Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sons of Anarchy, "Better Half": My old ladies

Spoilers for last night's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I get some rosary beads...

As the title suggests, "Better Half" was all about the women of SAMCRO, and the different ways they responded when the club is under siege by law enforcement (and, appropriately enough, by a female ATF agent). While a lot of dramas that take place in a criminal milieu treat the female characters as afterthoughts, "Sons of Anarchy" has made a concerted effort to depict the role of the women in this world, to the point where Gemma was the first character to stand out in the show's shakier early episodes. All the women -- from Gemma to Tara to Opie's wife to "Cecil B. DeMILF" to Agent Stahl -- got great material to play this week, and the intensity didn't seem any slacker for having Clay and Jax and the guys somewhat in the background.

Much as I'd love to have Ally Walker be a continuing presence on this show, I do wonder how Kurt Sutter and company are going to deal with the ATF's continued pursuit of SAMCRO. "The Sopranos" could keep Tony out of jail for years because it portrayed the FBI as a bunch of bumblers. "The Shield" has maintained Vic Mackey's freedom because he's a cop who has the ability to undermine his own investigators, and because the LAPD brass at times decided he was too valuable to get rid of. Though the Sons have a handful of law-enforcement contacts, they're not as influential as Mackey, and this show's version of the ATF is a lot tougher than the "Sopranos" feds were.

We have four episodes left this season. Even if Clay somehow manages to get the club out from under Agent Stahl's current investigation, how will they stay off the ATF's radar forever? Not a complaint; I'm genuinely curious to see how they attempt to pull this off.

What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

Hatfield said...

So after last week's relatively mellow episode we got Agent Stahl back to turn the screws, and screw Hale, and then get her face smashed by Otto. I love this show, but one thing that does occasionally take me out of the action is the writers' desire to push the envelope just because they can. We've already had the nastiness of a castration, a full back tattoo being torched off, and Jax and Tara doin the deed while Kohn's brain was all over the wall, amongst other things. Some of them work and some of them don't, but the reason I bring them up is that despite that tendency I was completely surprised when Otto attacked Stahl. I mean, damn! That image of her all bloodied was a great way to end it, even if I don't particularly wish her harm. I also appreciated that Hale already has her figured out enough to know that just because she slept with him didn't mean she'd want to be comforted right there.

In other developments, isn't Bobby screwed? Hale said the witness identified him from last week's shooting, so things can only get worse before they get better. And Unser has pretty much given up all pretense of being a cop, a move which actually makes me like him more.

To paraphrase the late, lamented "Deadwood," I feel like this is heading for a dark result, and I don't see everyone surviving.

Clevelle said...

That ending scene with Stahl was perfect. I think her rage (pure as the snow and white-hot as the sun) will be a lot more focused and effective than that of THE SHIELD's Cavanaugh. Look out, SAMCRO! Glad to have another must-see series on FX.

Kevin Michaels said...

Another excellent eppy. Although the violence is a draw - Otto smashing Agent Stahl's face to the table was worth a cheer - I think it's the dialogue between the characters that really makes this series tick. In much the same way that The Shield and The Wire were successful with the words more than the action, SOA really moves forward in the interaction between the charcters. The face-off between Gemma and Agent Stahl in the grocery story was subtle but wickedly strong. And the tension/conversation between Opie and his wife was equally strong.

I also wonder where the ATF angle will go. Using RICO to bring down SOA is a smart maneuver (also used recently in LA to cut into a 1%'er club called the Mngols), and I don't think they're going to fade from view any time soon. Between the Mayans and the ATF, things with the Sons look tough (not to mention the threat of Bobby and Opie being fingered by last week's witness to the killing).

I think week after week this show keeps building momentum and getting better.

Jennifer J. said...

I don't watch this show, but the picture you picked is really creeping me out! ;)p

anon said...

The ending didn't make sense to me, I'll admit. Stahl wants a RICO case and she's duping Otto into providing evidence for it. Even though she knows Unser is dirty, she _let him know_ she was building a RICO case -- meaning she knows SAMCRO knows she's building a RICO case. (As an aside, Dayton Callie had some good comedic moments this week.) She also knows SAMCRO broke into the jail (probably with Unser's help) and freed Rita and spoke to LuAnn. So why let LuAnn in to see Otto before getting him to sign the confession? At the very least, why not be on guard for some shenanigans from Otto?

The blackmail dynamic I expect to emerge next week -- leaning on Bobbie and (as a ruse) Opie -- feels much more organic to me.

Also, if Taryn Manning's experience is a guide, guest stars only get one more episode after beating mercilessly hit in the face. So Stahl may exit sooner than expected.

Anon

Cree said...

I have fallen in love with this show. The scene at the end was awesome. My personal favorite though was in the store between Sagal and Walker. Sagal is stealing this show!

jim treacher said...

Finally got to see this. I really wish you hadn't run that photo! I don't understand why FX would release it in the first place. Dear FX Promo Dept.: Surprises are no longer surprises once you give them away.

That said, it was still awesome. Stahl has been strutting around for weeks treating the whole thing like a game, daring somebody to show her that she only gets so many nut-cutting quips before something bad happens, and boy, did it. She wants to mark her territory, well, the other dogs are gonna bite.

Hey, was that Sutter himself? I remember when he did that episode of The Shield, and it kind of looks like the same guy. Although I think maybe he was prettier.

jim treacher said...

Oh! And is there not a single actor in the LA area who can pull off an Irish accent? They're 0 for 2 at this point.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I really wish you hadn't run that photo! I don't understand why FX would release it in the first place.

FX didn't release it. It was a screencap I made. Direct your ire my way if you like.

jim treacher said...

Ire!

Seriously, though, putting up the very last shot of the episode is kind of spoilery, isn't it? I kept waiting for Gemma to kick her ass, and it kept not happening, and then it was down to the last 3 minutes and I was like, "Ah, this must be it." Kind of blunted some of the impact, so to speak.

dez said...

Seriously, though, putting up the very last shot of the episode is kind of spoilery, isn't it?

ITA. I'm one of those people who can't stay up until 11 p.m. because of work, so I watch SOA the next day or a few days later. That photo you used totally gave the ending away.

bombaygirl said...

I was actually waiting for Otto to pop...the first time he put his handcuffed hands on the table (in an earlier scene), I got all jumpy, waiting for him to do something. And when he did, it was totally predictable. But still good. I love Agent Stahl! Can't wait to see what she has in store for the gang. Loved the scene between her and Gemma in the grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Alan Sepinwall said...

"FX didn't release it. It was a screencap I made. Direct your ire my way if you like."

Okay: Alan, that was really stupid and thoughtless on your part.

As for how the ATF investigation will get resolved, since SAMCRO can't keep killing federal agents, the only reasonable outcome is for SAMCRO to stumble onto some sort of terrorist plot that they reveal to ATF for their freedom. No doubt it would involve sacrificing one or two of their own.

Oz

Alan Sepinwall said...

I concede the point on the picture, and apologize. I know it's closing the barn door after the horses are gone, but I've subbed in a different pic for posterity's sake.

Won't happen again.

Buster said...

OK, now everyone's making me wonder what the damned picture was. :)

jim treacher said...

It was that last shot of Stahl with her face all bloody because she wasn't as smart as she thought she was.

Anonymous said...

Had big problems with the show's writers portraying that they were going to get a RICO charge in a single episode with just two crimes. That was just careless.

Anonymous said...

If you know you won't be able to see the show until the following day, maybe you should steer clear of messsage boards regarding the episode you haven't seen.

Just a suggestion.

dez said...

Alan's site is very good about not giving away spoilers, which is why I usually feel safe coming here to read about shows I've already seen even as I avoid the posts about the shows I haven't had a chance to watch yet.

jim treacher said...

If you know you won't be able to see the show until the following day, maybe you should steer clear of messsage boards regarding the episode you haven't seen.

It was on the front page of the blog.

Just an observation.