"Change won't happen quick, or without blood, but it'll happen. It has to." -JaxThis season of "Sons of Anarchy" has been about a schism at the top of SAMCRO, with Jax and Clay supposedly representing conflicting leadership styles. But we've seen in recent weeks that both are just as capable of being cagey as they are impulsive and arrogant. And we see in "Potlatch" (another episode with a title that had me running to Wikipedia for an explanation) that both men are just as capable of getting a club member's wife killed through their own impulsiveness.
Jax is the guy we're supposed to be rooting for, but more and more, the only sane one in the bunch seems to be Tara, who hears all his talk about reform and yet sees a man going to jail, getting beat up, beating other people up, and digging a hole deeper and deeper. At this point, Jax's dream of reforming the club feels like a fool's errand, where the wisest move would be to walk away - if only he could bear to give up his cut. He begins the episode talking to Tara about how that vest is all he ever dreamed about, and when Alvarez threatens to take it at gunpoint after Jax and Opie walk into the wrong bar, Jax tells him, "Pull the trigger, man. It's the only way this leather's coming off my back."(*) This is not a man who walks away from things, even hopelessly, horribly screwed-up things like SAMCRO.
(*) Sidebar to talk about how incredible Charlie Hunnam has been this year. As I said in a comment last week, whatever issues I had with him at the start of the series are long, long gone now. (Even the accent is much less spotty than it used to be.) He carries himself with such power, can stand toe-to-toe with anyone else in the ensemble, and is just generally bad-ass. The venom (with a tinge of self-hatred, given what happened to Luanne) in his voice when Jax told Clay, "I'm not the one murdering women!" was something to hear, wasn't it? Much as I'd like to see Jax turn SAMCRO into a peaceful organization, I wouldn't want to lose Hunnam's portrayal of the character's violent side.
And while Jax is busy screwing things up this week, we see Clay demonstrate why he's been such an effective club leader for so long. The mindgame he runs on Tig is brilliant. He doesn't even acknowledge Tig's point that there needs to be peace with Jax; he just goes straight at Tig's sense of loyalty and competence, and gets his black bag man back in line, PDQ.
But clever as Clay is, and well-meaning as Jax is, they still don't seem to be a match for Ethan Zobelle, who seems capable of taking over gun distribution in this area on all ends. His daughter's sleeping with the son of SAMCRO's IRA connect, and picking up details about how that operation runs, while Ethan's buying the loyalty of the Mayans - whom SAMCRO scorned in favor of the Niners - with a whole lot of free guns. It's clear by this point that he has no interest in white supremacy and every interest in fiscal supremacy, and so long as he can keep guys like AJ in line, how can SAMCRO hope to beat this guy, especially since they're too busy with in-fighting to come together on a proper strategy?
Some other thoughts on "Potlatch":
• Chuck the compulsive masturbator makes his return, and seems in surprisingly good spirits for someone who - after the Chinese cruelly but cleverly chopped off most of his fingers - is no longer able to perform his favorite act. Between him and blind, widowed Otto, it's been a rough patch for both SAMCRO members and assorted hanger-ons. If I was somebody like Neeta, I'd be very afraid of suffering a permanent injury, and soon.
• Between Chuck's return and Half-Sack displaying his nuticle for all to see, this was a pretty funny episode, considering how many bad things also happened in it. (Tig: "Is it gay that I want to see it?" Bobby: "Gay-curious.")
• I don't know how it played out with sponsored interruptions, but this was one of the shorter episodes I can remember, clocking in at just under 39 minutes without commercials.
• Would you rather have seen the confrontation between Tara's boss and Gemma, or did you appreciate the cut away because you could tell how that was going to go down as soon as they wound up on the elevator together?
• I'm glad I can understand Chibs' wife a bit more than Chibs himself. And I like how Gemma framed her opinions about the lady: "There are only three women I'm afraid of: my mother, my third grade math teacher, and that Irish bitch." Think she'll wind up being a factor in whatever goes on between SAMCRO and the IRA?
What did everybody else think?