"I'm going to get us out of all those things that you're afraid of. You stay with me, I promise: you'll find your place." -JaxYes, Jax, and Michael was going to make the Corleone family legitimate within five years, right?
An outstanding episode like "Smite" is a reminder of what an impossible task Jax has set for himself, and the club. How do you take a group steeped in blood, violence and crime and take it back to the hippie ideals espoused by the late John Teller? How do you go peacenik when everyone is still trying to shove a knife in your back - or (in the case of Big Otto) a broken mop handle in your one good eye? And how do you scold your stepfather for being bloodthirsty and impulsive when your temper is the strongest and quickest in the club?
And how do you rein in the instant-gratification side of the club when one of the guys who voted to wait for smarter vengeance gets blown up real good by a minivan-bomb?
It's a staple of any storyline about a conflicted criminal, be it the "Godfather" movies or "The Shield," that getting clean is never as easy as the protagonist would like it to be. There are too many sins and too many people looking to avenge them. Sure, if Samcro wasn't selling guns to black and Latin gangs, they might not have run afoul of the League, but some outside group would have very happily moved into Charming to take over the gun and protection business. Darby would still hate Clay, Tig would still have outstanding warrants (and a need to cause trouble), Agent Stahl would still be after the club because Otto smashed her face into a table, etc., etc., etc. And to protect themselves against those various threats, the club members have to commit even more crimes, and create more enemies. It's a vicious cycle for this vicious group, one that Jax may not be equipped to solve and one that status quo-supporting Clay has no interest in solving.
So who, if anyone, can save the club? Could it be Bobby Elvis? He's grown in importance this season, never moreso than when he plays the swing vote in the table vote. Bobby's in a unique position in this club civil war, in that he doesn't know for sure what went down with Donna, but has a hell of an inkling thanks to what Stahl told him at the end of the first season. He's a trusted older hand, not impulsive like Tig or driven by ego like Clay, and he seems to enjoy the club more for the fringe benefits (girls, booze, freedom) than out of a desire to run guns and kick ass. Maybe he's smart enough to figure a way out of this mess - if, that is, he can calm everybody down after Chibs got hit - but hopefully not killed(*) - by the bomb.
(*) And it's here that I want to remind you about the No Spoilers section of the commenting rules for this website, and to make it very clear that I don't want any discussion of what's in the previews for next week's episode, which could very well give away whether Chibs is dead or alive. (I'm writing this review before watching additional episodes, so I have no idea.)
And while the club's alpha males jockey for position, and Clay and Ethan take indirect shots at each other, we see Tara starting to assert herself in her new friendship with Gemma. Getting a busted nose for being helpful will motivate a girl to try some tough love, and while it doesn't work here (Gemma bails on the therapy session at the last minute), you can see Tara bit-by-bit breaking through Gemma's armor. But from Tara's perspective - where her nose is messed-up, where her boss is wrongly (but understandably) suspecting her boyfriend of domestic abuse, where the club is still hip-deep in blood, and where Gemma is being stubborn as hell, it's hard not to see the change coming way too slow. Because the show is about the members of the club, even if it doesn't always take their side of certain moral issues, it would be easy for a character like Tara to be written and played as the killjoy - Why would Jax want to be with this pill? - but what the writers and Maggie Siff have done this year has been very shrewd. Tara's the "normal" point of view on the club, and because she clearly loves Jax, she wants to love the club, but it's hard not to overlook all the baggage that comes with it.
A few other thoughts on "Smite":
• After failing/refusing to pull the trigger on AJ last week, it's interesting to see Gemma so aggressive in her pursuit of the woman who set the whole abduction in motion - and who turns out to be Ethan's doting, equally ruthless daughter. So are we to take it that Gemma couldn't shoot AJ because she's still afraid of him (even in a position of total safety/power) due to her PTSD, while she feels confident in going after a younger, smaller woman who enabled, but didn't participate in, the rape?
• Shortly before Chibs got blown up, I jotted down the following note: "I have no idea what this guy says 90 percent of the time."
• How much time is supposed to have passed from Donna's murder? "The Shield" tended to take place in an incredibly compressed timespan, but I don't know if "SoA" is doing the same. I ask because Opie seems at least somewhat interested in Lyla the porn actress, and I'm not sure how far removed he is from his wife's death. And one of Kurt Sutter's more stomach-churning (yet completely non-graphic) inventions is Opie's continued loyalty to Clay. If he only knew...
What did everybody else think?