Until the last few minutes of “Toad’s Wild Ride,” I was having a rather nice go of things. Sons of Anarchy threw some weirdness at us this year, and a lot (and I do mean a metric crap ton) of violence, but in “Toad’s Wild Ride” there were some really interesting moments about loyalty and betrayal, especially bringing Juice’s story to the forefront. Alliances change often on the show, but Bobby, Chibs and even Tig are firmly in Jax’s corner right now. Clay is delusional if he thinks he could get back at the head of the table and past all of them. I sincerely doubt, too, that Juice would ever fully back Clay in a coup, especially if Chibs was on the other side. Still, seeing Clay carefully play Unser and Juice and the Nomads was fun to watch, especially the trick he pulled at Unser’s Airstream. Clay is just as dangerous as ever, and now Jax knows that giving him a second chance was a mistake. Of course, most of us would have thought the first time after someone tried to kill everyone we love but, you know, things are different in Charming. For more on the wild ride and what Joel McHale has to do with it all, hit the jump.
I’ve got to launch right in to those final few moments first, because I’m riled up and pissed off. Gemma is on a downward spiral, we get it, she has gotten into a lot of shit this year that’s largely been her own fault as she careens out of control (instead of like, in prior seasons, where she has been a victim). But do we really need to bring the kids into it? I think most of us knew something bad was going to happen as soon as Jax said he and Tara should get away for the weekend. Historically, every time they try to “get away” it’s a problem. There were a few ways it could have gone (an attack on Tara, or Jax, or anyone), but the show chose the darkest option.
I want to give the writers the benefit of the doubt that there’s a reason (besides making history completely repeat and Tara = Gemma) that they put Abel in that position, like the kid hasn’t been through enough? (junkie mother, heart surgery, kidnapped by the IRA, etc). And so help me if he dies, I will lose all hope for the show. The violence, which I ranted on about last week, seems to be for its own sake now, cartoonish in some kind of ever-escalating competition to see just how far it can all go. Since we’ve more or less been desensitized to death on the show (when Unser and Clay blew away Greg and Go-Go, I was more shocked by the twist than the violence, which was inevitable — same with Joel McHale’s character getting a beatdown. Not necessary, but not surprising), so there have to be new ways to shock us. Seeing Dawn burn to death or Opie get his head bashed in was just a primer, it seems. Now there’s a kid with a potentially fatal head wound who’s dripping blood onto a plush doll. Just ruin my day, why don’t you?
In other news from the gallows, I don’t care if the Nomads live or die — we hardly knew them, and aside from the one who reminded me of Jason Lee I didn’t even remember what they looked like (or knew their names until this episode). It would have been interesting to get a little more background on them or their deal with Clay, or how they interacted with Jax while knowing that they were always against him, but no matter. They’re gone now, and Clay seems to be able to convince most everyone that they were on somebody’s payroll other than his. Like who? No one stops to ask about this, even though all evidence points towards him. Or is everyone just playing nice to protect themselves from his wrath?
Elsewhere we got a decent car chase with some painfully self-aware camera work that didn’t really add to things, but it was fun seeing Joel McHale doing donuts and thinking he could scare off the MC with a few paltry gunshots into the air. Nero kicking the crap out of him later was fine but felt redundant, though I still like Nero’s presence overall because he is the calming father-figure that Jax needs. Jax had a nice though slightly weird conversation with Gemma (“I was kind of glad he was dead so I could have you all to myself” … yikes), but that along with Clay talking with Unser and other quiet moments felt a little more like the character-building of earlier seasons rather than the unending ultra-violence of the current one (there’s always been violence and there’s always been character stuff, it just feels more off-balance this year than ever before).
Though not much was resolved in “Toad’s Wild Ride,” the ending set up some major drama in weeks to come. There are so many places to go with things now (the oft-forgotten political angle with Jacob Hale, the CIA stuff, Pope, Galindo, Clay and Nomads) plus the car crash and also, who was it who attacked Jax and Chibs at the end? Niners? Someone Eli sent? Or more likely, Clay? So many questions and, for now, very few answers.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I know this is nit-picky, but anyone else think that even the words “care package” seemed woefully underwhelming regarding a man whose wife was brutally murdered and who has given his eyes and his life to the club? Thanks for the memories!
— “You’re not on borrowed time, to me you’re already dead.” – Tara
— Gemma’s Morning of Shame when everyone showed up to help her about the stolen car, etc, did make me chuckle.
— I knew something was going to happen to the kids, I knew it! Prove me wrong Sutter, let Able live!
— At least Thomas seemed ok. Scared, but ok.
— Good to see Lyla back and doing some admin work instead of just porn.
— The opening scene with Clay and the Nomads reminded me of the infamous Michael Caine scene from The Italian Job: “She was 16 years old! You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”