Friday, October 31, 2008

Sons of Anarchy, "Hell Followed": Burning love

Spoilers for Wednesday night's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I toke up...

"Hell Followed" was, by design, an aftermath episode, and so it wasn't as intense as the events of last week's "The Pull." But there was still a lot of fascinating stuff going on, as characters shifted their loyalties, made new alliances, or simply went back to old ones.

Tara finds herself back in the ring of fire with Jax, and admits for the first time that she returned to Charming because she knew he could save her from Kohn. Opie tries to get back into the club full-time but realizes he's lost the ability to kill in cold blood (particularly such a harmless-looking civilian). Clay cuts a deal with the head of the Mayans that brings peace at a heavy price for the Mayans -- and, in between negotiating, proves that while he may be old, he still has enough punches left in his right hand to show Darby who's the man. (Old man fights are almost always awesome -- see also Tigh vs. Adama last season on "Battlestar Galactica" -- and I loved the moment when Darby admitted he had asked a stupid question.) And Jax throws himself much deeper into the violence side of SAMCRO, but still can't bring himself to get rid of his dad's manuscript.

It was another winner for a show that is definitely living up to the potential it didn't quite achieve in the early episodes. I'm trying to figure out whether this is a situation like "The Wire," where the first few hours had to lay on so much exposition to set up what's happening now, or if Kurt Sutter and company just needed a while to figure out how best to use characters like Clay and Jax. (Gemma's the only character who didn't need improving from the jump.) Either way, it's a hell of a show now.

A few small touches I liked:

• Juice, who gets dumped on by the others almost as much as Half-Sack, is so grateful to get praise from Tara for saving the Irishman's life.

• Bobby lies to Clay about what happened with the hit, which is going to lead to a problem for either Bobby or Opie (or both) down the road.

• The Mayan leader profusely thanks his son for making the gun deal with SAMCRO possible, right before he knows his boy's about to be shivved.

What did everybody else think?


jengod said...

I think Gemma asked Wendy to kill herself and the ex-Mrs. Jax was so weak she complied. I think Tara, the future Mrs. Jax, will not be nearly so compliant. So Gemma's going to have (to try) to do it herself...Good times.

Z said...

Glad you're fully invested in the show, Alan... you and the AV Club seem to be the only people watching in the blogosphere. The show's definitely living up to to its potential now.

Wanted to see what you thought about an interesting structural parallel to Sons and two of your other faves, Mad Men & the Sopranos. I recently came across an interview with Robin Veith where she explained Matt Weiner had cribbed David Chase's method for structuring a 13-episode season.

Episode 5, you finally give the audience something big for their time. Episodes 7 & 8, hit them again. Episode 12, climax. Episode 13, denouement.

A lot of cable shows (like the Wire) have cribbed the "penultimate episode is the big one," but I wonder if others break it down like Chase. Both Mad Men's seasons follow it to a T, but I wonder if shows like the Wire, Dexter, the Shield, etc. have.

I mention this because while Kurt Sutter is a Shawn Ryan disciple, he seems to following Chase's method. Episode 5 was the "fire or knife" + rape incident, the first ep where you yourself noted you were finally getting into the show. Episode 7, Kohn through a plate-glass window, Episode 8, Kohn murdered.

I'm a baby TV writer myself and I had never heard of Chase's method before, but maybe others have been using it forever... it's an interesting way to look at a season, both from a writer's perspective and from an audience member's.

Anonymous said...

"Glad you're fully invested in the show, Alan... you and the AV Club seem to be the only people watching in the blogosphere"

The AV club? who cares if tv guide and ew are writing about it?

Anonymous said...

If there were any chance a show like this could win an Emmy, Katey Sagal would be at the head of the line. She is amazing. Without her, this is a pretty cool biker show. With her, it's almost Shakespearian.

One thing I like about this whole deal: the unanswered questions. What the hell is a Scotsman doing in a Northern California motorcycle gang? How did Gemma get that scar/badge of office on her chest? Did Floyd ever live in North Carolina? Why does Jax sound like an English dude who's thinking about every single word he's saying? I guess we know that last one.

Hatfield said...

I agree on almost all counts, but I gotta say that the tension between Gemma and Tara is almost as exhausting to me as it is to Tara. That scene where she was working on the Irishman and Gemma was all snotty about whether she knew what she was doing? Please, let's not beat us about the head and shoulders with her disapproval.

Otherwise, a slow episode that still had interesting developments and seeds sown for future conflict, and that's perfect considering the intensity of the last two. My two favorite bits were the punch (Alan, like you Darby's line killed me), and seeing Unser act at least a little authoritative. "Deadwood" will always be my first and greatest love, and some of the best parts were Charlie Utter escaping his awkwardness long enough to throw down against a Francis Walcott or Hearst or whomever, so seeing him deal with Clay as almost an equal was refreshing, even if we all know that he really isn't.

I find it interesting that Clay seems to have mellowed too, and I'm not sure if it's because we just didn't know enough about him in the early going or if it's more to do with agreeing with Jax. I mean, he's still no one to frak with, but sparing the junkie/mechanic two weeks ago and stopping a war before it could start were moves in sharp contrast to his actions in the pilot.

Man, watching as it happens as opposed to all at once on DVD is torture!

Anonymous said...

I've just finished watching the first 8 episodes in a row plus the 9th episode after a couple of days break and I've got to say the show had me hooked for the start. I think it actually has better potential than The Shield because it isn't crippled like that show was at the start when Vic killed Terry. One thing, I didn't actually catch on that Bobby was lying about the hit.

As for the Hamlet parallels what I want to know is who are Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern? Also it seems to me that Katey Sagal is laying her role more like Lady Macbeth rather than Gertrude, not that this is a criticism just an observation.

Re: the David Chase method, it appears to me that Mad Men S2 didn't follow it. 2.13 was the climax.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch the show, but is that Maggie Siff/Rachel Menken in the photo?

Anonymous said...

As for the Hamlet parallels what I want to know is who are Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern?

Half-Sack and Juice?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't watch the show, but is that Maggie Siff/Rachel Menken in the photo?


Anonymous said...


Wow, she looks a good 10-15 years younger here.

Danny said...

Gemma's scar is from her heart condition, it was mentioned in the first episode as being the familiy's fatal flaw, jaxs son was born with it, and i believe jax has it too