Things certainly quieted down this week in Charming (if by quiet one means car chases, fights with police and visits to porn sets, and I do). SAMCRO is still struggling with some of the remnants of last season with Tig’s inadvertent murder of Veronica Pope and the wrath of the Niners, as well as the club’s involvement with the Galindo cartel, the Irish and the CIA. Then of course there are the new threats of the break-ins and the RICO case that Otto brought upon them (plus whatever Clay has up his sleeve, and you know it’s something). SAMCRO really can’t catch a break, but just as too many chefs spoil a broth, too many open-ended threats to the club make the show more about running from place to place then about the relationships among the characters we’ve become so invested in. For more on that and why nothing says true love like capital murder, hit the jump. If you missed our review of season five of Sons of Anarchy, get caught up here.
A primary concern from last week’s explosive season opener was how the difficult and visceral nature of Dawn’s death would play out this week. The way the show handled it was probably in the best way possible, especially and specifically for Tig. Tig is a weird character anyway, and seeing him deal with something as serious as witnessing his daughter’s gruesome murder can’t be dealt with in the same way as it might be with Opie or Jax or Juice or Chibs, who we’ve also seen in extreme emotional situations. Tig’s natural response is to get even, but Pope’s command to murder Dawn was itself retribution for Tig killing Veronica, so further bloodshed on that front is quickly extinguished by Jax. Somehow, having Tig find his remaining daughter Fawn screaming for help that turned out to be sexual roleplay was pretty much the only way to move past Dawn’s death in a real way for Tig, especially with Fawn’s reaction to the news and her turning on her father.
It also brought out an interesting point about race, which the show does broach in ways not seen almost anywhere else on TV. Tig and the guys presume Fawn is being held by Niners because they pull up to a house with three black men on the porch — turns out, of course, that they are unaffiliated, but Jax tells Chibs he doesn’t trust them anyway. After the break-in at his house, Clay says “looks like black,” which for SAMCRO is essentially shorthand for Niners. It is what it is, the Niners are a black crew — most of the motorcycle clubs on the show are delineated by race. It’s a notion Unser backs up when he tells Roosevelt that the break-in “felt more white than black,” to which Roosevelt rightly snaps back, “and how does white feel?” Unser doesn’t even pause to catch the barb in Roosevelt’s tone, he just sincerely replies, “sloppy, clumsy, the beat-down was obligatory, not angry.” Roosevelt relaxes, realizing that the comment wasn’t racist so much as shorthand to describe the Niners crew. The Niners were looking for retaliation — a white crew would not be.
Roosevelt’s presence helps counterbalance the perception of racism on the show — to quote a delineation from the play The History Boys, “it’s race-related, but not racist.” For SAMCRO, the feeling is not that white is better than black or brown, it’s just different. In fact, in many ways Charming is not just part SAMCRO but part Jim Crow, where (at least in the biker world) things are for the most part racially separate but equal, which probably cuts a lot closer to the truth of certain communities than many people would like to admit.
Back to the break-ins, I’d like to give credit to the commentors and also my friend Stacy for pointing out that the “foot in question” last week belonged to one of the Nomads who recently patched-in with SAMCRO. This week’s episode confirmed that, and it’s probably pretty certain that the Nomads are working for someone (Pope? Galindo?) and will continue to rip the principle club apart. Despite the fissures within the Sons’ organizations from Jax’s rise, Otto’s flip, Clay’s machinations and the knowledge that one of their own tipped off the CIA (the repetition of this fact means for certain that Juice’s betrayal will at some point come to light), the club has started repairing things, starting with Opie’s return (and his sacrifice to go to jail with Jax, Chibs and Tig) as well as Gemma repairing her relationship with the new Mrs. Jax Teller, Tara.
There were some nice conversational moments in “Authority Vested” between Jax and Nero and Clay and Opie that really highlighted the fact that we’ve barely gotten to see the rest of the club or have much time like this with them. No jokes, no cutting up — just business. The men hardly have time to eat or sleep since every time they reach a destination they get a call that they need to head off suddenly to a new one. It would be nice to trim down some of the open ended story lines the club is currently dealing with — it was one of the best things about last season that the overly expansive and complicated Irish mess was set aside for time spent with SAMCRO and the relationships within the club. A story like Juice’s would not have had as much impact if he had gotten as much screentime as he has this year (i.e. next to none). Even something like Jax and Tara’s shotgun wedding lacked a certain something because we haven’t spent much time with them yet this year, and to transport ourselves emotionally back to where things ended ten months ago isn’t easy.
If the pacing this week tells us anything, it’s that we’re in for a few more weeks of set up and exposition before the real shit starts to hit the fan. It might be a good time, ones hopes, to get us reacquainted with the club and the nuances of the personalities and relationships of the characters to preserve the heart of the show, and keep it from just becoming about plot points.
- This wasn’t a bad episode, there just wasn’t much too it besides setting up stories for the rest of the season.
- Gemma and Nero are interesting. I’m sure Clay won’t like it one bit, and neither will Jax once he finds out that his new good friend Nero is bangin’ his mom!
- I like Nero as a character even if so far he’s a pretty heavy cliche, physically disabled son and all. His conversation with Jax in the car was nice, especially because Jax genuinely laughed and looked relaxed for the first time in a very long time.
- Best moment: Chibs’ unexpected blessing on Tara and Jax. Sweet.
- It took Nate from Six Feet Under five seasons come to terms with the death of his father, but it took Tig until Jax said “we need to find Tig’s other spawn before someone barbecues her, too” to get over Dawn’s death, which is a big reason why I wish they hadn’t gone there. There’s no way SOA is going to take the time to really unpack the emotions of such an event, which just reduces it unfortunately to spectacle.
- Loved this exchange: Tara: “Get married here in a brothel, with you wanted for murder?” Jax: “Hey baby, I’m all about the fairy tale.”
- Ima and Lyla are back! Opie’s conversation with Lyla was painful but it was very real feeling when she asked if he ever loved her and he said, honestly, he wasn’t sure if he loved anyone at all. No sugar-coating!
- I’m surprised Jax would bring up getting into the escort business with Nero when they already (disastrously) tried porn, although Nero is apparently the Stringer Bell of escort shops.
- “Well that was in the past, I hate new things now.” – Gemma