Review: Sons of Anarchy ‘Toad’s Wild Ride’ – Who Are You?

I don’t think it was intentional, but the closing sequence of ‘Toad’s Wild Ride’ really summed up the season for me to this point. Moments of forced emotion and unbelievable reconciliations, followed by the most meta scene the show’s ever had: substitute Gemma’s Escalade for the show’s plot (and sanity), and the closing moments of ‘Ride’ become an accurate visual depiction of the direction the show’s taken this season. Not only is it obvious when it goes over the line, but when it crashes and burns at the end of the episode, it’s sure to leave us with some gimmicky plot twist to take our breaths away for another week.

At some point, even long time fans of Sons have to start questioning the point of the show’s brutality. If they’ve really killed off Abel, the show’s done one step worse than killing off a meaningless ancillary character for shock value: this time, they’ve done it to an unimportant character who managed to be the center of an entire season’s worth of Irish-tinged plot lines. And to do what? Further shatter a mother/son relationship that seemed pretty broken from the start? The darker part of me likes how the show is so willing to remove some fluff from the outer edges of the show – but it doesn’t feel like its being done to consolidate, rather just a way of giving every episode the feeling of an emotional minefield – a manipulation better, more coherent dramas don’t need to rest their laurels on.

On a more macro level, ‘Toad’s Wild Ride’ touches in on the outskirts of various plot lines, focusing mainly on what Gemma and Clay were up to, with some beatings and motorcycle chases thrown in for good measure – a driving sequence that was so flat and by-the-numbers it felt more like “Hey, we had some budget to wreck a BMW” instead of an interesting chase scene. Part of this is because we have no idea who Joel McHale’s character (whose name is Warren, by the way) is or what his motivations are (he doesn’t really say much, and just gets punched a lot), but the generic, repetitive nature of the riding shots (and anti-climatic finish) was the major culprit. Clearly, his character isn’t done just yet – nobody on this show disappears until they die, and now he’s got two enemies, with Nero showing by way of fisticuffs that he still cares about Gemma, and what her vagina does on its free time.

Honestly, most of the episode’s problems come back to those of the show as a whole right now: a complete lack of common sense. Does Juice need a fucking neon sign to see that Clay is up to something? You’d think after his antics last season, Juice might be looking elsewhere for that father figure, and be doing more than making “concerned, suspicious face” at Clay while he clearly bullshits his way through a conversation. His undying loyalty to Clay just seems silly – as does Jax’s plan of smirking the truth out of the nomads, which of course tips him off to what Jax may or may not know, and causes him to leave town.

The questions just continue… would Jax and Tara really take a vacation when people inside the club are killing police and friends of the MC, leaving their kids with the grandmother they were trying to keep them away from just two episodes ago? Probably not. Why would Phil let Gemma drive away, if she was high as a kite (let’s not even get INTO the cannabis-related accident right now)? Does anybody even care about Lyla becoming a manager of hookers? With every new nonsensical turn, Sons of Anarchy gets more and more boxed in by their impossible situations, which are bound to lead to an overly elaborate and ‘shock’-filled finale… just what we all want, right?

Grade: C-

Other thoughts/observations:

(Edited) – for some great thoughts on Gemma and her plight this season, check out Alyssa Rosenberg’s always awesome Think Progress column.

– smoking joints at active crime scene investigations? Which leads me to another question: if Gemma smokes weed on a daily basis (as we’ve seen throughout the show), how in the hell would she be that affected? Is Heisenberg making marijuana in Cali these days?

– Gemma’s self-destruction continues, including another scene of her crying in the bathroom. It’s a showcase for Sagal, but mostly a repetitive one: Gemma does something slutty, cries, everyone gets mad at her, she makes them happy and then does something stupid (or slutty).

– I fully expect Tara to bang Otto at some point this season. She’s obviously going to go back in wearing Luann’s cologne, and with what we’ve seen this season, I’m sure Sutter won’t be able to control himself on getting himself in on this season’s over the top antics.

– another cameo from The Shield: the dirtball who Mackey helped deep throat a bong (and later, helped Acevada deep throat something else) was one of Nero’s guys hunting down McHale’s character.

– nothing from Roosevelt this week, although my intuition tells me we might start seeing the beginning of a “good cop goes bad” arc beginning next week.

– Next week: the race for Freddy begins.

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