Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sons of Anarchy, "Falx Cerebri": Patience is a virtue

Spoilers for tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I spill some "diet cola" on you...
"That's it? You're gonna run blind off the cliff?" -Hale
As he and his "Shield" colleagues did with the strike team, Kurt Sutter clearly takes great joy in painting Samcro into tight corners, and they don't come much tighter than the one at the end of "Falx Cerebri." Unless Sutter plans to turn this show into a Northern California companion to "Oz," Clay and the boys will get out of jail sooner or later, but getting free, and then staying free, when they were caught red-handed by the cops (and filmed by strategically-placed video cameras), will require an exit strategy worthy of the best of Vic Mackey.

The episode's title is taken from a part of the brain that separates the two hemispheres, and represents the rough divide between the reckless emotion of Clay and the perhaps over-calculation of Jax. Clay has no problem running blind off the cliff, and while Jax would prefer to hang back, his insistence on hanging back and thinking is starting to backfire. He and Piney didn't want to tell Opie the truth about his wife to protect him, and all it's accomplished is to turn Opie into one of Clay's staunchest allies, and to deepen the schism in the group. And while Jax was right to vote against swift vengeance for Otto's eye last week, and right to try to curb the club's bloodlust for Chibs being blown up here, he's piled one too many cautious decisions on top of each other, and now no one in the club wants to hear from him any more. And so the core of the club(*) winds up in jail, and Zobelle is free to do to Charming what he wants.

(*) Minus Piney, who's off on an oddly-timed bender that seems designed to keep the character off-stage at an inconvenient moment in the story arc, and minus Opie, who was busy chasing Ethan and is so tough that flipping off his bike and onto a parked car barely knocked the wind out of him.

Zobelle so far has outsmarted Samcro at every turn, and his daughter Polly looks to be cut from the same evil, efficient cloth. Hale thinks he's intimidating her, but she's just using the honest but not particularly clever cop to bait the hook for her father's enemies. This will be trouble.

And Hale only gets to Polly by confronting Gemma with what Unser told him, which led to one of two hilarious Unser moments of the episode (the other being Unser's cup of radioactive urine), as he was taken completely off-guard when Gemma showed up to chew him out about it.

And fed up with the men in her life, however well-meaning some may be, Gemma winds up doing even more bonding with Tara. With their sunglasses and visible scars, the two look like they could be mother and daughter as they go for target practice outside Luanne's studio. (It's a good thing Gemma co-owns a body shop so she and Tara can get away with going all Thelma & Louise on Ima's car.)

Really, despite the usual Jax/Clay/Opie tension, and the cliffhanger at the end, this was one of the funnier episodes the show has done yet. Sutter and company have done such a good job establishing the characters that we can laugh at things like Gemma's hat box, or Happy shrugging and saying "Okay" when Bobby suggests cutting off Ethan's head in broad daylight, and yet the jokes don't take away from the tension. Not every drama can do that, but some of the great ones can, and at the moment, "Sons of Anarchy" is in "great" territory.

Finally, I'm going to be off work next week and unable to do a review of next week's episode, but I'll try to get some kind of open discussion post scheduled to publish shortly after it ends so you guys can talk about it.

What did everybody else think?

42 comments:

Chris Littmann said...

This was kind of a testament to how much I enjoy the show now, but when they rolled up to the Church Center or whatever it was, I was kind of rocking in my chair in a way I hadn't really done since the end of Season 4 of The Wire.

That was really fun.

Also, I think when we watched Gemma and Tara shooting like psychopaths, we saw the beginning of a spinoff! Gemma & Tara are clearly the new Thelma & Louise. (Actually, I feared the kickback was going to be too strong and Tara would bust her nose again. Seems like it isn't an episode of SOA if someone doesn't get busted in the nose.)

Can't wait to see what we've got for the back half of the season. They've done so much good in the front half.

Gemini said...

I rocked
I laughed
I booed at the screen
SOA is taking me for a great ride

Stephen said...

So I know this isn't that relevant to tonight's episode but could someone explain to me where Half-Sack has been?

Gemini said...

Recovering from his implant surgery

greentara said...

So the Irish are getting to know the new power in town. Zobelle and his demon spawn are really good, aren't they? Much as my sympathies lie with SAMCRO, I just don't know if the club has the brains to outsmart him. Maybe Bobby will come up with something like Alan suggested? Hale is proving to be just as gullible as the rest of them.

Chris T. said...

I think this was an uneven episode. The first half was great building up the tension and then the execution at the end seemed all wrong. I know SAMCRO was hot for retaliation, but even the dumbest criminals would abort their plan when they learn this place is going to be full of supporters AND police are on the way. Plus, didn't they learn when they blew up the meth house and Opie was caught ON TAPE.
The preview for next week looks average at best. I'm not interested in this show turning into Prison Break or Oz.
SOA has made so many leaps and bounds this season to possibly the best show on TV (at least up there with Breaking Bad and Mad Men) I hope this "prison" storyline goes away in one episode.

On Opie; when he finds out who actually killed Donna, I don't think he is going to believe it. Especially if it comes from Jax, who he's completely lost respect for and almost abandoned.

greentara said...

Also, nice to see Gemma having fun. I don't think I've ever seen a woman teaching another woman how to shoot on TV before. Awesome for such a testosterrific show.

Matt said...

Half-sack is off "getting his sack filled," or whatever they said last week -- he's having a prosthetic testicle put in. Piney is off on a bender. Opie got lucky. Chibbs is in the hospital. Gemma and Tara have only one another -- plus Hale and Unser, I guess -- for protection. Is it going to fall to this motley crew to un-screw the debacle Clay created? I hope so! The possibilities are endless.

While Piney and Opie are running things on the outside, does Clay's dirty secret come out? Does Tara end up committing some serious crime to pull her man's bacon out of the fire? Does Unser end up killing Zobelle, as I've been speculating? Does Hale follow through on his threat to Polly Zobelle? (Probably not, but that'd be sweet.) Does Otto find out that Bobby Elvis has been schtupping Luanne? And what about the Irish and their new relationship with Zobelle. Where's that going?

I can't wait 'til Zobelle gets his comeuppance. For just a moment tonight I thought Opie might ride down the Mercedes and kill Zobelle.

I love this show. Sutter is an evil genius.

carly said...

Gemma and Tara shooting up the (Ima's?) car made me belly laugh out loud.

Matt said...

Chris,

That's why I'm wondering if Piney will be the one who ends up spilling the beans to Ope.

Rabble Rouser said...

Question: Was "Darby" recast from season 1 to season 2? He looks different to me. In season 1 I remember him being a skinny white trash meth head looking type, and this season he looks all yoked up and tough. Is it the same guy, or not?

Prediction: While the boys are locked up Opie gets sucked into a dark world of drugs with the porn star, then Piney gives him a "come to jesus" talk and spills the beans about everything, including Donna and Jon Teller's deaths...

-RR

Matt said...

Ooh, RR, I dig that prediction!

Rabble Rouser said...

Ah Matt you beat me to the punch!

Adding to my question: Darby is the same character who was the leader of the "Nords" yes? I haven't heard the term "nord" at all this season.

Also, when we got to see AJ's sh!t-head kids I found myself wishing that Gemma had smoked AJ when she had the chance.

Matt said...

Yeah, it's the same guy. The term came up during the meth lab episode. They were the ones running the lab and doing the dealing.

Rabble Rouser said...

But is it the same actor from season 1? He looks different to me...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's the same guy, Mitch Pleggi from the X-Files

medrawt said...

Unless my eyes mistake an FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner when I see one, both Season One and Season Two Darby are played by Mitch Pileggi.

S. said...
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Stephen Sommers said...

So awesome. Who is not in jail? Piney, Half-sack, and Chibbs. All good clean fun to rock the Nazi's without club drama.

Piney on a 4 day bender said...

"Who is not in jail? Piney, Half-sack, and Chibbs."

Pfffttt...

Makes no matter. The two scariest SAMCRO folk are still on the outside.

Gemma and Tara.

Wearing the sunglasses and kicking ass...

Heh.

Elwood said...

But is it the same actor from season 1? He looks different to me...

Yes, it's still Mitch Pleggi, only this season he's sporting the beard. In Season One he was clean shaven.

Anonymous said...

so we know that since chibs didnt bite the dust that someone else in or around the club will...i think when the sons get out we are going to see piney stick up for jax and his son by stepping up to clay. i think piney knows something about john teller's death that no one else does...

KMann said...

Ive been thinking it since the end of last season that clay is going to kill someone this season and its not going to be zobelle or aj west...its going to be piney

Geoff said...

Is it just me, or did anyone realize that the actors themselves are portrayed during the credits? All this time I thought it was just random background characters during the opening credits and it was only when watching last night that I realized it was kind of a "character theme" in the credits...Chibs/Flanaghan with the knife, Tig/Coates with the shotgun, Clay/Perlman with the cigar, etc. I guess I'm no Shawn Spencer...

Mo Ryan said...

Does Piney actually ride with SAMCRO? Forgive my memory lapse if he does, but I thought his health issues sort of kept him out of the mix to some degree, so I wasn't surprised that he didn't go to Zobelle's hoedown.

Felt to me like there were maybe a couple of transition scenes missing in this episode. Wasn't quite sure how the Irish knew Zobelle's crew (again, perhaps that's a memory fail on my part but if they're starting to get to know each other, I'd have liked to see that mentioned in the "previouslys"). And Gemma went from being ticked at Hale but relatively OK with him knowing her secret to going into full-on rant mode at Unser. Can't put my finger on why, but it just seemed odd that she just rolled into the sheriff's dept like that.

Other than those quibbles (chibbles?), a solid episode. Loved the gun-toting women, laughed (and was a little sick) when the CSI guy got a face full of urine.

I do want Opie's hat to get its own spinoff though.

Word verification: funca

rhys said...

While Piney's absence was conspicuous, he would not have gone on the raid. His health is too poor. While Zobelle told his daughter to stage herself at the cigar shop, if Hale and Jax's plan had worked, Zobelle and Weston would have been picked up by those sheriff's and the situation averted. So the fact that Zobelle's daughter fed Hale the info would not have advanced Zobelle's plot. There's no way Zobelle could have orchestrated the exact moment the Sheriffs would come by.

I doubt they will stay in prison long. They have some pull on the outside still. Oswald, or whoever that wealthy businessman is who they have on the hook for killing the pedoclown. Hale said he has a judge dad, of course his evil brother may have pull there too. Then of course there's the whole bomb investigation wrinkle that may add to their troubles.

What I am interested in is whether Gemma is going to come forward now. She hid the rape originally to keep the club from doing something stupid, but now that's already happened. She can identify Zobelle's daughter and Weston from his neck tattoo. Send them up the river.

I wonder what deal Zobelle is working with the Irish. They just want to sell their guns. Is he going to buy them at a higher price?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Mo, I think Gemma let it slide with Hale because he meant well, and because he wasn't the one who broke her confidence. Unser, on the other hand, swore to her that he would never violate their three-person Circle of Trust.

And Piney does sometimes ride with the club, and when he doesn't, he's helping out at the garage, or in the mix somehow. Like a lot of shows these days, "Sons of Anarchy" clearly can't use every actor in every episode (see also Half-Sack being out of action while he gets his nuticle), but given how quickly this episode picked up from the end of last week's, the timing seemed really odd and awkward for Piney to just be gone.

Hatfield said...

And to respond to Mo's other concern, I think the reveal of the NRA guys with Ethan was supposed to be a shock, especially after they had just come by to yell at SAMCRO. Pretty soon SAMCRO's only ally will be the Charming PD, and they just aren't that impressive.

I too found the expository mention of Piney's cabin bender to be a bit surprising, especially after he was standing right there with Jax just before the bomb went off. But it was obviously a deliberate decision to have the odd group of Half-Sack, Opie and Piney be the only ones not in jsil (well, and a severe head injury version of Chibs). And we've seen all three of them in badass mode before, so hopefully there's some reprisal on the way for the League after all.

HautieTx said...

Never underestimate Piney. The man drives a flat bed wrecker carrying a pump action shotgun in the cab.

The only thing I found really odd was when SMACRO left through the front door of the church carrying their guns. Why not drop those weapons where they stood and walk out the back door?

Instead they walked right out the front door carrying the weapons.

If anyone ends up dead, I see it being Opie.

There is no way him and Clay can both live in harmony, once Opie knows how Donna ended up with a bullet in her head.

Antid Oto said...

One small thing I didn't understand: why did they feel the need to go rushing into the church to take on who knew what? Why not just wait for Zobelle to leave, follow him, and then take him out on the road, or at his home or something? Or get Opie to wire his car to blow up? I just couldn't buy that even Clay would be so reckless as to rush into a roomful of Nazis of unknown firepower with just seven guys, especially not when there were obvious, immediate alternatives.

Antid Oto said...

while Jax would prefer to hang back, his insistence on hanging back and thinking is starting to backfire.

This may be blindingly obvious to everyone else already, but that's because he's Hamlet, right? Hamlet spends most of his play dithering.

Hatfield said...

Also, having met AJ's kids, can we just say that the next time Gemma's got a gun on him while he's on the phone with one of his sons she should be extra motivated to shoot? Race traitor? It happened so quickly that it got glossed over, but that kid was terrible, and would have killed Jax if the gun weren't empty.

Matt said...

"One small thing I didn't understand: why did they feel the need to go rushing into the church to take on who knew what? Why not just wait for Zobelle to leave, follow him, and then take him out on the road, or at his home or something? Or get Opie to wire his car to blow up? I just couldn't buy that even Clay would be so reckless as to rush into a roomful of Nazis of unknown firepower with just seven guys, especially not when there were obvious, immediate alternatives."

Yeah, this episode required an extra-large helping of suspension of disbelief. This sort of tactical genius is how Clay got to be president of the chapter -- and avoided any apparent long prison stretches -- all these years? Nah. Not buyin' it. I don't care how pissed Clay was; that was stupid to the point of implausibility. But it's all in the name of good TV. :)

Stephen Sommers said...

If someone is going to get killed from the crew, I think it has to be Juice. As a character, he hasn't really developed much. He was sad about killing the teenage AFT witness but voted for immediate retaliation. I see him just swinging on the vine. He's funny, but not a pivotal character.

sveinnbirkir said...

Juice is the comic relief of the show. I don't see him going.

christopher.j.rooney said...

Mo Ryan: Piney rode a trike at the head of Donna's funeral escort (presumably Opie was in a limo with the kids). So he doesn't as far as I recall go on rides like the patchover but he still more or less rides. I assume he's in a voting, but not active, emeritus role like Clay will be if he lives long enough to succumb to his arthritis(?).

That said, I don't think Clay lives out the season. Perlman has got other, non-basic cable, roles to consider (he's Hellboy, ferchrissakes), and unlike Chiklis, it's not this role he's famous for or will make him a star.

My take is Jax has him taken out somehow, or more likely, Jemma kills him to preserve Jax and undoes the bad karma she accrued by killin John T, in ancient history. I predict she'll be in season 3 for a few eps and then flake out of it.

Further speculation for those who can take an even longer post. Next season with Jax as king or having ceded to Piney or Bobby Elvis, it's up to him to prevent a transplant (like Happy only less psycho) from another chapter from wresting control of the charming chapter. Zoebelle, Weston, Clay -> all dead. Juice -> alive, because it's too much to suppose they could prospect another technical wiz so that the intell plot shortcuts they keep needing always arrive.

Sorry for the long post and the late date. Have to wait to see it down here in S. America.

So Cal said...

Can't wait to see next episode! Only seen this season but i'm completely hooked. Favorite drama on TV right now (disclaimer: haven't gotten into Mad Men yet)

usually a lurker said...

Sweet Christ, I've been studying all damn week for an anatomy exam (with more to come tomorrow!), and I read your site to unwind before bed only to see FALX CEREBRI staring me in the face. There is no escape.

Anonymous said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

No talking about what's in the previews. It's one of the few commenting rules.

jim treacher said...

"My other mom!" I love this show.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of the show, but it seems to be premised on Clay being on the complete, 100% opposite side of reason at any given moment. Storming a crowded church with illegal weapons was a dumb plan from jump. Proceeding to do so AFTER being told that the police are on their way is just...ugh. It's not like Charming is a bustling metropolis with slow response time.

The problem isn't that Jax thinks too much; anyone would come out looking like a sniveling, devious intellectual next to Mr. BLitzkrieg Arthritis.