I’m helping him through it
Sons of Anarchy: “Oiled”
Last week, SoA ended with a montage designed to set up some of the major storylines of this season, set to Richard Thompson’s “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.” It was an effective and chilling device, with a big reveal (Abel in Belfast), a Whedon-style sudden death (Hale), and a devastating explosion of brutality from a character who we’ve come to think of as the emerging idealist in the club. When Jax started beating the gunman’s head into the pavement, we knew any number of things were going through his mind – lingering anger at Donna’s death, frustration at his inability to bring Clay down, protectiveness of the besieged club that provides the very fabric of his life, and of course, the helpless rage of a father powerless to get his son back.
So when this episode opens up with a fascinating juxtaposition of two men in cells – Cameron in the confessional in Belfast, and Jax prostrate in jail – the words “forgive me father, for I have sinned” have a particular poignancy. In this show, the struggles of characters are the struggles bequeathed to them by their fathers. Consider:
- By the end of the episode, Cameron is killed by a father – Fr. Ashby – for acting to avenge the death of his son, an act which has imperiled the SAMCRO-IRA alliance.
- Said alliance is tied to a relationship between Jax’s father, John Teller, and the Irish, that continues to remain murky. Just as Gemma’s mother Rose is a control freak from beyond the grave, so John’s postmortem hand continues to determine the history of the Sons.
- Gemma alternates between vulnerable and vicious in the household of her father, whose dementia makes him a bit of a loose cannon (just ask Tig).
- And most interestingly, the relationship between Clay and Jax is shifting; in fact, I began to wonder last night if their roles aren’t starting to reverse.
Last week, I talked about Jax’s quest, a la Michael Corleone, to go (kind of) legitimate with the MC, and his attempt to dethrone Clay in retribution for Donna’s death. Until the revelation of Gemma’s rape, which was brewing all season, Jax was always the one to counsel patience and strategy against Zobelle, and to reserve violence for last resort. But tonight, when we learned that the driveby was part of a patch-over for the Mayans, it was Clay who had to restrain Jax. It was Clay who recognized first that the Sons couldn’t afford another war, and it was Clay who let the Mayan initiate go – all while Jax was thirsting for blood. Not to say that Clay has gone soft – you don’t bury someone neckdeep and run motorcycles at him out of mercy; but he’s both recognizing the virtues of discretion, and calculatedly deploying Jax’s unhinged fury to give the Sons an edge against unfavorable odds. “I’m helping him through it,” he tells Bobby (who, “crazy red-headed rattlesnake” issues notwithstanding, is definitely emerging as the sagacious one of the group), but altruism is not all that’s going on in that relationship.
Much of this episode was occupied with setting pieces into place, especially in Belfast. The war with the Mayans that seemed ready to erupt during the standoff last season is still coming. And what should have been a resolution of the tautest suspense of the season – what the Irish would do when they learned that Edmond’s murder wasn’t Gemma’s doing – has quietly shifted into the worry that a very different dynamic might keep Abel in Belfast. Maureen (great to see Paula Malcomson) looks to me very much like another woman in the show who will not be dominated by the powerful men around her. She might have a totally different agenda for wanting to keep Abel in Ireland.
There’s much more to say about this week, but much of it will need to play out over the next several episodes to truly appreciate its significance. I love seeing the (increasingly crowded) complexity of the outlaw MC world, and am ready to be a big fan of the Grim Bastards. Jacob’s mayoral schemes presage that the troubles of SAMCRO in Charming itself are far from over. Tara sure is starting to dress in black a lot. And it’s pretty awesome for the show to keep its sense of humor – the visual gag of Tig in a silk bathrobe, holding a bottle of baby oil (shudder), was pretty much worth the price of admission. So I’ll leave you with the thought of the kitschy figurines creeping out our favorite Harley-riding sexual deviant, back in the saddle again.