Paul Risker reviews the seventh episode of Sons of Anarchy season 5…
On reflection of this episode it is easy to recall the expression “made by its ending.” Toad’s Wild Ride does build to a climactic conclusion, so much so that the episode in hindsight is best remembered for its ending. But two things to remember:
1. The ending is made by the previous six episodes of season five, and also each of the the previous four seasons.
2. The ending serves to bring us closer to the inevitable, a Segway into the second half of the season.
As is common by now with Sons of Anarchy, the drama is understated, and Toad’s Wild Ride is only one explosive moment in what is an expansive narrative. Robert Rodriguez once commented that we watch movies for those special moments. The most recent instalment of Sons of Anarchy is an episode of moments, and whilst some may be more dramatic than others, they are there to serve the same purpose as the moments of high drama that leaves the future looking decidedly uncertain.
For anyone keeping up with proceedings so far, one is left to ask the question after Toad’s Wild Ride whether Gemma has finally reached tipping point. Previously Clay told her to go ahead and destroy herself, but as we have come to expect in our experiences of television drama, characters engulf others in the wreckage of their lives. To what was a shocking end, the innocent grandchildren Thomas and Abel are the ones engulfed in the flames of their grandmother’s wreckage. Despite Tara’s good will, yielding in the previous episode and giving Gemma access to Thomas and Abel, she ends up in indulging in a one night stand, and falling foul of a ruse to rob her she is left stranded. Jax and Nero come to her rescue, but it is Nero who later in the episode tracks the guy down and lays down a beating. This may be an ominous warning that he still cares for her, and which would mean the personal looms like a bad omen over the understanding Jax and Nero shook on. But then in the world of SAMCRO, what isn’t personal; the two forever intertwined.
If the question has been asked whether Clay will kill his close friend Uncer, the former Sheriff who negotiated with Clay to both keep the peace in Charming and keep the drugs out, the answer remains uncertain. In what felt like a moment in which the writing was on the wall, Uncer’s snooping around, working out the home invasions were being orchestrated from within the club, and his deduction along with Jax and Bobby of Greg, Gogo and Frankie’s involvement, it felt it was time to say our goodbyes to Dayton Callie. In what is not by any means an unselfish act, Clay acts out the part of Uncer’s guardian angel, at first seemingly setting Uncer up, only to turn on his real targets, taking out Gogo and Greg – though with Frankie on the run and Jax on his tail, the game is still up for grabs. As Clay leaves Uncer’s trailer he offers a friendly warning. “Watch your back, Wayne, there’s still one of them out there,” to which Uncer replies “Yeah, I’m watching,” as he watches Clay leave.
Season five is becoming a tug of war, a confrontation fought in the shadows, whilst seemingly wanting to break out into the light of day as it eventually must. Inevitably Jax and his allies must prove Clay has his hands in the home invasions, and Frankie is the one who can provide such testimony. But we are left with the question of whether proving Clay’s on-going subterfuge will resolve anything? Just past the halfway mark, and the body count continues to rise. Before it is all said and done more bodies will fall, in what has been a bloodbath of a season.
As Clay makes a move – one which fails – to take out Jax and Chibs at the close of the episode, the question must be asked of just how far will Clay push to regain control of the club? What lines are these characters willing to cross? SAMCRO is on the brink of a civil war, and one which must be fought to clear out the bad blood and unify the table, but to allow the war to erupt into daylight would dismantle the deal they are securing between the cartel and the Irish Kings, and Jax and Clay would then be settling matters behind bars.
One question permeates through not just the remainder of this season, but through the following seasons. It is not a question of who will be left standing, but who will be left breathing; behind bars or on the streets of Charming?
Clay’s attempt on President and Sergeant at Arms raises the stakes, the season building to a crescendo that remains unclear, but which should have all SOA fans eagerly anticipating it.
Paul Risker is co-editor in chief of Wages of Film, freelance writer and contributor to Flickering Myth and Scream The Horror Magazine.