. The scenes at the end of the episode where Gemma apologizes to Tara were nice. It’s best when they don’t act like crazy bickering housewives. If they dial Gemma back, it’ll be for the best. I did love when Jax finally gave her whatfor. She stomps around throwing her hat into everyone’s ring, and it’s high time someone dialed her back a peg. But, for the most part, this is the shade of Gemma I like.

The storyline I’m not over the moon about is the home invasion storyline. Yes, there was some moving forward this week but it still feels stuck in neutral. I don’t enjoy the new members of the Sons because they just feel like they show up, complain about Jax’s new business proposals and then look shifty when the home invasions are mentioned. I wish they’d at least explain why they’re happening or what their motives are. Obviously, they know enough to pawn the stolen items off on other bangers, but it’s a storyline that needs filling out. And I realize that some storylines are slow burn, but this one just takes the longest to get off the ground. It’s also tying the most compelling character to the background, Sheriff Roosevelt. He was great last season, a character mired in shades of gray. Now, he’s stuck wallowing in a spinning storyline. And hands up, if anyone else predicted that once Roosevelt’s wife was found out to be pregnant, she’d lose the baby at some point. Yes, maybe this will fuel his fire but halfway into the season, I’m hoping this isn’t a major point in the back half. Also, how did Roosevelt know to check under her fingernails for skin? Did she tell him? Maybe I missed it.

This was a major improvement from last week’s episode and it’s clear that Opie’s death has caused reverberations through SAMCRO and in Jax especially. We’re nearly halfway through the season and I hope that it’ll be this continually burning flame getting hotter and hotter and I welcome the boiling point.

5×06 – Small World

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kurt Sutter, Roberto Patino | Directed by Adam Arkin

Sometimes it can be a little frustrating watching a long running television series. Often times, the show can stall out and leave you waiting impatiently for the storyline to pick up. That sagging can often leave people wallowing in the dust. I really wasn’t too attached to this season in the beginning. But, once they started dropping some of the storylines that didn’t matter, like Gemma’s pathetic attempts to wrangle Jax’s children from Tara, it started dragging me back in. And now as we’re halfway through the season, I find myself getting deeply invested in the story and wondering where it’ll go from here.

On one front, “Small World,” is asking us to be invested in a storyline, the home invasions, that we’ve only seen very little part of here and there. That’s the part I’m not too enamored with. I mean, it’s strange that they only added the three new members just to have them come into play for the home invasion story. If they’d only revealed the new members after the fact, there might have been some sort of suspense to it, but as it is, it’s a very clumsy storyline. Even more so, they’re asking us to invest in who when we already know who. Rather, we should be saying why. And with the closing minutes revealing that Clay is in fact the mastermind behind the bikers breaking in to homes, leaves us with some sort of movement on a story, that like I said early has felt like a massive stall game and not the slow burn story it could’ve been. I’ll admit that I didn’t think Clay would’ve been behind it, but they started dropping hints throughout the episode, like Clay feigning his illness as far worse than it is and his sudden investment in it.

It also asks us to sympathize for a character we knew little to nothing about. We knew Carla had some sort of relation to Nero but it was kept vague. Her outright unlikeableness caused me to just flat out not care about anything that happened to her. When she attacked Gemma and Nero for the most part, I cared less about her and more about the characters she was holding at gunpoint. There’s no way you’re able to grieve for a character that we barely knew but as a lightly sketched out antagonist. I thought they might even have her kill Nero but instead when she turns the gun on herself, I felt no sympathy. Why should I? I only find out who she was after she died. It was mishandled but at least it’s a partial storyline we can put to rest.

The part that gives me pause is Jax getting into business with Damon Pope so soon after he made it a point to try and get out of the drug muling business. Why would he think it’s in his best interest to partner up with the man who had previously made it his personal agenda to kill members of his club. Maybe it makes for good money and he’s securing his finances for the potential endgame he’s setting up with Nero? If he’s giving up the plan with Nero, then all of the stuff he went through to secure the building for DIOSA is just pointless in hindsight. I also didn’t enjoy the brutality of the revenge storyline with the prison guard and his wife. It felt cruel even when you take into account that he didn’t kill Opie, he only set him up to die. Even more so, I don’t get why Tig felt comforted after killing the wife. It felt like a pointless exercise in cruelty for me. But it’s a minor feeling I had.

Roosevelt’s depression of the death of his wife was a much more palpable feeling and at least had you sympathizing with him. His blind path towards destroying the MC may have brutal consequences down the line but we’ll see. Elsewhere, we have Tara now lying to Jax after her failure to get Otto to sway in his unflinching decision to scorch the earth in regards to the club. I don’t get why she’s lying now but again, it’s something we’ll have wait and see just how it’s handled. I also enjoyed Unser’s words with Gemma. He’s been conspicously absent this season and his words cut deep and have obviously affected Gemma at the episode’s end.

So, we find ourselves with seven episodes left in the season. We’ve got Clay behind the home invasions, Roosevelt on the warpath with the club, and Jax doing business with Damon Pope. That’s a loaded gun waiting to go off at any moment.

5×07 – Toad’s Wild Ride

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kurt Sutter, Chris Collins | Directed by Peter Weller

It seems the noose is tightening around most of our major players, if not all of them this week.

First things, they kicked the home invasion storyline into high gear in a short, heavy burst. They spill almost all the major beans of Clay’s plot to overthrow Jax at the throne before Act One. It seemed a little too exposition-y for my tastes but then again, I was complaining about the lack of story for this plot, I just didn’t expect infodump. I mean, it makes sense for Clay to back this kind of play, as he spent almost all of last season as a mustache twirling supervillain. I felt a little tension when Clay visited Unser in his trailer and they had a standoff without guns, but with words. Of course, Clay was going to root the flunkies in and get them killed. Why wouldn’t he? We barely know who they are at this point and now they’re dead. They were just chess pieces with flesh and had little to no characterization. They’re the equivalent of that character in a video game that pops up and talks when the mission deems it necessary. I’m interested to see long term how this plays out with everyone around the club, but it’s too little too late to care about the men Clay put literally in the line of fire. It’s going to be a titanic struggle between Jax and Clay over the home invasion stuff, and I hope they find a way to end this without the contrivance of last year’s finale.

And damnit, they’ve brought Wayne Unser back into the fold and he’s on top of his game for it. Unser’s gotten the short shrift pretty badly so far this season and maybe it’s because he’s been waiting in the wings, calculating and figuring out what is up with the invasions in Charming. My only qualm is that he handled his vetting of the two bikers rather clumsily. If you think this men are capable of murder, do you show up and just chat them up? Maybe so, but it just seemed like he should’ve known better. I also enjoyed seeing Dayton Callie play off of Ron Perlman in the aformentioned trailer scene. It was thick tension and very well done.

There wasn’t much on the other men of SAMCRO front, as most of it was tied up with either the home invasion storyline or Gemma’s storyline which involved her getting robbed by her one-night fling. It was a nice cameo, briefly done by Joel Mchale. I just feel that it was something serviceable to pass the time in between the invasion stuff. My only problem is that Jax was going to kill him, when he could’ve just beat him up like Nero did at the end of the episode. Doesn’t Jax comprehend that violence begets violence. It’s like the men of SAMCRO have “eye for an eye” permanently engrained in their brains. The problem here, is that we begin to slip out of the shade of gray that Sons of Anarchy attempts to tread week in and out. It’s dull watching a show about sociopaths after a cerain amount of time. I mean, in the beginning Jax was capable of violence but did it to protect people. Now, he’s standing idly by while Tig executes a woman in cold blood. It’s slipping further and further towards a doomed inescapability. I don’t have a problem with the death and chaos on the show, but it’s almost as if they don’t want blurred lines between good and evil, and if the bad guys aren’t discernible from the good, then where do we attach ourselves? But, damnit, Charlie Hunnam sells it so well. It’s a fascinating arc and I love it but I don’t know how I feel about his disattachment. And Nero, well, it just doesn’t make sense that he would attack Mchale’s character. He was told that Gemma would only lead him down this path of trouble and yet, he finds himself standing there defending her honor. I get where he’s coming from but jeez, man, the lady is bad news. He’s got the new digs for DIOSA, so cut bait and cut it now. That’s gonna be a problem down the line.

They’ve toned back Gemma’s almost crazed behavior from the almost intolerable heights they were aiming for. I don’t favor the Lifetime-esque storylines of custody battles in my violent pulp opera. But, they’ve given Gemma an arc where she seems to want to destroy herself in lieu of any favorable alternative. It’s good for the bottoming out of some characters and there can be a whole lot mined from it. I mean, the character who always seemed to be powerful and had her shit together is now slipping down the slope at an increasingly speedy rate. It’s believable that someone would lose after all this time, all the violence and all the drugs would take its toll. Gemma’s gone through some heavy stuff in the past, like the rape and Clay’s violent beating but this is bottoming out. She’s regained her trust with Tara but with her almost certainly endangering the children after crashing the car with them in it, this may be her final destination.

They also seem to have some sort of deal with Tara trying to ingratiate herself with Otto in prison. I’m not sure how they’re tying this in at this point, but her sifting through club history has to have a point somewhere in her quest to prevent Otto from going forward with the RICO case. We’ll see where this goes. What do we also make of the men who shot at Jax and Chibs towards the end of the episode? One of the men was killed and unmasked, and was revealed to be black. Is this retaliation from the Niners, or Damon Pope? My other speculation is, did they actually shoot either Chibs and Jax? It sure looked like they did. These two mini-plots tie in to the story, but Tara has a much more tenuous link to the arc of the season proper.

I like the back half of the season much better than the first. It’s upping all antes and giving us threads to pull and pull as we move through the episodes and reach the end of the season.

5×08 – Ablation

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Mike Daniels, Roberto Patino | Directed by Karen Gaviola

So much of this season was spent was spent shuffling the deck, passing cards back and forth that waiting for the proper arc was getting a little exhausting. Then, they shifted it all on us. All the perception was skewed thus far. I mean, at the beginning of the season, I would’ve been able to tell you that Damon Pope would’ve been the adversary that SAMCRO battled throughout the season. But, I was wrong. I was dead wrong. Hell, Pope is beginning to show himself as a mentor, albiet a dangerous one, the exact flipside of the coin from Nero Padilla. As the episode progressed, it started to dawn on me who the real villain of the season is.

It’s SAMCRO.

Think about it, everybody in the club or most of them anyways, is in danger of folding in on themselves like a collapsing star. First, you’ve got Clay still shifting gears back and forth trying to overthrow Jax at the throne of the club. He failed miserably with his home invasion scams and now has two dead members and Sheriff Roosevelt’s wife on the slab. After seeing Roosevelt have a meet with Juice at the hospital, Clay starts wheel spinning and practically gets Juice to own up to all of the of the deeds he got up to last season, up to and including the stolen key of cocaine for the Feds. Clay plays like he’s still the czar of the club and gives him a reprieve which pushes Juice into the middle lane of the gray. Clay even owns up to getting the two flunkies killed by himself and Unser. It was quite the shocking revelation and again, I felt rather uneasy during the whole exchange.

I’m really excited to see what happens to Juice as the season progresses because as I said, he’s had a great arc transformation just as Jax has. He went from butt of the joke to a haunted, broken fragment of SAMCRO. Now, he may still be pining for the fjords because as the episode ended, Roosevelt still distraught and torn up over his wife (and unborn child’s) death, offers up the rat, whom we know as Juice. It’s another interesting development because this makes Roosevelt a darker character like those men he actively seeks to lock up. I will admit that after the nth time he mentioned the death of his wife, he started to feel slightly like Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight.” It’s horrible and inconceivably awful because he was sucked into the damned gravity of this violent club but prattling on about it was getting old at least until he cut the meat of the situation and went straight for the bone. He’s going for the throat and I love it. I still enjoy what Charlie Hunnam does with Jax and his vengeful murder of the hired assassin was a dark moment for the character, as well as the dismemberment of the other gunman. His machinations towards Gemma and Clay at the end of the episode show that he’s settling into the role of President of the club and sadly becoming just the thing he feared he would become. Clay.

It’s also no surprise that Clay lies for Gemma, after all he’s trying to get into her good graces and what better way to do so. It’s a horrible shame that she went along with the lie and I honestly feared for her life when she finally fessed up and told Tara the truth. I thought she would get a whole lot worse than a shunning and a slug to the face. I loathe what they’ve done to her character and what they’ve turned her into his a character that you grin and bear until you move on to the next and better storyline. But, Jax is trying to get Clay to confess all his major misdoings and he’s right to get him and Gemma back together simply because they would fall into the same rhythms as they had earlier. I hate that they’ve turned Nero away from Jax, it’s not really his fault all of this is going on, it’s as if they needed an excuse to break the partnership, after what, three episodes? Nero is a strong character, and they saddle him to a character who is clearly the very same thing he’s trying to avoid.

I don’t like the Frankie Diamonds character because he was usually the major mouthpiece for anti-Jax proposals at the table which in hindsight, makes sense in the light of Clay’s machinations to shove Jax out of the top spot. But, with all his bullish villainisms, they made sure I loathed that Diamonds fellow and I sure did. I mean, what gives him the right and I am so certain that by the end of it, he won’t be alive to see the sun rise. I’m also wondering just who those fellows were in the truck when Diamonds absconded and ran away into the night. I legitimately thought Chibs was going to be killed for the briefest of moments during that scene, I’m not going to lie.

Lots of moving parts in this episode, and frankly I had to have a breather afterwards. I had “Sons of Anarchy,” hangover, where all of it just collided with my brainpan and I just had to breathe for a moment. This is the show I’ve missed. No silly custody storylines. We’re cutting to the meat and potatoes of the storytelling. Let’s stick the landing, and I will be a happy camper.

5×09 – Andare Pescare

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Liz Sagal, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Bill Gierhart

There’s always a great deal of wheel spinning to be expected of a show like Sons of Anarchy, especially one that has a seven season long-plotted arc. Sometimes things need to be stretched unduly to keep things going, sometimes they don’t. It’s really all dependent on the writers and how they choose to map out everything on its course. So, that’s why it can be simultaneously frustrating and rewarding waiting for a long arc to pay off, and right now, we’re nine episodes in and I can see where my simultaneous frustration and sense of accomplishment stands. It’s right smack dab in the middle.

The frustration lies with Frankie Diamonds’ character. I never really liked the character from jump street, and it was clear from the beginning that no one was supposed to. So, we sat around and waited to see exactly why and what he was doing these home invasions for. Then, they revealed it was Clay, (back in full mustache twirling form) trying to upheave Jax from his presidents’ throne. Of course, Frankie was going to die. I mean, why wouldn’t he? If it wasn’t Clay doing the gunning down, it had to have been someone else. Frankie couldn’t tell anyone what Clay was up to, or be handed over to Roosevelt for his trade secrets about Juice being the rat. There lies the problem, the story could go two ways and maybe the path they chose was the more complicated of the two, but it just seemed too damned easy to gun Frankie down because of some mobster’s childish anger.

I’m still frustrated ever so long with Jax’s inability to do anything to Clay. Why does he need some needless machinations to kill Clay? It would be a darker path for him if he killed Clay and passed it off the same way Clay did when he killed Piney. But, because they need to drag it out ever so longer. On that same token, when Jax delivers Frankie’s dead body to Roosevelt, the sheriff instantly turns on a dime and becomes sick at the thought of a man he wishes death upon to actually be dead. It’s quite a bit of nice pathos. But, when Jax deduces that Juice is the rat, it takes him no time to go forward and move forward to attempt to kill Juice as we see at the episode’s end. Or, at least make plans to do so. It’s frustrating that he’ll “kill” Juice but allow Clay to live and get by. Juice has only been manipulated by both good guys and bad, so for Jax to do something like kill him off, is no good especially in light of all the other men in the club that have done just the same. And why would Bobby threaten Clay like that? Bobby seems to be the only sane person in SAMCRO at this point. Didn’t Piney do the same? And isn’t Piney dead now? It seems a bit unwise for him to do that.

There were some nice character moments amongst the other players in the episode. For one, Gemma had some nice quiet moments with Nero, visiting his physically disabled son, and placing the ashes down of his half-sister, who was a better person when she was talked about rather than actually seen. No, the moments where they sat in Nero’s family crypt and quietly talked or, the scene where she struggled to tell Nero about her indiscretions she’s about to commit with her former old man, Clay. I really actually felt for her in that moment rather than contempt for her. Yes, I realize she’s put herself in this situation BUT it’s not easy to see her giving herself over to Clay similarly to Joan Holloway selling herself out to land a gig on ‘Mad Men.’ It’s actually quite heartbreaking and if they play to the internal struggle that Gemma goes through, it could serve as a damn fine bit of retconning.

Elsewhere, Tara had a great bit of character driven business by finally wrangling Otto into a place where he finally cracked and gave in, or at least that’s the idea. She’s growing stronger and much more independent as an “old lady,” and to see her utilize Luann’s perfume as a nostalgic type of sensory manipulation. Not only is it amazing to see Maggie Siff get to wrangle with such an emotional arc, it’s also great to see Kurt Sutter have a nice, broken moment. It was very subdued and actually, very literally kind of touching. I’m not sure what to make of Tara’s self-gratification at the end of the episode after putting on Luann’s perfume. Was that to mean that she was turned on by the smell, or turned on by touching Otto and being physically close to him while he did the same thing? It was very different for sure, but altogether it was another nice bit of drama in a loaded episode. My only qualm: Can Tara’s boss change her marital status without her knowledge? And it was done just to have more trouble with Jax’s felonious charges and that Tara will have trouble down the line? That’s my only quibble in an otherwise fantastic episode.

It’s taken time but this season has built to a nice crescendo, and damnit, I hope they continue the awesomeness that the show has been radiating thus far. They’re building up threads and making sure they coalesce nicely. Sutter and company are wrapping up a middling season with a strong finish.

5×10 – Crucifixed

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Kem Nunn, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Guy Ferland

There’s this sense of internal rot that’s been permeating this season of Sons of Anarchy. It’s all about SAMCRO, a unit usually able to hold their own against foes more powerful or much more well-connected than they. But, now that their men are dropping like flies and turning on each other like rats in a cage, they’re falling apart. They don’t trust each other. They go off on their own motivations, when usually they bring it to the club for approval. That’s what this season has been about. A storm change. A big, fat hurricane ripping at everyone in Charming. And at the center of this mess, is Jax Teller.

The leader of The Grim Bastards says it best to Jax. “Who are you?” Look, Jax’s transition into the darkness has been a pretty slow burning one, but one that was a long time coming. He’s never been one to shy away from the wet-work, but now he’s crueler inside. He’s learning that balancing the light and the dark as he reigns in his Presidency. First, he’s dealing with the men who swung the killing blows against his friend, Opie. I thought that it would’ve been nice that he didn’t actually kill the man who battered Opie with the pipe. Well, I guess he didn’t. Chibs did. They destroyed allegiance with their pals, The Grim Bastards and further pushed away the one sane member of SAMCRO, Bobby.

He’s also doing his great business deal with Jacob Hale, which went from terrible idea, to endgame idea. I personally hope this angle works out because it’s something that will end up a better deal than if he were to continue drug-running. Also, a nice surprise was that Damon Pope, former villain is actually a willing business partner. This has been a nice and rather unpredictable development in the season thus far. I’m glad they’re dragging Unser back into this because he’s such a good character and well put upon but now that he’s got this fiery passion to take down Clay, he’s been quite invigorated.

Then, there’s the major issue of ferreting out that Juice is the rat. I was glad that they didn’t kill off Juice because he’s pretty much the only character with any sense of redemption in the lot. I will say that was a damned lousy bit of faux suspense making us think that Jax would kill Juice, but it leads to bigger and better things overall. It affords Juice the opportunity to be a stealthy mole with Clay, and receive those ultra important documents that Clay had the Nomads steal previously. Now, that’s fantastic movement on one front. On the other front, it gives a big dividing line in this season. Clay or Juice. If Juice louts it up, he’ll die and Clay lives to crab up another day. And crabbing it up, he is. He’s trying to worm up the RICO case with the Feds, and it seems that he’s doing pretty good doing so. It’s easily the most confusing part of the episode and really digs us back in heavier with easily the most knotted up plot of the season. Gemma got a kind of short shrift this episode but she’s going straight into her deal with Jax and is now allowing Clay to move back into her home. Which I do begin to feel bad for her, because rock bottom is a hell of a thing and it can’t be easy dealing with the afterglow. But, it’ll pay off soon enough because now with Clay gone from his home, Juice is free to ravage the digs for the documents.

Tara’s dealing with heavy stuff for the most part as we dip into the last episodes of the season. It was nice to give her something to do, and having her be the one to break through with Otto, was a nice bit of business. She was the one that could help out by getting him to rescind his testimony. And after last week’s strange encounter, this week their moments together seemed a little more grounded. It all seemed much more innocent, until he asked for Luann’s ornate crucifix for a last happy moment. Yeah, I figured that it wanted it for something insidious. And, boy oh boy, was I right. He offered to rescind by murdering the prison doctor quite viciously in front of Tara. It was a way for Otto to go out his way, and help SAMCRO, but at a darker cost. Tara’s now an accessory to murder, and right now, it’s looking very bad for her.

Three episodes to go and it’s been quite the ride. A proverbial rollercoaster if you will. Ups and downs are always a part of a long-running show but they seem to have it working out for them. There’s a lot of blood in these last few episodes and if everyone doesn’t make it out alive, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s been quite unpredictable.

5×11 – To Thine Own Self

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Mike Daniels, John Barcheski, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Paris Barclay

And thus the noose tightens…

It seems that everyone in this week’s episode, everyone is in a perpetual state of struggling. They’re painted into corners that seem almost inescapable, and judging by the way this back end of the season is going, they aren’t going to be making it out. The ticking clock element that Sons of Anarchy usually employs has never been so present, so demanding this season until now. First, they removed two major hurdles for our President of SAMCRO. Finally, with Otto quashing his testimony by killing that nurse, the RICO case being held over the club is finally dwindling. This has been such a long running storyline that it’s finally nice for it be handled with such precision. It’s almost silly how easy they were able to appease everyone and walk away clean. Everyone fulfills a slot of product the Sons have been giving over, and the Sons can finally move towards legitimate-esque business practices. As Bobby mentions later in the episode, this is big. The club has been stuck in this rut for so long because Clay has been pushing them further and further in the hole.

But, and there’s a major but, Jax is still unable to let go of his vengeance against Clay. I get it, everything that has happened in one way or another, is Clay’s doing. He killed his father, and abused his mother. But, as they’ve been teaching this whole season: violence begets violence. Jax could kill Clay, and if he does then that will take the next season to a whole new realm of possibilities. But, as we see at the episode’s end, Bobby isn’t going to let that happen. At first, I was upset. I mean, Bobby practically accused him of all his wrongdoings and now, he’s saving that bad, bad man. And then, I thought about after words. It makes sense. Bobby has never been one to shy away from violence, but he’s trying to stop the killing because it seems to be the very thing that is aiming to take the club down. They’re losing themselves in the violence and the only way to stop … is to stop. I thought Jax would’ve killed Juice, but no he spared him in this round. But, that’s why Bobby is telling Jax to cut bait. You’ve taken down the white whale, why keep going?

One element of the episode that’s left to be ambiguous is whether or not Tara cares if Jax leaves with her when she takes the new job she’s accepted in the episode. She gives him a rousing speech at the beginning of the episode about getting out while the getting is good and ready, but he’s still looking at the club through rose colored glasses. He isn’t seeing it like she is. So, I take her accepting the job, as a way of severing ties, or at least thinking about it very, very hard. And isn’t it a smart move to take the job? She has children to worry about, and all this club is going to do is drag her down in the undertow. Tara’s wisely assessing her situation and seeing that with her husband stuck in a perpetual stall, it’s best to cut ties and move on to a better situation. Now, maybe I’m seeing it wrong, but this is what I’m gleaning from the episode, and it makes a whole lot of sense. And her scene with Unser was a nice, subdued moment in an episode full of strife, internal and external. It allowed for a breather in an otherwise tightly wound episode.

One of the many benefits of a ninety minute episode is that it allows everything to settle down. Take for instance, the scene with Clay and Tig just shooting the breeze over a couple of beers. In any other case, the scene would’ve been dropped. But, as it is, we’re allowed to soak in the real emotional resonance behind it. Clay’s still trying to sway Tig back into his ‘Emperor Palpatine’ – esque mitts and Tig’s refusing. It’s a far cry from where the show used to be when Clay was calling the shots and obedient Tig would follow. Now, Jax is forcing him to heed every word and Tig looks back in hindsight to see that following Clay leads down a very, very bad road. It’s a brief scene in hindsight, but a mightily important one.

Now, in regards to Nero’s sub-plot, some aspects of it, felt extraneous. I had thought that Jax and Nero weren’t partnering over Diosa anymore. I was wrong. They seem to be in better sorts than they were a few episodes back. The part that felt like it could’ve been missed was everything dealing with Nero’s old gang. The purpose it seemed to serve for me overall, was a) A random action sequence to add some gunfire to the proceedings and b) to show that Nero is capable of doing some dirty work and this is where I began to perk up for the plot. Look, I’ve never had any problems with Jimmy Smits’ work on the show thus far, but he was saddled to an inept storyline. His chemistry with Katey Sagal is so-and-so but the bond they’ve hoisted on Nero with Jax is one of the best things this story has going for it. When Jimmy Smits busted in the door and began shooting up his old gang looking for Jax, I felt deep for him. But when he showed up at Gemma’s doorstep, worried sick that she has moved on to Clay, I felt deeper for the man. I mean, the love between those two has never been something I was over the moon about but as of late, they’ve really began to invest me into it with a fiery passion.

And finally, and most intriguingly to me, they’ve introduced a mysterious character played by Donal Logue and in three small scenes, he’s made quite the impact. From beating Otto Delaney down, (On a side tangent, is this the most that we’ve seen of Otto in any season whatsoever? Maybe last season, but he’s been given lots to do, which isn’t too bad, given the little bits of business he’s been doing), to silently stalking Tara, he’s a character that’s bound to be reckoned with.

Two episodes to go and they’ve been winding up the season in the most major way possible. I was initially let down when it began, but now as they tighten the proverbial noose, I find myself invested so heavily, it hurts.

5×12 – Darthy

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Chris Collins, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Peter Weller

There’s barely room in here to breathe. Everything that’s been moving and moving this season seems to be on a reckless collision course with one another. As haphazard as that may sound, it gells so beautifully, it’s so sublime, it’s almost ridiculous how good the pieces fit together. It’s symphonic interlocking. As up and down as this season may have been, credit being due where it’s due, this is THE best episode of the season. Even if it has some low watermarks in regards to some slightly wonky plotting.

At last, they’ve gotten rid of Clay. That he should’ve died when he was layed up in the hospital last season, well that’s a whole ‘nother story. I can’t deny it, the unpredictability. Would I have predicted that Clay would’ve owned up to his mustache twilrling plot to unseat Jax? Maybe, but maybe not. That it was just laid out, bare bones, was pretty unexpected. I had a uneasy feeling when the camera swirled around the table as each member shirked him out into the cold. Of course, we knew Bobby would be the only one to defend him from meeting Mister Mayhem. We knew that from last week. Bobby’s point of letting Clay live made sense, but Jax just doesn’t see it. He’s too far gone to care. He’s so wrapped up in his own problems that letting the one man who caused him all his misery to live, isn’t something that he can abide. Now, that cold open was gorgeous. It had such a muted tone to it, and the performances from all men, was just damn fine work. The direction by Peter Weller was even more superb. Ron Perlman plays Clay Morrow as such a brute that seeing him break down, after being on the recieving end of a beatdown by Jax, was refreshing and welcome. His stunning dead-on look when he’s getting his tattoos blacked out at the episode’s end. He’s lost it and he knows it.

I feigned a little at the overcooked complications that came about as a result of anything involving the Cartel, the IRA or Damon Pope. Firstly, it couldn’t be easy that they cleared the wreckage that was the pileup of anything Cartel-IRA related. How could it be? But, it’s as if the writers didn’t want it to be easy. And that’s fine, if it weren’t a storyline that’s been dragged on since late season one way back with Cameron Hayes. It would be fine if it didn’t just seem like it needed to happen. Of course, the Cartel needed weapons only the IRA could supply. Of course, the Cartel had to show up and blow the meet that Jax had PERFECTLY under control. That felt eyerolling to me. Now, at least the Cartel are gone, hopefully at least. The IRA promise that hell will follow but all of their issues seemingly get washed over when Jax gets bailout money from Nero’s quick, easy fix.

At least, the only glimmer of hope of anything fruitful comes out of all this mess. Clay’s starting up his own club. This is an idea that has potential. Even if, he should be pining for the fjords long ago. I’m intrigued by it. It feels like something moving forward and not progressing backwards. Now, I like how they’ve turned what the idea of what Damon Pope was on it’s head. Originally, he was made out to be this season’s big bad. Now, he’s a kind of mentor to Jax, when he needs it. Jax is adrift, and with all these people treating him like he’s a literal Stretch Armstrong. Pope wants Tig, that’s something lingering from way earlier in the season. That he’s forcing Jax’s hand even while partnering with him felt a little like handcuffing plot together unnecessarily. It brought back Vietnam-esque flashbacks of last season’s finale. It felt gut-wrenching during the episode that Jax was going to give Tig up, but by episode’s end, he hadn’t. No, something monumental like that is going to be done in the finale.

I also didn’t love the custody stuff early on in the season. But, here it felt better emotionally, it didn’t feel out of place. It makes sense that Tara is going to be looking for someone to take care of the kids if and when she goes away. At least, it was all machinations here. Wendy is a natural choice. But, that she turns on a dime after being held hostage by the IRA, and instantly threatens both Jax and Tara made her a terrfying player in the game. When Jax showed up at her motel room, at the episode’s end, I thought that he was there to kill her. It’s to be expected, given his colder attitude this season. But, he drugged her up nicely, and that felt harsher to me. Jax tells Tara he’s going to make life beautiful for her and the kids, but is their life better? This is something that was briefly touched in season three, when Jax thought to leave Abel behind in Belfast. And now, he thinks that leaving his children in a life full of violence and guns is better? This lack of compassion is honing him, but it’s going to break him apart. He trusted Bobby once upon a time, and now he’s threatening him. This life will turn him into Clay Morrow, whether he likes it or not.

The plot involving Tara has been the sneaky, stealthy awesome arc this season. It’s one of those plots the show does so well. You keep digging and hope you make it out. The problem is, you never hit the bottom, you just keep going. Last week, we met Donal Logue’s character and this week, we learned a whole lot more about him. I thought it was quite fitting that he played the brother to the nurse that Otto killed. After all, she was his sister in real life, Karina Logue. He’s a whole lot scarier when he’s not beating people down, and his performance while vetting Tara could give anyone’s willies, the willies. He will be a big problem for the Sons, it’s so very easy to see. He will be big trouble judging by all those guns he has laid out on his bed. He will be a foe worthy of fear. This is a very exciting prospect and one I welcome with open arms.

I know it seems like there were a lot of problems with the episode, but trust me, it was fantastic. It was something fierce, almost feral. It was like a whole different animal was unleashed, and I think the show was better for it. There are so very many stakes set up this week, and if they stick the landing in the finale, boy howdy it’ll be bombastic. This may have been an uneven season, but in hindsight, it’s so very terrific. The end is nigh, and if anyone makes it out alive, it’ll be a miracle.

5×13 – J’ai Obtenu Cette

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst | Written by Chris Collins, Kurt Sutter | Directed by Kurt Sutter

Well, it’s all said and done now, isn’t it?

Most of the time, you can give much thought into an episode title and what a fitting one Sutter and company have chosen to end this season five. J’ai Obtenu Cette translates to “I’ve got this.” It’s what Opie Winston says to Jax and his crew right before he meets his own haphazard version of Mister Mayhem. It’s kind of fitting really, because by the end of the season, right here and now, no one has gotten anything. In fact, they’ve gone and lost it. They’ve been caught up in the nuclear swirl of this club and they don’t realize that they’re poisoning themselves in the process. It’s this gaping hole in the club that we’ve never seen happen before. Everyone has been irrovacably changed by the end of the episode and it makes for such beautiful, fantastic drama.

The finale co-written and directed by showrunner Kurt Sutter takes all the cards in play this season and shuffles them together in such a powerful hand that doesn’t feel locked in or contrived. In fact, it feels organic for the most part with a few hiccups along the way. I felt such tension and warmth in the events roiling through the finale. The brotherhood seemingly destroyed by Clay and all the stormy outsiders had a strong bond, after all. It felt fantastic. It felt earned. It was little things throughout the episode, little character beats that wamred my cackles. Like, during that raid on Nero’s rival gang, when Tig saves an injured pit bull from getting killed after losing out in a dogfight. It was a subtle moment, and makes sense when you think about last season’s Kozik feud over the dog. Tig can be cold blooded but he has a heart and I felt a love for him I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Or Gemma naming the parrots Carl and Carla. It’s the little things that add up overall in a long-running finale like this one.

I didn’t care too much about the Nero subplot, but it does continually show that Jimmy Smits is so damn good in this role. He’s allowed to be free in this role. Even as much as I loathe Gemma, it was nice to see them together. And Nero trying to get Jax to give up the ghosts and get out, just as much as he needs to was another in the nice moments throughout the finale.

So, how did Jackson Teller do in his first year as a President? Overall, I think he did pretty damn good considering all things. He did the one thing Clay refused to do, he made an escape hatch and got the club out. But, he had seemingly lost his way on that same front. After Opie died, he was never the same. He had been down a darker path. Because of all this and the way the finale was going, I was all but certain that he really would give Tig over to Damon Pope. He had gone that far. But, there is no more a moment to stand up and cheer when he kills all of Pope’s men and gives the gun over to Tig for revenge. Seeing Kim Coates break down at his friend giving him over was a moment of heartrenching pain only equaled by his performance in the premiere. And then, it was even more of a win when they showed the murder weapon was Clay’s old gun. I like that Roosevelt just let it play because he gets his win by putting away the head of the Nomad break-ins.  Clay Morrow may not be dead, but he’s going to be locked up for a long while at least until the default bounty for Damon Pope gets someone to take him out. All the machinations that usually bog down other episodes, didn’t collapse this episode. It made it stronger.

Frankly, it was all wins around the block this episode.

Well, most of the episode. I like that Tara had started to make plans to get the children and get them out. The club is a poisonous cyclone threatening to suck everyone in. How many people have died since the beginning? Since before the beginning? So, the fact that she’s trying to save her children and get them out makes her a strong person. It’s very upsetting that everyone, save for Wendy, is trying to get in the way. Hell, the mere fact that Wendy and Tara are working together for a common good should tell you that their intentions are the best. That’s not saying that Jax and Gemma both have good intentions but they don’t have the mother instinct that Tara does. I started to feel better about Gemma until she threatened Tara with putting her in prison.

And if Gemma made good on her threats, that has to be the reason why the police arrested Tara at the end of the episode. If that’s the case, I don’t think Gemma will be long for this world. It’s easy to feel rage boil over at Gemma, when it seemed that all this custody garbage was behind her. Now, she’s sending away the one constant in Jax’s life. I realize that this is pure speculation but if this is the case, then this is dark stuff. It couldn’t have been Otto giving over testimony, because he snapped off his tongue in that rather gruesome scene. We also didn’t see much of the ex-U.S Marshal Lee Toric, although we learned a whole lot about him in the interim. He’s not a character to be messed with and he will certainly not be going away anytime soon. This is exciting, this is powerful stuff.

It was a mixed season in the beginning but damnit, they really turned it around in the last half. It became stronger, wilder and much more focused. I’d say that overall this was one of the stronger season out there. It was bumpy, because they had a whole lot of loose ends throughout that went nowhere. It was a long season, five ninety minute episodes overall. It adds to some great television. Season six is going to be a long wait.

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