Review: Sons of Anarchy ‘Crucifixed’ – Out With The New, In With The Old

With much of last season’s hanging plot threads continuing through this year’s run of story-heavy episodes, there are a lot of shit going on in the world of Sons of Anarchy right now, much of it swirling around the increasingly unstable Jax Teller. And while ‘Crucifixed’ has a lot more strong moments than earlier episodes in the season thanks to a near 60-minute running time, the show still suffers from holes of logic big enough to drive oil tankers through, more focused on getting to the next big moment than making sense of all the crap that just happened.

Last week, ‘Andare Pescare’ was a small step in the right direction for the season: it finally removed the last of the nomads from the table, and appeared to start gaining some downhill steam towards the inevitable power struggle between Jax and Clay awaiting at the end of the season. However, like ‘Crucifixed’ and the rest of the season, it still can’t get itself untied from some of the less interesting plots, all while introducing new dramatic avenues – even though there are only four episodes and a lot of resolution awaiting at the end of the season.

The continuing convolution of Clay’s plans to take back the club continue to bring both the strongest and weakest material to the table. At this point, he may or may not even want the power of the gavel under his fist – and honestly, I don’t think the writers are even sure yet if they want him back at the head of the table yet, either. He’s been antagonizing Jax behind his back all season, but it seems to be that he really wants to get Gemma back and retire peacefully – not to mention the decline of his riding abilities, something that’s been pointed to once or twice during the season.

On the other hand, he’s having the same thoughts Jax was having last season: why does he really want the seat? Does it make sense for him to be there? One of the two big themes at hand in ‘Crucifixed’ are the big parallels being drawn between characters, and how they react to similar situations. Jax and Clay about trying to gain power (and revenge), Tara showing a little Gemma by slamming on the piano until a baby woke up and needed her care (which also felt a little Lucille Bluth to me), or even Juice vs. Gemma trying to find the motivation to be a worm for Jax in his war against Clay.

Those moments were the big strengths in the episode – and made it quite enjoyable to watch until the final third, when the logic of the narrative became as thin as ever. The biggest problem is the unraveling of Jax’s psyche: it’s one thing to take a character to a dark place, but it’s something else to send him on his second rampage in three seasons (remember the brutality of season three while searching for Abel?), and having him sell out everyone in his path along the way. It’s not only turning him into a supremely unlikable character – we all knew he was lying through his teeth to Tio when he said he would never hurt his cousin – but turning him into a short-sighted misogynst who doesn’t mind sending his mother off to bang a man she reviles, and his non-criminal wife to go commit some felonies on some weak RICO shit that’s been dead story-wise since last season.

It doesn’t stop with women, though (and sorry, getting a house for Lila doesn’t make it even) – Jax is throwing everyone under the bus in pursuit of a selfish, short sighted vision – one he keeps deluding himself into thinking is a solution long-term. He’s burning relationships with other clubs without a blink, murdering people left and right with no apparent moral compass, and manipulating everyone from Tig to Juice to do his bidding, with no worry for the consequences. A far cry from the man we saw grow through season four and early this season, replaced by a man who’s trying to save his club by doing exactly the same things that have been tearing the club apart for decades (drawing a few parallels between Jax and his two fathers all over the place, I might add).

Elsewhere, the Otto/Tara story line played out mostly as expected – does anything ever go good when someone brings a prisoner something they explicitly asked for? Now Tara’s stuck with an accessory to murder charge, all in service of an overly brutal scene we really didn’t need. Sutter’s been hell bent on pushing the line this year with the gore and brutality, which has left some of the emotional impact of some scenes (like the obvious disconnect of Otto from any sort of normal reality) by the way side in the form of self-fulfilling sadist-like exercises (all filmed to be shown on national television!).

But all things considered, ‘Crucifixed’ was a decent episode when wasn’t trying to fill our heads with conspiracy theories about Bobby (does anyone really think Bobby would do something bad for the club?) or blatantly not explaining character motives and ignoring simple logic while building its infamous long cons (Note to writers: not explaining anyone for an entire season and then providing a ‘surprise twist’ doesn’t make it interesting… how the fuck are we supposed to get invested in it?). There are a few shimmers of hope (a Nero-free episode certainly helps!), but I’m still worried about the show long-term, and what direction its heading into the final quarter of the season.

Grade: C+

Other thoughts/observations:

– Chibs is the fucking man.

– what happened to the guy who got shot outside the bar? Did anyone give that guy a ride to a doctor?

– I just can’t buy Clay running to the cartel connections like “Haha, you bitches are CIA!” and then trying to cut a deal. One scene he’s neutered, the next scene he’s wiping his balls on Happy’s forehead.

– Theo Rossi is a perfectly serviceable character actor, but he lacks the range to give any nuance to the many unsettling personal moments Juice has gone through the last two seasons. Maybe its the material, but it feels sometimes like he’s being too obvious to the audience with his motives, which make his movements and line delivery feel too practiced.

– Lenny the Pimp: “I ain’t got no more outside.”

– If we can recognize from the instant Otto mentions the crucifix that it’s bad news for Tara, why didn’t she realize it? Did the masturbation over Otto’s sad, sad state of affairs create an ’emotional’ connection that made her forget who he was? … Either way, it’s not going to be a problem now, she’s finally fully aware of what happens when an old lady tries to enter the world of the Sons (as Jax comforts her in the closing, she responds that getting through these problems like they always do is exactly what scares her about the whole thing).

– “Things are going to get bloodier, brother.” Not something I want to hear, after this season’s growing infatuation with overly-brutalized violence, especially on women (crazy one kills herself, innocent nurse gets stabbed in the neck, repeated Gemma beatings and forced fellatio….)

– “I think its time we changed the by-laws.” Oh, change the rules, but threaten to kill the half-black member? SHEESH.

What did you think of ‘Crucifixed’? feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!

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