Another episode full of Jax doing whatever the fuck he wants for himself, ‘One One Six’ spends its 56-minute time hacking off and cauterizing the school shooting plot it hung its hat on last week, using the normal “set something up, then it goes sideways” formula for things to spiral out of control. Worst of all, ‘One One Six’ does nothing to combat the problems of plot machination it had in the premiere, furthering many of the nonsensical things characters are doing – many of which seem to contradict the words coming out of their mouths.
While watching Jax try to manipulate everyone from the wife he “loves” (but doesn’t listen or stay faithful to, at any point in the show’s five-plus seasons), I couldn’t help but think of times in greener pastures, when it felt like SAMCRO was a real establishment, a part of local culture and a living, breathing town. There were the Hale brothers, the Sons always driving around the local neighborhoods or participating in local events and happenings. There were political tinges, batshit crazy federal agents – and of course, Jax figuring out a way out of the latest fucked situation he was in.
But over the years, that show has dissolved into something much more superficial, even though many of the elements remain the same. Lee Toric’s character is a great example: he fits the same mold as Agent Stahl, except that he’s not really a cop and has an unbelievable amount of “last favors” in his back pocket. In this episode, he explains that he likes to hurt people who hurt people – even going so far as to revel in the killing of Matthew the child shooter at the school, proudly declaring “God Bless America” when hearing an 11-year old took two bullets to the head (an altogether sickening dismissal of the on-screen events last week, and simultaneously allowing Sutter to feed the conservative, NRA-loving fan base he’s catered to as the show’s become a major merchandise enterprise). Toric is not so much a character as he is a beard and a voice with absolutely no brain stem attached to it: he literally walks around talking and doing whatever he wants, with nobody questioning his psychotic police record or his openly-insane theories on what law “enforcement” really means.
On shows like Sons of Anarchy, I suppose having bad guys that are nothing more than cardboard placards that say “crazy and dangerous” is acceptable – it allows a show to focus its attention on the main characters, without having to spend all this time defining and explaining every quirk and motivation of its Big Bad (even though some shows can do this: Gus Fring is a fantastic example). But the show never established Lee as a real threat, and everythign he does is so ridiculous and lawless, it gives the writers so much leeway to easily backtrack (as we know they like to do) at the end of the season. For fuck’s sake, he fakes a signature on a cooperation agreement that isn’t really even legally valid, having been written and commissioned by someone who has no badge, power, or jurisdiction (except those invisible forces and friends that give him everything he needs to be a thorn to the club, and give him access to any prison cell, crime scene, and interrogation room in California).
But the real problem is that this not only applies to small, ancillary characters: but to the ENTIRE CAST. The questionable decisions people make just pile up, time and time again, until it becomes clear that nothing is being considered except what makes the coolest, violent on-screen product possible. Are we supposed to believe Clay is really giving up the club, having dedicated his entire life to not doing that, killing and burning the tattoos off other snitches? Why is Gemma still torturing Clay, when she clearly wants to be with him instead of Nero (and why does she still have those feelings)? Does Jax really believe he’s doing anything for anybody but himself – and why is Chibs the only person who questions the decisions Jax is making? Why did Jax have Juice – someone he knows was just involved with the cops and had a charge over his head, and is on probation – kill a woman he told Nero he would protect?
The one moment I liked in ‘One One Six’, sadly, is used to paint Clay as a weak coward, being a bitter old man throwing shit in the face of his ex-wife and STEP-son (if Clay says “MY son” about Jax one more time, I’m going to lose it). When Clay is apologizing to Gemma, talking about how he did everything for himself, it parallels exactly what Jax is doing when he tells Nero “everything I’m doing is for you.” While it’s a stretch to believe that Jax actually believes that (though he seems to enjoy setting up shitstorms for himself, re: cheating on his wife with someone he works with, refusing to walk away from the IRA time and time again, etc.), it’s nice that at least, even for a fleeting, possibly incidental moment, that SoA is willing to recognize the growing hypocrisy that is Jax Teller. From what I saw in ‘One One Six’, he’s not a man who cares about his family or his club, unless that happens to be what he wants at that time. Like everything on SoA, his motivations and decisions are orchestrated by the narrative, not by who he is as a person – which is beginning to seriously threaten the foundation laid back in the early seasons, where all the Sons did was smoke weed, have parties at the clubhouse, and keep Unser’s dumbass from finding anything out.
– For a guy getting no screen time, it still feels like Bobby’s plot is moving along slowly. It’s now completely disconnected from everything else, reduced to a single sentence of dialogue from another character that drops a seed of another shitstorm SAMCRO could deal with in the future (the member of the club who flipped).
– Jax orders the killing of another woman: this time it’s a grieving mother. Worse than Walter White, or about the same?
– Lee: “Retribution… is always my endgame.” How did this guy pass the psychological tests to be a marshal???
– Tara’s divorcing Jax, which will never actually happen.
– Jax: “I don’t care about people” (the most honest thing he’s said since season three).
– Jax couldn’t give a shit less about the school shooting, despite the show making a lame attempt to do so for one second when he hugs Abel: he tells Gail of the IRA “that shit grips the public”, reminding us why he’s the robot sociopath we cheer for every week.
– Moms: is it weird how nonchalant Tara is about giving her kids to Wendy?
– Happy: “Got your ball peen.”
– CCH Pounder in a bad wig!
– Tara doesn’t love Jax enough to stay married to him, but she’ll keep having sex with him (and crying while doing it). They’re already gearing up for another pregnancy (or just another pregnancy tease), why would she KEEP banging him?
– Pretty insane that Nero kills his cousin without hesitation, and then justifies it two minutes later while pretending he’s all “torn up” about it. I really hope he didn’t buy Jax’s lie – we can all see that Nero’s going down in flames, but I hope they at least do him justice before they do.
– Nero tells Jax he can’t kill Nvarro’s girlfriend, even though he just impulsively shot somebody. At least he’s dead and off the show finally.