Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sons of Anarchy: Toil and Till, S7E2

Jax should listen to August Marks.

“Clarity settles all scores, pays back all debts,” Marks told Jax early in this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy. Marks said one of the greatest lessons Damon Pope ever taught him was to have patience. “If your emotions say ‘now,’ your head’s gotta say ‘later.’”

Of course, Jax didn’t listen. Yes, it was too late for him to take the advice completely, but if he’d taken it when it was offered, Jury would have been saved some incredible pain, and the MC wouldn’t (likely) be facing heat from its own charters.

Jax laid out his plan to Jury, and it’s the first we’ve heard of it too. It’s vicious. It’s complete retribution—ill-placed retribution, but Jax doesn’t know that—but it’s forged somewhere south of hell. I believe the devil himself is tipping his hat to Jax, and that is so not what I wanted for this season.

What surprised me most, especially in this episode, was everyone’s willingness to follow Jax. Chibs and Bobby were so proud of him at the end of the last season for his efforts to make the club legitimate. When they had their big multi-charter meeting, those men were on board with the “escort” and the porn business too. They signed off on getting out of guns, of ditching the heat from the cops. And Jury was one of Jax’s biggest supporters.

But now, everybody is just following the prince. I understand they’re supporting a brother—their president—whose wife was murdered. I understand they bought Gemma’s story hook, line, and sinker, and that they believe targeting and punishing the Chinese is payback for Tara. But, as Jury pointed out, Jax’s ultimate plan is huge and horrible and could bring chaos and damage to all the charters. And still they follow.

I couldn’t believe it when Jax, Chibs, and Bobby walked into Renny and Gib’s place, cool as could be, and then just blew them away. I understood what they were doing as soon as Chibs pulled out the heroin, but those two stupid guys were innocent (in the world they live in), and they’d just helped the Sons out with the attack on the Chinese. Jax doesn’t care who dies. Jax doesn’t care about killing innocent people as long as it furthers his vengeful plot. And evidently, Chibs and Bobby don’t care either.

Where are the questions these two men would have asked Jax last season? Is Jax True North for these guys? Are they unable to swing away from him, to get out of his pull? How far are they willing to go? There are no rules anymore. None at all. And it’s already blowing back on them.

We can guess that, by the way Jury was cradling Renny and crying, Renny wasn’t just “the muscle” to Jury. I’m guessing he was his son. There was too much pain in Jury’s eyes for it to be other than that. And he knows … he saw the sawed-off shotgun that he had personally loaded into the Sons’ van after the fight with the Chinese. He knows SAMCRO killed Renny and Gib. He knows they set those boys up. I have a feeling that Indian Hills won’t be on board with any more of Redwood’s plans, but will Jury seek his own vengeance now? What kind of snowball did Jax start rolling?

The other sticky wicket we have is Wayne. I was so relieved when Juice let him go, and I was so not surprised that Juice didn’t leave town as Gemma told him to do. Juice never does what he should do. Ever. What was he going to say to Chibs when called? What will he say to him when the two sit down next week (as the teaser for next week showed us they do)?

But back to Wayne. When Gemma found the file in his camper, I was truly afraid she was going to kill him then and there. Just smother him or something and let everyone assume the cancer finally won.

“It’s a good thing, you putting friendship over club rule. I know that choice didn’t come easy,” Wayne said to Gemma when he confronted her about Juice staying at Wendy’s. “Let me know if I can do anything to help,” he offered. “I’m tired of counting bodies too.”

Wayne has no inkling that Gemma is responsible for Tara’s death, but he’s going to be helping the sheriff’s department with Tara’s murder investigation, and he’s smart enough, and connected enough, he’ll likely be the one who figures it out. So when he does, what will he do? Will he confront Gemma? Will he tell Jax? Will he tell the sheriff? Or will Gemma kill him before he gets a chance to do or say anything? You know she will if she gets the chance.

“Are you OK, Grandma?” Abel asked Gemma when she got teary-eyed after talking to him about Tara.

“Always,” she responded, kissing the top of his head. “Always.”

Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FX. It’s getting bloodier and bloodier.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sons of Anarchy: "Black Widower" Season 7, Episode 1

Sons of Anarchy throttled into high gear as the final season premiered Tuesday night. BTW ... SPOILER ALERT!!

I’m worried about Wayne Unser. Nobody ever said Wendy was the sharpest knife (or carving fork) in the drawer, but did she seriously not consider the danger of bringing Wayne into her apartment? Did she not for a minute think about how hard it would be to hide from the former sheriff the fact that Juice had taken refuge in her home? It never registered with her that Wayne would wonder why she bought groceries—and then let them sit on the counter—if she was going to stay with Gemma for a while. He may like his weed, but Unser’s a shrewd guy. We knew—didn’t we?—that his radar was running full blast while he was in that apartment.

As soon as he turned his back to the room and opened that closet door, I knew he was in trouble. Didn’t you? Juice couldn’t afford to stay hidden, once he knew that Unser had seen his pack—and his cut. So what now, Mr. Sutter? Who wins this stalemate? Will Juice put Unser out of his cancer-ridden misery before Gemma shows up again? If Juice simply holds Wayne until Gemma’s next visit, I think (I hope, to be honest) he will find that his investment with Gemma might be miscalculated. I think if Gemma has to choose between the two of them, I think (again, I hope) she’ll save Wayne and not Juice.

And what about Mommy Dearest? If you didn’t watch Anarchy Afterword (and if you didn’t, you missed the eye roll of the century—loved that look, Katey!), then you might have thought, as my husband and I did, that Gemma told Juice, “I’m a psychopath,” when he asked her how she was able to look at Jax, to talk to him about Tara. In fact, Gemma said, “I’m not a psychopath,” which made more sense. I just didn’t hear the “not” when I watched the episode.

As Katey explained on Anarchy Afterword, Gemma’s not a psychopath. A psychopath, she said, wouldn’t feel any pain for killing Tara. A psychopath wouldn’t have trouble talking to Jax about Tara. It was hard for Gemma. So, yes, there are many things we can call Gemma, but I think psychopath isn’t one. (Although, I’m willing to revisit that argument if my psychology-majoring daughter wants to discuss it.)

Gemma says she’s the only thing holding the family together. She says that if Jax were to find out what happened, he’d lose everything—he’d lose his mother. It’s a very arrogant statement, that she’s the single thread stringing them all together, but it’s also true. Jax trusts her—to the point that he killed an “innocent” member of Lin’s gang because Gemma said he had killed Tara. (What a tangled web of lies …) Jax counts on her. Loves her. What would happen if he found out the depth of her deception? (I really hope we get the answer to that question before the club rides off into the bleeding sunset.)

Which brings us to the prince. Jax. The wearer of the bright, white shoes. (That was explained on AA also, thank God. It’s always bothered me. Evidently, it’s what bikers wear in SoCal.)

Jax is on a brutal trajectory. Gone is his desire to get on the right side of the law. Gone is his desire to get out of guns. Gone is his desire to be good. He doesn’t care anymore. He loves his club. Period. With Tara gone, Jax is grabbing the gavel with both hands, and he’s embracing the outlaw life once again.

Charlie Hunnam talked about this, along with Kurt Sutter, on AA, and I really liked what they said. Charlie said that Tara was Jax’s moral compass, that she was the one who made him want to be good, to be better, to be different from Clay. Now that she’s gone, he can stop fighting the natural flow of his life—his outlaw life—and he can embrace it and fulfill his destiny. My husband asked, “I wonder what Clay would think of this reversal?” Indeed. What would he think?

With Tara removed as Jax’s moral compass, is there anyone left who can be that for him? Yes, there are two of them. Abel and Thomas. And this goes back to my Season 7 Preview post. If Jax embraces the outlaw life and flows with the current of the life he was born and raised into instead of swimming against it, then Abel and Thomas are destined to live the same life. The cycle will never end. Last season, before Tara died, Jax didn’t want that life for his boys. He wanted her to get them out and away from it. Has that changed?

Jax refused to see his sons at all during that first episode. I think he knows the effect they will have on him. I think he knows they could become that moral compass that Tara was. And right now, that’s not what he wants. So what will Jax decide? Will he shun his children so that he can live this life he seems to be choosing? Are Abel and Thomas already lost? (Grammy Gemma is there, but who would call that a consolation?)

When will Jax see his boys? How will he treat them? What will he say to them? It just dawned on me … he didn’t even visit Tara’s grave. Wayne did. But Jax didn’t. Did he need his vengeance first? And now that he thinks he got his vengeance, which we all know he didn’t get TRUE vengeance, will he be able to let go of any of his anger?

“Truth” is a major theme in this show. But it’s always a relative truth. Like Gemma said to Juice, the two of them did the best thing they could (killing Tara and Roosevelt) based on “the truth we had.” Now, Gemma has to keep the truth from her son so that she can continue to have a relationship with him.

What happens to a relationship that isn’t based on truth? As we’ve seen in six prior seasons, it gets bloody, because the truth always finds its way through the smoke and the fog.

Will the truth destroy Jax, or will it set him—finally—free?

Sons of Anarchy will be back Tuesday at 10 p.m. on FX. I’ll be there.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sons of Anarchy Season 7 Preview

The last season of Sonsof Anarchy debuts Tuesday, Sept. 9 on FX. Are you ready? I am.

This post is chocked full of SPOILERS! If you haven’t watched every episode of Season 6, stop reading. SPOILERS AHEAD!!

So I have questions—as I’m sure you all do—about where Sutter will take his merry band of outlaws this season. Before we go there, we should take a moment to mourn (and celebrate?) the passing of some major players.

Otto was probably the baddest badass I’ve ever seen on any screen. Seriously. The man could dish it out and take it like no other. He was complicated and interesting. Loyal. Loving. Violent. Unforgiving. Ruthless. I will never be able to get that picture out of my mind of him biting off his own tongue. Ever. Whenever Otto was part of a scene, I sat up a little straighter, glued my eyes a little tighter to the screen. Turned the volume up. Otto was always worth watching. Sutter put him(self!) through hell, and Otto got an out he earned. Toric was interesting too, but I wasn’t sorry to see him go, and I was thrilled Otto was the one who got to take him out.

I despised Galen—partly, probably, because I could understand only about every other word he said. (I’m kidding—that’s not why I hated him.) Galen could never be trusted, even when he was supposed to be working with or for SAMCRO. You knew never to turn your back completely to Galen. I think the Kings were even beginning to realize Galen was a little too self-serving for their own good, for their cause. So when Jax killed Galen at the hangar, I was stunned, but oh, so happy. That dude needed to go.

Which brings us to … Clay. For me, it was hard to see Clay go. It wasn’t that I liked him. He was despicable in many ways. It was that he was compelling. Each time you thought Clay had gone as far as he would go into the dark side, he’d go just a little bit farther. I like it when characters surprise me. So many of the conflicts within the show revolved around or were connected to Clay, so I’m happy that Sutter waited until the end of the penultimate season to let him go. I think without Clay, we start to run out of story.

But let’s talk about Clay’s death for a minute, shall we? There were so many elements of that scene—and the scenes that led up to it—that were so well written, so well acted. The subtle look Bobby exchanged with Jax as Bobby lay bleeding in the van. The look on Clay’s face when he realized what was about to happen. “I guess you had another vote I wasn’t privy to,” Clay said to Jax, who says yes, and that this time it was unanimous. The best exchange though, and kudos to Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal, was the look Clay and Gemma shared through the window right before Jax shot him. The history of their life together passed in that one look. It was brutal and beautiful.

The final deaths are the ones that are going to propel this final season. They are the ones that generate the questions we all have: Tara’s death at Gemma’s hands, and Roosevelt’s at Juice’s. What a tense, emotional, scary-as-hell, tragic scene Sutter crafted and Sagal and Maggie Siff brought to life, right? Let me say this: I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!! (And I’m immensely proud that my husband and I were able to keep the secret from our daughter. She went into that scene as blind and unaware as we did.)

I’ve thought about reading Hamlet many times since we started watching SOA. (Yes, I have a bachelor’s in English, took two semesters of Shakespeare, and never had to read that particular play. Go figure.) It’s in my queue on my Kindle. But the farther we got into the series, the less I wanted to know about the source material. I’ve read elsewhere that Sutter has strayed from the original, that’s he’s made it his own, but I don’t know where he’s strayed and where he’s stayed true to it. Hamlet will wait until SOA is over. So if Tara’s death fit with the play, I didn’t know it, and I was blown away not just by the murder itself but by the sheer brutality of it. Death by carving fork. Wow. I think I stopped breathing—literally—during that scene. I remember I couldn’t move. It was fantastic storytelling and acting.

And then, just when I thought I could breathe—a little—Roosevelt walks in, starts to call in the murder, and Juice shoots him in the back. Holy shit. Really? But it fits. Juice has always been a lost little boy. I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner either. He’s always seemed as if he didn’t know quite where he belonged, and the club meant everything to him. SAMCRO was his family, but mostly he just wanted to be loved. I always had a soft spot for Juice.

When Jax told him, “You betrayed me,” right before Jax left to head home in that last episode, Juice knew it was over. He knew he’d lost it all—until he saw Gemma on the floor, bloodied and crying, beside Tara’s corpse. Gemma had always been kind of a weird surrogate mom for Juice, and there she was—vulnerable and desperate. Juice did what he had to do to save the one person who might still love him.

So that’s where we are as we prepare to say goodbye to one of the best dramas on TV. If Jax finds out that Gemma killed Tara, what will he do? This is surely the conflict that will drive this season. There will be lies on top of lies, trying to keep the truth from him. What will he do if he finds out Juice had a part in the cover-up? That one’s easy, right? Juice will die.

But will Jax kill Gemma? I think Shakespeare would say yes. If Jax kills Gemma, everything will come full circle. Gemma signed off on the murder of JT (Jax’s dad), and that death has fueled the show. JT’s death has nearly driven Jax crazy as he’s tried to learn to cope with it, to avenge it, to move beyond it. So to kill his own mother to avenge the murder of his wife, it just seems like a very Shakespearean, tragic, choice to make.

I’ve talked with people who want Jax to kill Gemma. They feel she deserves it, and maybe she does. Hell, probably she does. But for Jax’s sake, and for the sake of those two little boys, I really hope he doesn’t. I hope he finds out, and I hope he chooses to walk away, to send Gemma to prison but not to kill her. DA Patterson told Jax in that final episode, “You’re a husband, and a father, and a man—before all of this. Own your place,” she says. I hope he remembers those words and chooses to be a better parent to Abel and Thomas than Gemma was to him. Otherwise, there is no hope. Is that the message Sutter intends to send—that we’re doomed to repeat the sins of our fathers (and our mothers)?

Next week it all begins, and it all begins to end. I’ll be blogging. I hope you’ll be reading and commenting. Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. EST on FX.