Stones get unturned
Sons of Anarchy: “Turning and Turning”
It’s going to be a quick post this week, but I have to note that after defending SoA‘s tendency to tread water this season by focusing on character issues (a defense I hold to), after last night, the show is back. The funny thing is, we still haven’t left for Belfast, but something of major structural importance has happened: the Shakespearean dynamic of season 1 returns once Jax vows to go to Belfast: Clay and Gemma are holding a secret from Jax, who is about to stumble onto major revelations about the circumstances that led to the death of his father and his mother’s marriage to Clay. So it appears, anyhow, from Gemma and Clay’s terse and desperate conversation: “If Jax goes to Belfast, stones get unturned.”
Most importantly, though, Jax is back. This is the first time in a while we’ve seen something resembling the Jax of last season, the one who proceeds by strategy, deliberation, and alliances (which always includes compromises). And while the king and queen scheme to keep Jax in the dark and fear their secrets coming to light, the difference between Jax and Clay emerges again. Clay would’ve pulled the trigger on Jimmy’s lieutenant (whose name escapes me); Jax turns him over to, of all people, Stahl, the sworn enemy of the MC. But knowing this show, major complications will ensue. Most likely, I suppose, something will go down in Belfast that will expose Jimmy’s increasing vulnerability. But if SAMCRO can exploit that will depend on how it handles the coming war with the Mayans, and whoever (Zobelle redivivus?) is buying up property in Charming. Stahl is almost certain to break her deal with Jax, just as she did with Gemma; but because this is Jax she is dealing with, whose rage has transformed into ruthlessly shrewd calculation, I expect Jax will have twists in store for her as well.
Look at any review of Sons today, and chances are you’ll immediately see that the title of this week’s episode comes from Yeat’s famous poem “The Second Coming” – Turning and turning in the widening gyre /The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. It’s kind of a motto for this show, things falling apart. But you know what is really a center that cannot hold? A secret. We have three major secrets revealed, or stones unturned, in this episode, in addition to the looming secret of John Teller’s Irish ties and death:
- Everyone now knows that Abel is in Belfast, and fittingly enough, the conveyor of that news was Gemma, who was shut out from the entire situation up until the moment of her collapse.
- Jimmy O’s duplicity in playing with the Son’s ignorance of that fact is now in the open, with some seriously heavy reprisals bound to occurs as a result.
- Tara is pregnant! Ok, that one is a bit melodramatic, but it’s interesting for two reasons: first, the conversation between Gemma and Tara was a fascinating portrayal of how, for all the apparent development in their relationship, the power still flows very much one way. Gemma is still the queen, and still the protector of her son. Second, if we pursue the royalty theme that the show continually trades on, we now have an heir to the throne whose legitimacy challenges Abel’s status. Neither mother is an accepted member of the court, but Abel was adopted by Gemma as heir after his mother was (very nearly) killed; Tara, on the other hand, is on the inside, even if as an inferior. What might this mean for a second son, and Gemma’s attitude toward a potential usurper?
The contrast to these major revelations is Jax’s backroom deal with Stahl. In order to clear the club of the charges against them, Jax will hand over the IRA – which cannot possibly go over well, but is an effective revenge when Jimmy remains untouchable – and accept jail time for himself, at least. If this episode is playing with the metaphor of the second coming of the promised Son, then the Son’s sacrifice for the good of the club cannot be accidental.
I continue to be impressed how the paradox of the title drives this show; at the end of the day, Sons of Anarchy is as much a political thriller as it is Shakespearean drama or anarchist utopian fantasy. The show is driven by the continual negotiation of territory, trade, sovereignty, and the local royalties and hierarchies that hold the whole thing together. These constructions of power and honor run deep in the differences between Jax and Clay, and they also seem to form the divisions between SAMCRO in Ireland and the True IRA. How this will all play out remains to be seen; but I think last night showed that they are fully in motion at last.