SONS OF ANARCHY Recap: “One One Six”

     September 17, 2013


After a questionable start to its new season, Sons of Anarchy returned this week with an episode that improved in some ways upon that initial outing, but was still just so dark and heavy.  A show with so much violence and dark themes needs the relief of humor, or it’s a slog to watch.  One of Sons of Anarchy‘s defining features early on was its gallows humor and quirky cast who played hard and then played harder.  These days, time spent with SAMCRO is increasingly bleak, and that bleakness reached its lowest depths last week.  Hit the jump for more on how the show needs to crawl out of that hole.

sons-of-anarchy-one-one-six-2The school shooting aspect of the series premiere was met with a lot of comment and controversy over the past week, and as readers will note, my comment was essentially that we should wait and see.  Was it unnecessary?  Probably, but it would be worth sticking around to determine if, maybe, that event had anything to do with SAMCRO and the changing club.

This week we found out … not exactly.  Even without it, Toric would still have pushed to get RICO back and had a good case to do so, Jax would have found another way to betray Nero, and Galen would still be running guns with or without SAMCRO’s assistance.  The message seemed to be that, as Galen pointed out, the political posturing over the event means nothing, and the sales of the gun used in the shooting would double.  While Jax did try to stick to his decision to get the club out of gun running, we’ve seen this countless times before, to no avail.

Jax does have a desire to put the club in a new direction, but his means of doing so reminded me a lot of Breaking Bad.  Walter White starts cooking meth because it’s a quick way to get cash for him to provide for his family after he dies of cancer (in the same kind of way that SAMCRO runs guns, etc, to get cash for their off-the-grid members).  He justifies an ungodly amount of bad against this one good.  As that series comes to a close, Walt is starting to pay for his terrible deeds, though not yet those he committed against his partner in crime Jesse Pinkman.  Walt’s manipulation and control over Jesse through the years rang out in a quote from Jax this week to Nero: “This is rough, but everything I’m doing here is for you.”  It’s a mixture of arrogance and deluded thinking.  On top of that, their other machinations are fueled by the fear of being caught and having that blow back on family.

What both Jax and Walt failed to realize though is that it already is blowing back on their families.  Jax’s sons have been in danger plenty of times, Abel in particular, just like Walt’s family has also been targeted.  In both cases, the men first lied to, but then let their wives in on their nefarious deeds, but then as the wives became endangered as well, the lies started up again.  In both cases, this starts breaking apart the very homes they are hoping to protect.

sons-of-anarchy-one-one-sixCurrently, Sons of Anarchy is full of uneasy alliances that are built upon lies.  Tara and Jax attempt to reconcile with some very sad sex, but it was just after they both lied to each other about major events.  Gemma and Tara are also having an uneasy time reuniting under great suspicion from each other, while Jax is now straight up lying to Nero, his best ally (and also best mentor).  Jax had Juice kill Darby as another way to prove his loyalty to the club, but the extent of his betrayal to the club isn’t known by all of the members yet.  Lee Toric’s case is built on the foundational lie that Tara was in on the scheme that allowed Otto to murder his sister.  Tig is supporting Jax fully, not knowing he has sold him out to Pope’s old gang.

Bobby, it seems, is our only hope.  What the hell is he up to, rounding up strays from other Sons chapters?  Building up RO, or branching out on his own to truly become clean?  Who can blame him for getting out, though.  The backstabbing and lying and scheming is more than most can bear.  That coupled with the violence and dense atmosphere of these first two episodes makes the comparatively care-free days of the show’s early seasons a long-lost memory.  There’s still a chance for the show to bring that back, but I wouldn’t count on Jax to have a hand in it.  Give us some hope, Bobby Elvis.

Episode Rating: B-

Musings and Miscellanea:

– I think I am giving this episode a lower rating than the premiere, but that’s what happens when you use a sliding scale!  “One One Six” was not as muddled and self-important as “Straw,” but it also wasn’t particularly interesting.

– ATF agent: “Security guard put two bullets in the shoote’s head while he was changing clips. Shooter was 11.”  Toric: “God bless America.”

– Nero could be Jax’s future, but right now he’s just such a better guy than Jax is.  He killed his cousin because his cousin betrayed him, but he defended Darby’s life (which Jax took without consulting Nero).  He has a code.  Does Jax?

sons-of-anarchy-one-one-six– Did anyone else notice Jax’s micro-expression when he told Nero that “no,” he did not order Darby to be killed?  He nodded a “yes” as he said it.

– “It’s trashy money but it ain’t dirty” – Jax

– Frankly, I think that Clay should have died last season.  He’s so useless now and being wasted in this jail situation.  Toric is just another example of a person on the quasi-side of the law who has a personal beef with SAMCRO, and who won’t get anywhere with it, I’m sure.  Clay ratting out the club (if indeed he does) means so much less now that he’s toothless when it comes to power within the club.  They’ve dealt with RICO once, and I’m sure they’ll deal with it again.

– “Clay sounds like a guy bleeding guilt because he made a deal” – Gemma

– Poor Juice.  He’s been neutered, too.

– “There’s only one thing more dangerous than a rat, and that’s a junkie rat” – Jax

– The sudden advent of local politics into the show seems ill-advised.  They’ve done it before and it’s never been fleshed out well enough to make it interesting.

– What’s up with Tara’s pregnancy test?  And is her divorce just for show, or does she mean it for real?

– “All the cholas are wearing it like this” – Tara, on her haircut.

  • Leo Spaceman

    Hey before anyone starts reading this comment, I just want to apologize for how long it was. I didn’t mean for it to turn into a whole thing. Anyways…

    Nothing on the fact that Toric is going to the extreme lengths of forging documents? Clay is smart enough to figure out why he was given another night in PC, it will be fun to see how it plays out. As far as wishing Clay was killed off last season, that is not how Kurt Sutter ever, ever plays out a story line. He has talked before about how he doesn’t want to just neatly wrap something up. I believe it was when he was talking about Tig taking ten episodes or so to confess to Opie that he killed Donna in season 2. Sutter always plays out a story, lets the characters fester in misery for most of the season. SOA is not like Dexter, it is not a neat and clean story that fits into a season before all characters and happenings bar, the one main event fall to the sideline at the beginning of the next season. This show is an ever growing show where the ramifications of each event keep piling on the club and something small in the past comes back to haunt them. This is season 6 of the show, and while you can complain about how each season does follow a bit of a pattern where the season premiere big event finally climaxes around episodes 10 and 11 and the fallout leads to the set up of the story that plays out over all of the next season, and by season 6 you should know what kind of show SOA is and it is not a show that neatly wraps a bow on the season and starts a new story each fall.

    As far as an explanation of that goes, go back to season 3, where Jax finally gets Abel back and leaves Belfast, Maureen Ashby left letters for Jax to find. Tara finds them instead and over all of season 4, there is a secret struggle for those letters that sees Gemma beaten, Piney taking a shotgun to the chest, and Clay ordering the death of Tara. All that leads up to Opie putting two rounds in Clay’s chest (with Donna’s death in season 1 at the order of Clay playing a role as well). Then after all that Jax finally finds out about the letters at the very end of season 4. Clays shooting also leads to Tig’s unintentional murder of Damon Popes’ Daughter. That all sets up season 5. Pope kills Tig’s Daughter. At season 6, Tig still isn’t over that. Pope has Opie murdered. Jax still isn’t over that. Chibs kills Opie’s murderer. That ruins the relationship the club has with the black biker gang. Gemma hooks up with Nero, and Jax gets a new mentor. Also Jax’s hatred leads the main story of season 5 of Jax trying to end Clay and he finally puts Clay away at the end of the season, and now season 6 is playing with the ramifications of that fall out. Its the reason that Bobby wants out of SAMCRO, he sees too much of Clay in him now and the backstabbing that goes with the President’s patch.

    Really all that goes back to how Kurt Sutter likes to have show’s characters continue to spiral out of control over the fall out of a single event several season back. It is what keeps the show so driven. If this was supposed to be a story of the week type of show it would be. If it was supposed to be a story a season show it would be. It is not, it is SOA and it plays a lot like the Shield did where everything stems from murder in the pilot episode and that murder had an ever lasting effect right up until the final episode. It is season 6 of SOA and by now you should know that Clay isn’t going to go away easily, so don’t go wishing for him to have been killed off at the end of Season 5. At this point, I would honestly see him surviving until the final episode. Jax vs Clay has been focal point of the show from the very beginning (see Sutter discussing how MacBeth influences the son vs stepfather themes that this show is centered on). It wouldn’t make much sense for them to kill off Clay with only one more season left. Clay will die, but his story isn’t done.

    Any ways, now that my long rant against what is wrong with this week’s review, I am going to get to what my original intention of this comment was supposed to be and that is to correct two very blatant wrongs with your review that should be corrected.

    I don’t know how you can’t figure out what Bobby is up to. He is clearly trying to reopen the Nomad charter because he is disillusioned with Jax (see season 5 ending where Bobby talks about the “epic s**t” that Jax accomplished to crush RICO and get the club away from the Cartel and the coke but in the end still proves that he can’t be different from Clay because he still schemed to get what he wanted when the club failed to vote that Clay meets Mr. Mayhem).

    And finally the most horribly inaccurate part of your review that Tig doesn’t know Jax sold him out to Pope’s Gang. First off, Jax never sold Tig to Pope, he agreed to Pope’s terms to get Tig out of jail, but he was never going to hand him over to the man who murdered Opie. Jax was planning on playing Pope from the beginning waiting for the moment to finally kill Pope at which point he came completely clean to Tig at the same time giving Tig the chance to avenge his daughter. You can argue that Jax hasn’t told Tig that Pope’s replacement is still demanding Jax hand Tig over, but that was something Jax clearly never anticipated (And Hunnan’s acting in that scene was the best I had ever seen out of him by the way). Jax doesn’t want to hand Tig over and he is going to struggle with that until the bloody conclusion, but that all goes back to the general theme of this comment where Sutter likes to play out a single story line over a long time rather than offer a quick fix for the problem.

  • Pace

    Remember when this show was exciting and oftentimes funny? The first two episodes have been such a miss. SOA was never known for being realistic, which is why it’s odd that Sutter seems to be pushing bleak reality as the main course. Everybody’s neutered, sad, brooding, and guilty in one way or another. Also what happened to Eli Roosevelt????! He suddenly dissapears from the show with no mention. On IMDB the actor isn’t credited with being in this season. So another law enforcement agent abruptly gone with no purpose but to pave the way for the BORING Lee Toric (love the actor, the character is useless). Sutter needs to get it together…

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  • jackinson

    its kinda boring episode but here u go…

    • wallace

      i dont think so, i like it..

  • Dan

    Why did Jax have Juice kill Darby? It was Nero’s mess, Darby doesn’t know the Sons and would have ratted out Nero before anyone else. Nero handled his cousin without hesitation, as he would have handled Darby when it got to that point.

    And then Jax told Nero a completely transparent lie. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that Nero and Jax will go to war with each other this season. Darby’s murder (and Jax’s lie) will be the catalyst. As far as I can tell, that’s the only reason that Jax did something as stupid as betraying Nero for something so trivial. It was all just plot set up for the coming conflict.

    And that’s my problem with SOA. The writing is inconsistent. Opie’s storyline was fantastic.

    And then there’s season 6, where the avenging ex-cop is able to have his sister’s murderer prison-raped on a daily basis. And then decides that daily prison rape isn’t enough to satisfy his vengeance. No, in order to get closure, he needs to… waste a bunch of time and effort breaking up a tiny motorcycle gang?

    At this point, the Charming chapter is running on fumes. They don’t have enough guys to start a softball team, much less survive another gang war. Toric seems to know all the angles on the Pope killing. He’s got a limitless supply of crooked cops. He could let Pope’s crew know about Jax’s betrayal. He could pull some of his magic favors to let Clay tell the IRA about Jax’s plans. Either of these scenarios ends quickly and painfully for SAMCRO.

    But Toric has a much better plan. He’s going to call in all his favors, burn all his bridges, and set up and ridiculously complex and delicate RICO case! Never mind the fact that the Sons have already slipped that net. Forget the thousands of man-hours that the last law enforcement agency spent recruiting an inside man, gathering evidence, covering office walls with mug shots and surveillance photos. Donal Logue is gonna build the case all by himself. And after a year or two in court based on testimony from a couple felons , Jax and the crew might actually do some time. Not prison rape time, though, because Pope’s crew won’t be gunning for them and Toric will be long out of favors.

    Or Toric could do the crooked cop bit (which he’s not shy about), start a war, and watch SAMCRO die horribly violent deaths at the hands of any one of the countless gangs that Jax has screwed over.

    But that won’t fill a season with this supposedly interesting and (apparently?) frightening washed-up ex-cop.

    It’s lazy writing, and it feels like filler. SOA has had some great seasons, but they’re really starting to stretch things at this point. The Danny-Trejo-is-actually-CIA deus ex machina was a sign of things to come. Now that Opie’s storyline is resolved and the Jax/Clay conflict fizzled into nothing, the showrunners need to find SOMETHING to fill that void. And so far, I’m just not seeing it.