Paul Risker reviews the third episode of Sons of Anarchy season five...
If the expression is true that you don’t miss anything until it is gone, then the same can be said for not valuing the time you have with someone until it is too late. Modern television is full of characters that this is true of, most notably the deep mourning fans of The Wire underwent on that fateful night when Omar was gunned down in ‘Clarifications.’ The outcry and hatred towards Kenard reflected that these fictional characters create a unique bond with their audience, and the closest reaction to that of the ‘Clarifications’ moment occurred last night.
For UK audiences ‘Laying Pipe’ was the final appearance of one of the ‘Men of Mayhem’ Harry ‘Opie’ Winston - loyalty and not pride coming before his fall. An outlaw in the eyes of the law, he met his ironically equally by the hand of the corrupt correctional officers.
Out on parole from the outset of season one, it was creator Kurt Sutter’s original intention to kill Opie off during the show’s inaugural season. So taken with the character Sutter pardoned him from this death sentence. Last night the realisation dawned that it was only a stay of execution; wife Donna sacrificed in his place.
Opie’s journey was defined by struggle and fresh out of jail in season one he found himself embroiled in a tug of war between his wife and the club, between the mother of his children desperate for him to not return to the ranks of SAMCRO, and the club and his brothers in arms. Opie’s struggles mirrored those of the troubles of Jax and John Teller, the struggle of freedom from the SAMCRO versus never-ending loyalty.
Opie’s loyalty was never an irrational one, and even if his choice to assault Eli Roosevelt to stay close to Jax, Chibs and Tig was an irrational one, he finally took his exit from this life sacrificing himself for the freedom of his brothers, whilst affording Jax the opportunity to fulfil his quest to get the club out of business with the Cartel, before departing for a more peaceful life with Tara and his kids - something Opie deep down sympathised with.
It was his rationality that allowed him to perceive the road ahead was a troubled one, and the thought of accepting the Vice Presidency concerned him, not so much because he saw turning into Clay, but rather that he himself would turn in Jax. Not mincing his words he told his best friend, "What I know is that the gavel turns shit around.” Whilst his forgiveness extended to Tig and Clay over the accidental shooting of Donna, Clay’s murder of Piney saw no sign of friendship, but rather bullets of a son’s intent on vengeance.
Whilst SAMCRO was an important part of Opie’s life, it was perhaps not the respite as it was for other SAMCRO members, the loyalty coming at a personal cost, though perhaps in truth loyalty to SAMCRO always as its price, regardless of you are. Importantly Jax and Opie shared a final moment in which Jax was able to explain the reason for his decisions, or his choice to use the gavel to turn shit, but Opie and Jax put to rest their animosity before the tragic events set to unfold.
Now we wait on Jax to fulfil his promise and avenge his best friend.
Risker is co-editor in chief of Wages of Film, freelance writer and
contributor to Flickering Myth and Scream The Horror Magazine.