Paul Risker reviews the second episode of Sons of Anarchy season 5...
Entrenchment, networking and uncertainty… Three words most apt to describe the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy.
Void of the poetic motion that graced the opening of episode one, ‘Authority Vested’ the second episode of the fifth season of Sons of Anarchy feels more reminiscent of the slow burn nature of the preceding season that built to a thunderous crescendo. That is not to say that it is without some high octane action orientated drama - Nero and Jax’s high speed chase with the Niner’s, and the emotional drama as the Cold War between Tara and Gemma lingers on. 'Authority Vested' sits as a stepping stone episode, and as we have come to expect from Sons of Anarchy, these episodes are comfortable stepping stones because even in such moments, they are never anything less than compelling, anchored by character and performance and the deliberate intent of the show’s creator and writing staff.
Entrenchment… Following his confession at Church in the previous episode, where Clay deceitfully pitched the death of Piney as a result of an old grudge, an act of tragic self-defence, this week’s episode serves to further cloud his intentions. He tells Opie that sacrificing his place in SAMCRO because of his hatred for him is pointless, his time coming to an end, whilst Jax and Opie are on now in the ascendency. Clay poses one of the season’s burning questions. Does he represent the genuinely humbled former president, now deposed king, or is there malicious intent behind his words and actions, humbled but contributing to the skeletons in SAMCRO’s closet.
Pope continues to play his part as the season five antagonist, the proverbial thorn in the side of SAMCRO. Powerful, wealthy and connected, he buys witnesses, and with warrants issued for the arrest of Jax, Chibs and Tig, plots his move to exact his revenge not in court, but behind the iron bars, spilling the blood of the SAMCRO President, Sergeant at Arms and Tig.
Pope’s actions serve to entrench Nero, newfound ally to the Sons through what yet may be a compromising relationship with Gemma, offering them shelter and providing them with transport to take care of Club business, leading to the high speed chase with the Niner’s where his character blossoms. Regina Corrado writing the follow-up to Sutter’s episode creates a bond between Nero and Jax, both men having seen their children pay for the sins of their drug abusive mothers. As Nero explains to Jax who questions his motives for helping those who are relative strangers, “Let’s just call this networking. Maybe at some point you could help me.” Episode two entrenches Nero, Pope and Clay in season five’s narrative arc.
Uncertainty… Whilst Opie’s fate seems determined, that he will stay close to his brothers, the uncertainty elsewhere is rife. From Clay’s questionable humility - Clay Morrow: killer of his best friend, attempted murder of his daughter-in-law and abusive husband – can Clay Morrow’s integrity really be expected to pass without question? It is fun trying to decide, and perhaps deep down we hope Clay has shunned redemption, instead willing to give us the mean Clay Morrow who takes what he wants, when he wants it. After all, a scheming Clay Morrow can only benefit the season, making it that bit more compelling - the power struggle between deposed king, and his adoptive son.
Any belief of the high stock value the Galindo Cartel places in SAMCRO is a naive assumption. From Romeo’s subtle warning to Jax of the limits his status as President affords him and Luis and Romeo’s discussion of an alternative plan of action should they fail to secure SAMCRO’s protection behind bars, this is one expendable business relationship. Moving forward the fate of the club is balanced on a knife’s edge, the relationship between the Irish Kings and SAMCRO the lynchpin to the fate of the Sons founded on deceit. The ensuing conflict with Damon Pope is a threat to any future exit strategy from the club’s dealings with the Cartel, drawing too much attention and instability to what is already a tense negotiation to hook up the Romeo and Luis with their supply of guns from the Irish Kings.
The home invasions are a sweetener, shrouded in mystery, and whilst threatening the peace Jax is so desperate to preside over, they represent an interesting narrative revelation for a future episode. The skill of Sutter is to create a main narrative plot, whilst creating and developing sub-plots that open up new narrative arcs, affording him the ability to pitch a curve ball that we never see coming, but is so meticulously planned from the outset. It will be interesting to see how he merges the home invasion sub-plot with the main narrative plot.
A stepping stone episode perhaps, but 'Authority Vested' is compelling drama, manoeuvring the characters into position, entrenching them in the drama that is yet to be played out whilst upping the ante.
Oh and not to forget, but this is the episode where Jax make an honest woman out of Tara… in a Brothel. As Jax says, “I’m all about the fairy tale baby.”
Paul Risker is co-editor in chief of Wages of Film, freelance writer and contributor to Flickering Myth and Scream The Horror Magazine.