As with many late-season episodes of Sons of Anarchy over the years, “Huang Wu” is about complications: specifically, the complications threatening the latest big, complicated plans of its leader, be it Clay or Jax. Smartly, the episode finds a new wrinkle by making Jax and Tara both experience the frustrations of a plan unraveled, forcing them both to make decisions that are basically out of the hands while they look in the mirror and what happened to themselves.
Familiar material? Very: and it’s full of the predictable machinations, like Clay’s being trial moved up and Galen’s erratic behavior involving his business relationships. But the episode finds its truth in Tara, whose plan to escape Charming comes falling apart as she realizes what she’s become and what she’s done to the people around her. There are a few important parallels that allude to this Gemma/Tara parallel, including the gun Tara carries and Wendy vomiting on heroin, recalling a very similarly shot scene from the show’s pilot: by trying to protect her family, Tara’s essentially destroyed it, affecting the people she loves in the worst way possible.
Does the episode lay on the punishment a little thick? While I think Gemma’s little take down was fitting, Jax running off to have sex with Collette merely minutes later reminds us why Tara’s doing this: Jax doesn’t give a fuck about anything but himself, something I’m hoping the show will finally hold him to task for as the season finale approaches (with the title “A Mother’s Work”, the show’s ultimate judgment on Tara appears it will be made there). But the episode really hits home making the parallel between Gemma and Tara, two women willing to push the limit (though one a bit farther than the other, as Gemma explained to Nero last week), giving Tara’s scenes some much-needed perspective on her transformation this season (“You trained me, Gemma” she tells her in an ice-cold voice). Make no mistake: Tara’s trying to get out of the Sons life, but it’s not just to run away from Jax and the violence: it’s to run away from herself, an image in the mirror which is increasingly starting to look like a younger version of Gemma staring back at her.
The other strong narrative thread of the episode is Jax and Tara running full speed into every obstacle placed in front of them, as if pure bull-headedness and tunnel vision will help one get from point A to point B in a difficult situation. Everyone finding out about Tara’s plan is very similar to Jax getting pulled farther and farther into the IRA’s shit: the more these two make plans to escape the status norm of their professional (Jax) and personal (Tara) lives, the more the sense of “choice” is being removed from their situations.
There are clear moments of plot machination in “Huang Wu” – Galen’s increasing psychotic tendencies lead to the complications in breaking Clay out of jail and transferring the sale of guns to the Irish (and now, the Chinese). One thing is clear: the next 48 hours in Sons of Anarchy is going to put all the ‘good’ and bad guys in the same place at the same time: all Jax has to do now is manipulate the situation to work to his advantage. “Huang Wu” never says these things are impossible (should they?), but makes it very clear the obstacles are once again stacking the chips against its fearless leader to effortlessly (but dramatically) knock over in the last couple hours of the season. We’ve seen this formula before: here’s hoping the last three hours of Sons’ penultimate season are willing to change it.
– fresh hair dye job for Bobby? Live as a fake nomad has indeed ended.
– Jax AND Gemma threaten Tara in this episode – isn’t she happy she came back to Charming?
– Since when did we start calling Galen the Butcher of Belfast?
– Jax: “So damn close…”
– wait… everyone is just cool with voting to help the IRA violently break someone out of prison?
– Nero and Unser’s scenes together in this episode were my favorites of the whole season. Just fucking terrific. “Don’t suck up to me now, homes… it’s embarrassing.”