Well that certainly opened with a bang. There were many of us in the SAMCRO fandom who feared the series was beginning to lose some of its luster during its meandering third season spent partially in Ireland. But not all who wander are lost — enter Season Four, which had the best cold open of any to date for SOA, and brought things (mostly) local again, focusing on club politics and betrayals (some of them quite severe). The end of the fourth season was compelling (Jax taking the clubs’s reins with a totally badassed-up Tara in support, a direct callback to Gemma and JT), but what made it even better was all that it set up for Season Five. Clay, The King, is not dead, the club is not rid of outside influences (in this case, the CIA via the Galindo cartel); they’re still running guns and drugs, and the members themselves, and their families, are in constant danger. Though there was no time jump from the end of last year’s run to the start of this one, things are already incredibly busy and incredibly dark. For a reminder of where things left off last year and a look at how things kicked off with the new season, hit the jump.
When we last left the club, Piney was dead by Clay’s hand, Clay had also torn his family apart by putting a hit on Tara, Tig caused drama with the Niners because of Clay’s lies (notice the pattern here), Clay beat up Gemma, and the truth about him killing JT came to light, at least to Jax, Gemma and Tara. In non-Clay news, the CIA / Galindo cartel still needs the deal between SAMCRO and the Irish to go through … which is something that won’t happen without Clay. Sigh.
“Sovereign’s” opening touched on nearly all of these elements, or at least the ones that are currently the most dangerous to the club. Despite his desire to make the club pure again, like his father had intended, Jax is still caught up in the mess Clay made for them (and spends his time journalling about it for his sons because not only can the club read, “despite popular belief,” as Chibs said, they can get in touch with their feelings, too).
The Niners have always been the least of SAMCRO’s many gang-related worries. Though they’ve had beef, the club has always been able to pacify LeRoy and set things straight, occasionally even putting their incredible racism behind them to team up against bigger threats. But it’s good to see the show start to address the consequences of some of the club’s bloody actions, like Tig’s impulsive drive-thru (rather than drive-by) that killed Veronica Pope, girlfriend of LeRoy but, more importantly, the daughter of an extremely well-connected and bloody gangster (played by Harold Perrineau from Lost. You know, “WAAAAAALLLLLLTTTTTTTTTT’s” dad?) who is like a hybrid of Stringer Bell and Marlo from The Wire.
Though addressing consequences is good (it’s something Breaking Bad, for instance, does exceptionally well – no death is ever clean, no one ever gets away with it, every ghost haunts), the particular way things were addressed this week was, well, extremely distressing. Sons of Anarchy has taken us to dark places before — rape, murder, child kidnapping, suicide, more murder, extreme violence against women — but never has it gone so far as it did in “Sovereign.” And just because it can go there though doesn’t it mean it should. I had been warned before this episode that it was “disturbing,” and so when I saw LeRoy’s dismembered body unexpectedly I thought, well, that’s gross but it is what it is. Next came the sudden murder of Darnell, who seemed like an amiable guy, which is probably exactly why he was offed by Pope’s henchman. But then there was Dawn. First the girl was put into the cesspit of blood and body parts, as if that wasn’t traumatizing enough to watch. Tig thinks she’s dead, and so too do we … until she stirs. Right there, had Dawn been dead it would have been tragic but somehow we maybe could have gotten through it. Maybe. But wait … nope, Pope’s has his men pour gasoline into the pit and set it on fire where Dawn doesn’t die quickly or quietly, of course. She agonizingly screams repeatedly for her Daddy to help her. Please give me a moment while I pop some anxiety meds, or go for a quick walk where I can vomit peacefully from stress.
We didn’t really know Dawn, but did we need to? The situation was unbelievably horrific, and Tig’s tortured cries during and after the event were difficult to get through. Pope invoked a kind of Hammurabi’s Law, and we came to feel just how much pain he probably felt at his own daughter’s death by Tig’s hand. Though Tig pulled the proverbial trigger, it was set off because of Clay, something that has already caused a riff between them. Tig blames Clay for what happened, at least in part, and one wonders what kind of insane retaliation he might engage in next … and whether Clay will feel the brunt of it.
So much happened in “Sovereign,” some of it I’ll address below in the Musings, but the main thrust seems to still revolve around Clay and Jax being at odds, and the club being on shaky ground because of recent revelations (Clay admitting to killing Piney, which Jax was wise to question his intentions on). Notice too how a nervous Juice tells Clay how coming clean is a great thing, and how he automatically supports him? Might Juice’s treachery come to light as well this season? That could be devastating to watch, too. I know we’re dealing with big biker boys, but some of them have very gentle hearts (and an amazing sense of humor). It’s something that elevates the show, but is difficult to reconcile with moments like Dawn’s death. The show is often darkly comic, but it would be a shame for it to get so dark it snuffs out the light.
Episode Rating: 8.8
Musings and Miscellanea:
- I really, really hate rating episodes at all because I think that shows should be graded as a whole once the arcs have played out, season by season. But since I must … as a reminder, my ratings are based against other Sons of Anarchy episodes only, not all of TV, and I grade pretty harshly because the show can handle it. ymmv.
- Nothing says “Sons is back!” like an opening scene with Gemma getting it from behind from Jimmy Smits.
- “So I did a spic pimp, huh?” “So I did a drunk cracker MILF.”
- I think some of the characters on SOA are great, but I think some get lost in the shuffle, and none moreso than Tara. Her character has had very little consistency, and no one seems to know what to do with her. Last year she went completely off the rails and turned in the Gemma, Jr, but with maybe a little more of a conscience. This year she’s starting off well, but I didn’t like the final scene where she was smoking pot and turning off the baby monitor to Thomas’ cries. Despite her anger she would never neglect her children. It seemed very out of character, even though she’s clearly holding on to a lot.
- “With great power comes great responsibility.” “I ain’t no Spiderman, nigga!”
- So Unser is still around … for now. The break-ins are meant to give some foreshadowing, though for what I can’t guess. Who is perpetrating them? Who do we know with one leg? Or is this a new character?
- Glad to have you back, Bobby Elvis!
- Gemma’s wild night was weird but funny, so she was the one who had sex with the twins? (or at least brought them into it) Lawd, woman!
- I continue to have high hopes for Eli Roosevelt, I think he could be the character that David Hale never was. Like Hale, he has come to a wary agreement with SAMCRO, given certain parameters. But I like how he doesn’t let them off when they bring trouble to Charming.
- Ron Pearlman is such a master, I hate Clay so viscerally, but him hobbling around with that oxygen, apologizing for his sins … I almost wanted to forgive him.
- If you’ve read my past Sons of Anarchy coverage you’ll know that Tig is my favorite character, and I would gladly be his old lady (yes I know, get me to a therapist). I’m pretty devastated with the way things have played out for him. And narratively speaking, Tig is better weird and funny, not murderous. I don’t know how he will come back from this.