Paul Risker reviews the fourth episode of Sons of Anarchy season 5…
Now we wait on Jax to fulfil his promise and avenge his best friend… But as always the show exudes a sense of patience, and a willingness to allow the inevitable to come to fruition in its own time. Sutter understands there is no reason to rush the inevitable, equally appreciative of the expansive nature of the conflict stage of a narrative and the requirement to perfectly time an effective denouement.
Episode four opens with a disquieting sensibility, as children riding their bikes stop to gaze in awe upon the passing SAMCRO formation of motorcycles. As Jax points to them, the moment is imbued with an unspoken melancholic tone – the innocence and naivety of youthful admiration. Such a moment is testament to the strong characterisation, in that we know the characters so well we can read their thoughts. We even know Kurt Sutter’s intentions so well he can discard dialogue, the synchronicity of creator, character and audience evident in this one moment.
The opening scene emerging from the titles is unsettling, with SAMCRO evidently further under the control of Damon Pope, who Jax tells the group, “controls the fear.” Pope is an adversary unlike any of SAMCRO’s previous. Whilst season two’s antagonist Ethan Zobelle sat eating lunch with the mayor of Charming, Pope sits at the table with judges and senators. But any temporary concession to Pope proposed by Jax until the time an effective strategy to deal with him is devised, the tension between Jax and Clay, the two alpha-males, will continue to simmer. Any acceptance to Jax’s proposal was from some quarters a disgruntled “yay”, indicative of what one can only perceive as a dividing SAMCRO, and the developing drama for future episodes of season five.
Whilst Jax has secured Tig’s backing on his every decision, wrangling a deal with Pope to amend the original proposition in which Tig would have remained incarcerated, there is a sense that Juice will be an important game changer as the season develops, with a confrontation brewing for control of the various pieces on the chess board between current and former SAMCRO President. The only two pieces Jax can truly count on with Piney and Opie no longer at the table are Bobby and Chibs. A change in fortune and Tig could switch allegiance to Clay’s mandate, and Juice sits as the undecided piece, becoming more and more Clay’s confidante.
If in episode one of this season there was a suggestion of Tara’s transformation from her more angelic personification in the pilot at the hands of Sons of Anarchy’s Lady Macbeth, Gemma Teller, in ‘Stolen Huffy’ Tara is goaded into an act of brutal bloodletting violence. Hearing Sutter’s announcement regarding her story arc for the sixth season, it seems only a natural progression.
On the subject of transformation, there is a compelling moment shared between Clay and Gemma, with Clay telling her that he no longer recognises her, and to go ahead and if she wants to destroy herself. Whereas she has always had a dominating position as wife or mother to the SAMCRO President, Tara’s distrust of her, and equally Jax’s distrust bred from the revelations of her part in his father’s death, have compromised her position. She is left to kick up the hornet’s nest once again with Jax’s ex and Abel’s birth mother Wendy (Drea de Matteo) over visitation rights, in the course threatening Tara’s position all a tactical decision to circumvent Tara’s blockade of the children. Gemma is a fascinating character, and despite her flaws, we are compelled to project sympathy towards her whether deserving of it or not.
At its heart Sons of Anarchy is a family drama, perhaps even Sutter’s interpretation on Shakespearean themes. As much as the drama is imbued with betrayal, there is a sense of loyalty to offset the cruelty of human nature. In what is an emotionally moving moment, Jax reminds Lyla that SAMCRO is her family too, and whatever her needs, the SAMCRO family will support her.
If episode two was all about the potential of networking, then this angle comes to fruition in ‘Stolen Huffy’, as Jax goes into the escort business with Nero, opening up his Cara Cara contacts from SAMCRO’s previous foray into the porn business, on condition of Nero separating business and the personal, namely Gemma. In another chase sequence connected to their budding partnership, it seems Nero will continually infuse the show with an extra pinch of drama – not that it was ever lacking such.
Paul Risker is co-editor in chief of Wages of Film, freelance writer and contributor to Flickering Myth and Scream The Horror Magazine.