Review: Sons of Anarchy “The Mad King” – It Ain’t Good

soa 6.5

The end of “The Mad King” is presented like a significant event in the world of Sons of Anarchy – and in a simpler time may have been, with forces like Hale and others trying to separate the club from the community, the only redeemable quality it had going for it (that, and loyalty to family). Losing the heart of it all – Teller-Morrow repair shop – should be a surprising, affecting moment for the audience, a metaphor for Jax’s failure as a leader and the club “losing it all to save everything” kind of thing. Instead, it’s a petty argument with the IRA, who fight with invisible bombs, obnoxiously loud pens, and the home decor of a shitty 1960s apartment. This is the ‘shocking’ ending to “The Mad King” – and like many of the episode’s other events, signify just how hollow and simplistic stories have become.

Sons of Anarchy‘s formula in later seasons has been simple: intertwine and overlap five or six clumsy plots at a time, dishing out a couple red herrings and “shocking” moments in increasing amounts, to cover for the lack of personality any of its characters have anymore. Everyone has become a plot point or a doll on-screen: if the writers were treating these characters as humans, they wouldn’t continuously dive into the well of having a character raped to conjure up dramatic tension (as seen when two creepy guards demand Gemma and Clay have sex while they masturbate). The rare moments where people feel like humans don’t last long: Chibs makes a very good argument why Jackie-boy is being a terrible leader, yet joins on board with him in waiting for a call he knows deep down is a load of shit.

But for the ending of “The Mad King” to work properly, all the pieces have to line up neatly: Chibs can’t be intelligent and/or thinking for himself for too long, lest he come onto the idea that the Irish might be lying. Just like Jax – the man who has pulled multiple season-long manipulations behind everyone’s back – can’t see through the most obvious lie of all-time when on the phone with the IRA? These kinds of inconsistencies riddle the plots of “The Mad King”, and make it pretty clear that all this ignorance is going to lead to something: which turns out to be a bomb in the clubhouse, discovered by using his eagle-eye vision and Batman-like detective skills to deduce is a spoiler for said bomb sitting behind the bar.

While all that’s playing out, there’s plenty of other nonsense happening in the world: Wendy remembers that she has a daughter (because remember, women are terrible creatures) and backs away from the statements of “getting out” she spewed a scene before that. There’s also the D.A.W. (DA in a Wig), who just needs a damn scapegoat for some school murders, be it a Mexican gangster who slings hos or a semi-retired doctor trying to protect her children. Illegal dead cops, fake deals, semi-rape in prison, lots of SAMCRO members staring at things in cars…  the shit sprays in from all sides during every extra-lengthy episode of Sons of Anarchy, structured in its trademark “every conversation about some plan is interrupted by a conversation about another dangerous plan” way that makes everything feel more convoluted than necessary.

By the time “The Mad King” finally gets to the Big Finish, it’s already exhausted itself in so many different directions, there’s no significance to the shop blowing up. Losing his closest friend didn’t set Jax straight: blowing up the clubhouse isn’t going to give him any insight into how dangerous it is for him to isolate himself around dangerous, spiteful people. It’s just another shit pile for Jax to clean up, another wake up call to get the fuck out that he’ll most likely ignore to get tied up with his hooker-manager-on-the-side and old Robocop, who isn’t going to put up with this complicated business bullshit these young people are all into. Like the rest of the episode, the explosion that closes “The Mad King” is another flashy attempt to conceal the lack of depth in its character and narrative: it’s all very loud and complicated, suffocating itself in a sea of violent melodramatics.

Grade: D

Other thoughts/observations:

– it appears Jax has a four-headed beast to slay in the next eight episodes: Robocop, IRA, D.A.’s office, and Wendy/Tara.

– Nero continues to stand by and shake his head while he knows everything is going to shit – and the show’s not convincing me why he wouldn’t have left by now. He questions Jax, but follows him around. Worries about getting out, then drives around and does illegal shit that’s not really his business, even if he wants to say it is.

– apparently the black prison gang is cool with Jax killing their leader? or is SOA finally rejecting stereotypes for once, presenting us with a wise, cultured African-American felon?

– I feel like Wendy is going to die; not exactly sure why, I just do. Anyone professing desire for that which they yearn for the most is never a good sign.

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