“That was tactical, this is criminal.”
— Eli Roosevelt
Episode 6: With an X
Episode 7: Fruit for the Crows
What an in-your-face couplet of episodes. We see the plot “thickening,” so to speak. I was particularly impressed by the sorts of moral ambiguity that was brought out of Roosevelt’s character. You could really see that he struggled with being used by Linc. I think it will be interesting to see how the Roosevelt-Linc relationship pans out when/if Juice commits suicide. (The sounds at the end of the last episode made it seem as if his suicide attempt was unsuccessful).
Aside from all of the big plot points, what impressed me most was the interplay between unknowns (so to speak) on the screen and unknown “outside” of the screen (i.e. from our viewpoint as viewers). It’s striking, of course, how much havoc the various unknown variables are wreaking in Charming and beyond. The Sons of Anarchy had no idea that another cartel would be involved, that their problems would be this bad this quick, they are unaware of the various schemes colliding with each other (Unser, Clay, Juice, Roosevelt, Linc, etc.). All of that makes for great TV–but then on top of this they introduce something as simple as a vote. To me, this was a brilliant move. Not only because it throws another unknown *onto* the screen, but also because it participates in something like possibility of novelty for the show. Who knew that this was even a political option? The novelty of it re-creates the sorts of novelty we tend to experience in our own political lives (e.g. it’s too timely to comment on: but who could have *predicted* the Occupy Wall Street protests?) It’s amazing how unknowns and unpredictables like this can change the whole game-plan.
Although I doubt it will happen, it would be exceedingly brave and quite interesting if Clay was demoted from president. That would give the show an amazing twist, and it would turn Clay into an even more an interesting character. How would he react to such a loss of power? Is it possible that Clay could be *more* trustworthy when *not* in power? Clay responding to questions about the threats being real with “I don’t know” was, once again, totally stunning and creepy. I also particularly enjoyed Tig just randomly grabbing a baby (“Give me the baby!”)–also classic.
Finally, of course, I have to talk about Juice’s suicide and the amazing, brilliant use of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” That song (itself written by a Jewish man named Abel Meeropol) is about lynching to remind blacks and whites about 20th century racism serves, of course, as the perfect soundtrack to juice hanging himself which stands in as yet another manifestation–this time political, or social, or systemic in nature–of racism, and so lynching. The move is flashy, bold, and so SoA at its best. The Holiday track first appeared in the late 30s and now, almost a hundred years later, SoA reminds us, racism is still here, tress still bear a strange fruit, but they do so under differing circumstances. Eliding suicide and lynching in this way was really brilliant, but given the suicide’s apparent failure (or even its success), it will be interesting to see how this racial theme plays out. I take the final scene to suggest that Kurt Sutter plans to delve into this topic in more detail–I hope I’m right.
Until next week,
And, also, because it was simply amazing–that was Katey Sagal (i.e. Gemma) covering Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” Original, Cover. It’s ballsy to cover Billie Holiday (ever)…but she pulled it off.
I have a bit of a confession to make – I’ve had a hard time connecting emotionally (maybe viscerally is the better word) to this season of Sons. I’ve appreciated at an intellectual level what Sutter & co. are doing, and the narrative of the internalization of conflict has been genuinely compelling. But it wasn’t until these last two episodes that I really felt things in the gut again. Of course, seeing Juice, who has always been a character I really liked (even if he’s always been a background player) hanging from a tree will do that – swinging in time, as you rightly point out, to the excellently employed “Strange Fruit.” This is not only because it’s the death of a sympathetic character. No, it’s a pointer to just how deep the problems in the club go – it’s an expose of how much of a problem race is in the club, which I also hope we get more of; but it’s also a sign of how conflict with this club will drag you down with them. I’ve found Roosevelt’s struggles compelling as well – playing the “race card” costs him greatly, and it’s no accident that that poster of black and white hands intertwined sat right in the middle of the frame during several conversations with Juice. But it also looks very much like Piney, Bobby and Tara will pay dearly for daring to oppose these children of anarchy.
We haven’t talked much about Clay taking out the contract on Tara’s life – that’s a massive development that also shows the extraordinary costs the compromise with the cartel is costing the club. In a lot of ways, it’s a callback to season one, where Clay’s misconstrual of things led to the murder of one of the “old ladies,” in that case Opie’s wife (who’s having a hard time of it once again – poor Opie). That was the catalyst of Jax’s first major rebellion, so I have to wonder what the outcome of this will be. I can’t quite see the show actually killing off Tara, but I can certainly see the writers using that danger to place a finger squarely on the weak point of SAMCRO this season, which is the interstitial space where the inviolable social bonds that constitute criminal (and democratic) society are fraying rapidly following the compromising of the central ideals/myths of the club. For this reason, I too am eager to see the outcome of this vote – it’s a great way to play with the contested nature of Clay’s authority, and to expose how naked his aspirations for power are.