"What those animals did was to hurt Clay, Jax. Anyone finds it out, they win. I can't let that happen." -GemmaThe world of "Sons of Anarchy" is a violent one, and one where revenge is a prime motivator. But in "Small Tears," we see that there's more than one way to seek vengeance.
Opie is taking the more obvious route, trying to kill every Mayan he sees, and not seeming to care if he dies in the process. But that's not too surprising. Opie is a man of action - he's the guy in the club whose specialty is blowing stuff up, don't forget - and after he made a go at a more peaceful life after his prison stint, Donna's murder has sent him down a path it's going to be hard to steer away from.
We know Gemma's not opposed to violence herself, particularly if there's a skateboard handy, but she's also cagey enough to know when another response is called for. After being brutally beaten and raped by AJ and his goons, it would be easy for her to tell Clay what happened and be confident that Samcro would make her attackers suffer greatly. But she also knows that telling Clay would play right into their hands, and that the best - if hardest - way to hurt them is to carry the secret, and the pain. And we know that if anyone on this show is strong enough to carry this, it's Gemma, in an episode that's just a tour de force for Katey Sagal.
But it's also a great episode for Maggie Siff and Dayton Callie(*), as Tara and Unser become Gemma's unlikely and yet appropriate secret-keepers. This is a trio of characters who are of the club to varying degrees, but not in the club. Gemma's such a force of nature, and the stakes of this encounter are so high, that you can understand why they'd help maintain the lie, even reluctantly. While the culture of Samcro itself is fascinating, these first two episodes are suggesting that it's just as interesting to see what it's like just on the outside of the club, looking in.
(*) The longer this show goes on, the more Unser comes across as the Charlie Utter of Charming. I wouldn't at all be shocked for an episode down the road to have Unser refer to an ancestor who had a freight business in the Dakotas.
And affairs within the club aren't exactly peachy, either, as Jax's attempt to pin Opie's murder of the Mayan patsy on the One-Niners blows up in his face (and in Bobby's shoulder), and as Samcro is forced to get into the adult video industry to help out Big Otto's wife and make use of the empty gun warehouse.
The porn subplot, in addition to casting Tom Arnold in the part (sleazy porn magnate) he was born to play, baby, gave Charlie Hunnam another good opportunity to play the angry side of Jax. It's important to show that Jax isn't suddenly a full-on peacenik, that despite his intentions, his first impulse is often violence, and that he can be just as scary with people he likes (Luanne) as with people he hates (Georgie). The Clay/Jax conflict isn't entirely black and white, even if you factor in Donna's murder, and it's good to see episodes where Jax is messing up and being just as reprehensible as Clay can be at times.
And seeing these two at odds, and not at their finest, makes Gemma's need to hide her pain for their sakes sting even more. For all their flaws, these are the men Gemma cares about most in all the world, and she'll do anything - even swallow (for now) the knowledge of what AJ did to her - to protect them.
Some other thoughts on "Small Tears":
• In addition to the odd combination of Gemma, Tara and Unser, we also got a rare scene between Tig and Opie, which is tough to watch knowing what we know, and tough for Tig to sit through for the same reason. Clay helped him work through his guilt right after Donna died, but having to work alongside her husband, and to see how much he's hurting - how much Tig has made him hurt, and for what turned out to be no real reason at all - isn't easy even for a cold bastard like Tig. Nice work by Kim Coates (and, as usual, Ryan Hurst).
• Sagal, an accomplished singer who already did a song ("Son of a Preacher Man") for season one, contributes another cover to the soundtrack, here opening the episode with her take on "Ruby Tuesday." Her husband, meanwhile, steps in front of the cameras again as incarcerated Samcro member Big Otto.
• Can a show that cast Drea DeMatteo as Jax's baby mama then have Jax make a reference to Adriana on "The Sopranos"? ("You think I brought you here to Adriana you?")
• And speaking of meta references, I guess Charlie Hunnam's been compared enough to a young Brad Pitt in real life that it's okay for Georgie to bring up the resemblance with Jax.
• I couldn't help noticing that Ethan lies to AJ about being on the phone with Alvarez. Last week, we saw AJ scolding Darby for using non-whites to help manufacture his meth; perhaps there are different levels of hardcore within the League?
What did everybody else think?