The shot above is quite telling of the direction this season of Sons of Anarchy appears to be heading: Jax sits alone at the head of his table, accompanied only by his thoughts and the lonely table he currently sits at (out of the en”light”enment waiting him at the center of the table). There’s nobody around to confide in, no VP’s or sergeant-in-arms’ to sit by his side and help him out. Jax Teller is truly alone: and as his wife slowly pulls away from him, and his club grows smaller and more cornered by the day, “Wolfsangel” suggests that there’s no good ending for Jax here – that it’s only a matter of time before all the shit he’s dealing with falls apart. Although it’s another way-too-long episode full of intricate plans gone wrong, lots of murder, and some very revealing plot machinations, the growing concern that Jax’s ignorant isolation could become his downfall is starting to lay the groundwork for the show’s big existential Jax questions awaiting in the final season.
As expected, the show backs away from killing Tig, playing off last week’s closing moments with a shrug of the shoulders and some bullshit about a “loyalty test”. With all the shit going down in this episode, this big, multi-season plot point just gets chucked aside for no reason – a prime example of my biggest frustrations with this show. If Tig’s such a fuck-up (which he does once again in this episode), why is Jax suddenly willing to take him back, hours after wanting him dead? Did he know it was just a test – and if so, why is he still messing with someone as simple as Marks (who is far more reckless than Damon Pope, and doesn’t appear to be very long for this world)? It’s one of the many SoA plot lines that just hum along with no regard to logic: sometimes they work, and sometimes it just feels like the writers are slapping together silly resolutions on the fly, regardless of what a character might actually think or do.
This crops up again in the Lee Toric subplot (one of the weakest the show’s every delivered) – but thankfully, it’s one that mostly ends with this episode, violently removing the heroin-using, all-powerful, still-can’t-get-no-love retired marshal with a penchant for prison rape jokes via Kurt Sutter’s on-screen curtain call as Otto, who allows himself to die in his final act of vengeance against Toric. Is it a frustrating end to another plot line that began last season? Sure, but at least it gets rid of Toric, who was a character that the writers never nailed down beyond general creepiness and the curse of super-violent crimes following him and his family around the world (was this guy ever married or had kids? Could you imagaine?). If anything, Otto’s farewell kills two annoying birds with one stone, clearing a small part of the super-cluttered and disorganized narrative of the season.
But there are a million other things going on in “Wolfsangel”, and the deaths of Toric and Otto are but two of them: Wendy’s got a gun for reasons we don’t know yet (I would assume for future protection, when she testifies against Jax), and Gemma’s getting closer to finding out what Tara is up to. Don’t forget the Irish, who kill Phil and a prospect, chopping them up as a “fuck you!” gesture to Jax and SAMCRO for trying to get out of the gun business (one would think they’d just find another customer and have them do it, rather than put their asses on the line… but hey, live how you wanna live): one of the frustrating things about the show is that it’s never portrayed the trouble that comes along with the gun business as something worth fighting for – so every time we get Irish gangster accents and threats tossed around the screen by angry Jax, it just feels like we’re getting on the same tired carnival ride again.
And in all honesty, this feeling creeps into other parts of the episode, too. The entire construction of the season feels like there’a dozen narrative cogs spinning independent of each other, and it causes the whole machine to be a herky-jerky, often ineffective mode of storytelling. Even watching Nero resist his inevitable plight to death feels silly at times: there’s been about eight episodes over the past two seasons where he’s expressed trepidation about being a gangster again: so don’t be a fucking gangster! Walk away from the Sons, take Diosa somewhere else, and let Jax and his self-serving plans be left to burn alone.
This is really where I hope this season ends up going: I don’t care about the Irish, the Nazis, whoever attacked Unser (who the FUCK would attack Unser to get at the club?) the return of Darby, or the death of a SAMCRO “member” who was never much but an easy punchline for a couple seasons (hasn’t he been around since early season 3? I barely remembered his name was Phil). What I do care about is SAMCRO falling apart in Jax’s hands: a fate he completely deserves, as his table grows smaller and his supposed influence grows larger. Bobby also seems to be poised to do something about it: it appears he’s gathering up a group of people to go back to Charming and pull the SAMCRO charter away from Jax, and this is something I wish SoA would spend a little more time on. With Chibs questioning Jax, and Bobby forming up a new charter, the biggest threats to Jax’s control of the club is internal for once: even with Clay sidelined for the time being, Jax has a growing insurgence on his hands (either that, or Tig’s recklessness will just get everyone killed).
But in the end, it’s all a lot of gunsmoke and blood spurts: Sons of Anarchy is the definition of a show trying to have cake, eat it, then vomit it up all over the screen and say “that shit’s cool, right?” The most interesting parts of the story are mostly confined to a few scenes, while we watch Eli get involved in something he said he wouldn’t get involved in, and Jax willfully digs himself bigger holes to climb out of. There’s “noble” deaths, murders, arguments, and lots of Jax staring and making his “secret” plans: the only time “Wolfsangel” gets interesting (or really makes any sense) is when it slows down, and puts the guns aside.
– Clay, to Otto: “no more, brother.”
– how many SoA episodes have opened with an Unser scene? It’s gotta be the first time.
– Jax: “We all kid ourselves about the service we provide.”
– shades of Walter White when Jax says: “everything I do, I do for this club.” But does he really believe that, sending his own members off to be murdered MULTIPLE times (seriously: how has Tig not figured this out by now?)
– ok, Wendy, Tara is acting a little odd, but what does this whole “disconnected” comment even mean?
– what a subtle ‘racist farm’.
– father/son rape jokes! more rape jokes from Toric! Rape jokes!!!
– when was the last time we saw an actual crow eater on the show? they were all over the place in seasons one and two.
– Awww, Jax can’t have an affair because his new whore manager is banging Robocop… awww, poor Jax.