As a whole, this season of Sons of Anarchy has felt – for lack of a better word – silly. It starts with a huge hit on a Russian powerhouse, to which we’ve seen no blow back whatsoever (though if the FBI knows the SoA killed them, they all should’ve been in jail in episode two). We then continue with our normal Jax vs. Clay storyline – something Sutter and co. have danced around the edges of for four seasons, with only a few scenes (fighting in prison, a few spit-fueled screaming matches in each other’s faces) through 46 episodes to address the show’s core conflict. Add in some Mexican cartel (something The Shield fans knew was going to happen eventually) and a goofy new sheriff whose character is merely a middleman for the FBI, and season four is really starting to fall in soap opera territory.
The telltale sign: the unbelievable aura of ignorance hanging over every character. In soap operas, where relationships and plots change on a weekly basis, characters have to carry on in mindless fashion, disregarding any sort of consistency with their characters, or there would simply be no show. And how many characters in this episode came face to face with the ignorance and short-sightedness of past actions… and yet still managed to act in the same stupid, thoughtless manner as before? We’ve watched Tara walk around for almost a whole damn season hiding the contents of these letters from Jax, and it was reinforced in her lines about “losing him” and “driving him deeper into the club.” All of them: Tara, Gemma, Unser, the audience… we all know how this has to end between Jax and Clay, and the writers have run out of plausible reasons not to finally get there. This can’t drag on until we reach the seventh season (Sutter’s planned length), because these Jax and Clay alliances are ultimately all bound to fail, and we know it. We’ve seen it enough times already.
But this can be applied to any character on the show. Why would Gemma truly believe Clay when he says he won’t try to hurt Tara? She’s been married to the damn guy for how long now, and knows how much dirt about him…. and she still tells herself that what he says is true, that he does it all for her. If she doesn’t realize he’s the most self-serving person on this show already, maybe she should be the next one to get whacked. I thought Piney’s death might awaken her, but it just draws her closer to Clay. How is that possible? And why did she kiss Unser like that? That moment just seemed really weird, and didn’t seem to serve any purpose. Gemma has always felt more like a father/daughter relationship, not some sick old man trying to bang the head motorcycle bitch (at least not in this century, maybe things were different thirty years ago).
Then there is Clay. Does he really think killing Tara is going to solve anything? I understand he’s gotta try, but really Sutter, am I supposed to believe this is how he does it? When everybody around him is saying DON’T DO IT, I’M WATCHING YOU, would he really choose this moment to kill Tara? Sure, things are in rough shape right now, but what does he gain by killing Tara at this point? We got the ‘Doctor Pussy’ comment so if it DOES happen, Jax is going to know right away. There’s no suspense or drama in the storyline, and I don’t think it would be a smart or a ballsy move to kill Tara right now. There is too much other stuff going on to get rid of the good Doctor right now, although I do think it is a viable option for the future, but right now, it doesn’t fit with the show’s ultimately cathartic attitude towards the members of SoA.
There are MANY more examples of the ignorance of certain characters (LeRoy, Chibs, Juice), but I want to get back to the other soapy aspects of the episode. We had our once-yearly stare down and threat of physical harm between Jax and Clay, and then Jax decided to take the trip to Oregon. Of course, he’ll now be there for the attempted murder of Tara, and once he’s spent most of either episode ten or eleven hunting the clues to Clay, MAYBE this show will come around and we’ll get a showdown between Clay and Jax.
But that may be interrupted with whatever deal Jax is going to end up making with Juice to satisfy both the FBI and the cartel. He’s already said the words ‘exit strategy’, and we know he’s not totally opposed to a little sit down with the feds (remember Stahl… feels like a distant memory). It’s only a matter of time before Juice goes to Jax (or to Jax via Chibs) and warns him. I find it preposterous the FBI is willing to pick and choose who goes to jail, but it seems clear Bobby Elvis might be on that list (does anyone still think it’s idiocy to believe Bobby would’ve killed LuAnn? Feels contrived if it’s true, that’s not Bobby’s style). We still have yet to see if Otto really flipped, though. What is he really going to gain back from the government, that the Sons haven’t already destroyed?
Overall, last night’s episode set the wheels in motion for the final quarter of the season, although by doing so, it revealed a lot of its hand too early. There are certain plot connections that are too easy to see already, and it’s all feeling like it will lead up to some trickery ala the season 3 finale and this season’s premiere… this is not a good thing. Few other thoughts:
– what happened to Opie in this episode? …. does he know his father is dead, yet? And when he does, who will he blame? This was a very noticeable absence in this episode, and I would’ve traded that contrived scene of love between Clay and Gemma for some time with the Grizzly Man.
– speaking of missing story lines, what happened to the mayoral race? will that just reappear in the season finale as something important to watch for next year?
-Sutter told us the fourth season would bring Charming into the 21st century and would revolve around that. Since Charming Heights was closed after a single episode, and since Hale’s done absolutely nothing since, and nobody else is trying to do anything else in the town of Charming, what the fuck happened to that? Feel a bit lied to in that regard. Shit most of the time SoA haven’t even BEEN in Charming and when they are, nothing feels ANY different.
Each episode is increasingly disappointing this season, and with many of the plots being massive swings and misses (Juice and his race? Potter?) I’m wondering how much gas is in the tank for this show to remain interesting AND believable. If this show completely jumps the shark in the season finale (which some might say actually happened in the third season finale) it’s going to be a long, painful crawl to the finish for this immensely popular show. I’m hoping they find a way to pull out of this season and a half long funk, but as I said before, things are getting really soapy, and for a show as grim and dirty as SoA is (or once was), soap is not a good thing.