It looks like the end of the fourth season of Sons of Anarchy is bringing the series full-circle. Wendy’s back for the first time since season one, the conversation we’ve been waiting for since the pilot between Jax and Gemma finally happened…. shit, even the good ol’ storage unit and ghost of Lowel Sr. had their moments in tonight’s episode. Opie’s got another dead family member… the similarities go on and on. While I was watching ‘To Be- Act I’, and the wonderfully acted scenes between all the members of the main cast, I thought about these similarities, and for the rest of the night, a single question pounded away at my brain…
What stories are left for this show?
Obviously, Sutter and co. are setting some obvious plot points up for next season: the mayoral race still isn’t finished, there is now some serious beef with the One-Niners, the Charming Heights issue, and whatever legal implications will be hanging over their head (if it’s not Potter, and there’s no more Stahl, it’ll be somebody). But part of me wishes next week’s episode would be the series finale. Unfortunately, it’s a big part of me.
‘To Be- Act I’ was another episode this season with a lot of strong performances, but when all those scenes are put together, the contrivances of the plot and the borderline silly nature of some character’s behavior becomes too much to take. Take for example, the whole One-Niner side plot and subsequent chase of the week. Has Tigg really learned nothing in the last four years? Killing Donna just didn’t teach him enough about retaliation with information, although there wasn’t a single moment of regret in Tigg for anything he did. Combine it with his predictable collapse into Clay’s arms mere days after handing in his Sgt. in Arms patch, and Tigg’s getting pulled around by the writers simply for the dramatic effect it has on the plot. This same thing applies to Gemma, whose behavior throughout the episode was erratic and felt out of place – the only other time we’ve ever seen Gemma question her decisions and seesaw on issues was after she was gang raped in Season 2, and Clay tossing her around is hardly a comparison to that.
It’s not just Tigg and Clay – in reality, I could go on and on about each of the characters and how contradictory they’ve been throughout this season. But what bothered me most about last night’s episode was not these conflicts, which I’ve grown a bit used to at this point. It was the sense that the show is grabbing at the bottom of their bag of tricks. Last night saw the return of so many minor characters, from the creepy crematorium employee, to Lenny the Pimp, all the way down to Wendy (though Chib’s wife and Darby are still completely invisible this season). Slowly but surely, Sons is turning into a goofy soap opera with loud bikes, and last night’s shootout next to an entire line of stopped cars was just another small step in that direction.
Sure, there is some drama left for Act II of ‘To Be’…. Gemma and Tara might claw at each other, and the fate of Clay hangs in the balance – though the longer he lives, the more I get the feeling he’ll be alive to start season five (already announced by FX). Unser still has cancer (I think) and there is a whole lot of inner turmoil brewing at the club. But so much time’s been spent dancing around the major issues at hand (which haven’t changed much since day 1) and finally getting to them now feels rushed, and feels like it could be another example of Sutter pretending to blow up the status quo as he did at the end of last season, only to re-establish it.
(by the way, does anyone remember Sutter saying season 4 is about ‘the 21st century coming to Charming’? what the fuck happened there? Maybe he meant season 5?)
Too many of last night’s storylines felt pulled right out of season 1, and with the same characters behaving in the same fashion as back then, everything in ‘To Be’ felt like a retread of past stories. Here’s a list from my notes of repeated storylines from past seasons:
– Opie’s mad at Clay for killing a member of his family (though he does shoot him this time).
– Tigg overreacts and under thinks when inner club violence is involved.
– Beef with the One-Niners over a misunderstanding.
– Jax having to out think the Feds (though this time he doesn’t know they are there…. unless it’s like last season, and the most important coversation of the season just happened to be off-camera).
– Wendy vs. Tara vs. Gemma
– Bobby Elvis and legal troubles.
– Tara and Gemma fighting for the soul of Jax.
– Jax flips out over IRA baby selling practices.
– People reading and getting emotional in storage units over John Teller’s words.
Yes, a series needs overarching storylines… but these are just the same storylines, with the same behaviors, dressed up in a different suit from seasons past. Maybe it’s Kurt Sutter feeding off Kurt Sutter, and drawing structural parallels to past seasons. But all it does is make the end of this season more of the same, even with the major revelations by Gemma regarding the death of John Teller (though she still left herself and Unser out of the equation, because there is supposed to be three seasons left). But it was all subdued by unshakable feelings of deja vu.
Few other thoughts from last night:
– Great acting by Hurst and Hunman last night, and all season. I don’t see how Opie is going to be able to stay with this club after all this, so it’ll be interesting how they write his character back into loving the Sons. Also, when the fuck did Lyla come back into the picture?
– is this the end of Bobby Elvis? Will he die the quick death, or continue the work of Otto as fucked-over inside man…. I guess we’ll see.
– why is Juice locked up right now, of all times this season to be pulled in… once the feds show up at the meet, Jax will figure it out pretty quickly.
What did everyone else think of the first part of ‘To Be’? Next week will be the last Sons episode of 2011, and hopefully will bring a satisfying close and keep this show from completely falling off the tracks.