Since I have to save the heavy, spoilery shit until after the jump I’ll start off by taking a moment to comment on some of Sons of Anarchy‘s lighter fare, which amidst everything else actually got a little screentime in this episode. Something that has been sorely missing from the series in its last few seasons is the trademark humor that made it so uniquely engaging to begin with. We got hints of it tonight, with Juice “graduating” and Gemma beating the crap out of Ashley Tisdale from Disney’s High School Musical (file that under dark humor, and how many women has Gemma assaulted at this point?) Sons continues to get darker and darker, and with it, much of the weird fun has been snuffed out. Remember when Bobby was really Bobby Elvis? And Tig was afraid of dolls? (one of my favorite recurring plot points) and Gemma took Half Sack’s girl out with a skateboard? Those were the days. Maybe they weren’t as big a part of things as I seem to think, but they made such an impact I remember almost every one. For other unforgettable moments that you’ll wish you didn’t see, hit the jump.
So now let’s get on to the big stuff. Opie has been the odd man out in the club for awhile. Who can blame him? His club brother murdered his wife (by accident, but Tig has a nasty habit — well, Tig has several nasty habits, but — of accidentally killing people), his de facto uncle / mentor murdered his father, which his de facto brother / best friend lied to him about, his porn star wife got an abortion and then ran off and … did I forget something? Essentially, Opie’s life sucks.
It’s unfortunate on so many levels, not only because Opie is a decent guy but because Jax really needs him. He emotionally stabilizes Jax, grounds him, and though Jax has been finding some of that stability lately from Tara at home and Chibs in the club, no one can ever replace the role that Opie had in his life, which is why he’s always fought so hard to keep him close. It’s interesting to consider, too, that the series started with Opie just about to get out of SAMCRO, something he’s struggled with ever since. And here, in the end, he gave his life up for the club that took the rest of his life away.
Strategically, losing Opie made the most sense because he had the least to offer in club leverage, something Jax exploits in the aftermath by buying Tig’s loyalty with Tig’s freedom (though caring little about Tig himself, telling Pope that once he’s was done with Tig he didn’t care what happened to him). Most of us would have rather Tig be the one sacrificed for SAMCRO (this is coming from someone who would be his old lady in a flash, don’t forget), because Tig is responsible for a lot of the bad stuff that has gone down. He’s not a good person, and he already has the weight of one of his daughter’s gruesome deaths on his soul. Still, narratively, it makes sense to keep Tig around so that Clay looses yet another ally. (As for Chibs, well, no one really thought he was ever on the chopping block, did they?)
As far as shock value, Opie has been on a slow death march for more than a season, and his conversation with Lyla last week seemed unequivocally to suggest that his life was coming to an end. When he got himself sent to jail along with the others we all naturally relaxed — ah, Opie won’t die, he’s just going to prison. Of course, as soon as Jax opened up and told him everything, not just about Clay and JT and Piney but about the cartel and the CIA and all the rest, Opie’s death sentence was all but delivered. The way he went out was brutal, horrifyingly brutal, but that’s Sons of Anarchy for you: violence that is beyond all reason. It was an unfortunate and undignified way for him to go (although at least he got to fight his assailants for awhile), but in a season that opened with a girl getting burned to death in front of her father, well, it can’t be completely unexpected.
Heavy is that head that wears the crown, but a dead-eyed Jax has truly set himself up to reign, now. Clay is still a threat, as Opie said in some of his final words to Jax, who tried to explain “I could either kill Clay or save the club.” “You chose wrong.” Just how wrong he was seems likely to be demonstrated forthwith.
Elsewhere, shit went down between Gemma and Clay, Gemma and Emma Jean from Indiana, Gemma and Tara, Gemma and Wendy … unsurprising, but also setting up some major custody-battle drama. Wendy should know better by now than to mess with not only Gemma but Gemma Jr., even if the former is going back on her prior threats to form a tenuous alliance in the name of her grandchildren. What she hasn’t counted on is Jax not being in the mood to put up with any bullshit now that The Opie Incident has happened. Lest we forget, of course, he (and the club) is still dealing with Pope, Galindo and the Irish. The season has only yet begun …
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Despite my reservations about a lot of the hour, the way Opie’s death went down and Jax’s visceral reaction to it was heartbreaking TV. Worthy of high marks for this show.
— Gemma is lying to herself if she’s really denying that she doesn’t still love Clay deep down. You don’t just beat up random girls if you don’t care about who they’re sleeping with.
— “You’re not the only one who gets the play with White Trash” – Nero’s Madame, who is a scene-stealer.
— I hope Jax does exact revenge on the Sergeant from solitary, and I hope it’s nasty.
— “Your Whore Friday out there …” – Gemma
— Oh yeah! The break-ins … I guess we’ll deal with that next week.
— Did anyone else feel bad for the nice hospital administrator who has done so much for Tara and the Teller family in the past when she asked Tara about getting married and Tara just gave her a fake smile and said “yyyyeah it was really quick and private.” Girl, you owe her more than that!
— Wendy needs to learn the difference between daytime and nighttime makeup.
— R.I.P., Op. “Riding through this world …”