Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sons of Anarchy, "The Sleep of Babies": Missing the target

Spoilers for tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I get Jesus to mow my lawn...

When you watch TV for a living, there are ways that it can ruin the actual experience of watching TV. Because I see so much, and because I'm always trying to watch with a critical eye, I often find myself in a position where I'm trying to out-think the show I'm watching. All though "The Sleep of Babies," I kept asking myself whether Kurt Sutter would be brave -- or maybe foolish -- enough to kill off Opie, and I kept wondering exactly how circumstances would conspire to save him at the last possible second.

But in this case, I didn't so much out-think the show as overthink it. I was so fixated on Opie -- on seeing Opie and Donna look so happy together finally, on watching Ryan Hurst look like the baddest man on the planet during the shootout in the doll warehouse and wondering how on Earth the show could go on without him -- that I never for a second anticipated that tragedy would befall the other half of that couple. So when Opie and Donna swapped cars leaving the party, mere seconds after Tig had pulled away to prepare for the hit, I was thunderstruck, and spent the final minutes of the episode with a knot in my stomach only slightly smaller than the one generated by some of the early scenes in last night's penultimate episode of "The Shield." Great misdirection, and a creative decision that I hope will have repercussions just as deep as when Shane borrowed a grenade on "The Shield."

I'd like to say more about yet another episode that was better than the one before it, but my head is exploding with a cold that doesn't want to leave our house. So I'm going to cut this review shorter than I'd like and leave it to you fine people.

Meanwhile, I'm going to talk to Kurt Sutter on Friday (after taking a look at the season finale, which I haven't had a chance to watch yet) for a season one post-mortem. I'm open to suggestions, if there are particular things you want answers about.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I didn't get into this show until halfway through the season (when Tara's ex came to town) but every episode has been better than the last. I'm still a little underwhelmed by Hunnam (I can't shake him as Heath in Undeclared. But everyone else, especially the women, was amazing. Maggie Siff and Drea DeMatteo circling each other, Perlman's gut-punch reaction after the sherriff broke the news... I could go on and on.

Unknown said...

I was hoping Tig would step up after Opie saved his life and decide to give Opie a pass, or at the very least pull up to the side of the truck and see it as Donna and not shoot.

Guess that's what you get for hoping.

Paul Allor said...

After tonight's episode, I am absolutely convinced that this show is a worthy heir to "The Shield," in terms of both emotional punch and narrative power.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts, because I'm otherwise sort of speechless.

1. I kept parroting "No, no, no" when they swapped cars. I felt like I was watching a certain Wire dock worker in Season Two. That was an amazing twist.

2. This season for TV in terms of new shows has been really disappointing, but, Alan, is there any doubt this is the best new show on any network this fall? (And I should thank you for turning me on to it, read one of your reviews and played catch-up on Hulu a few weeks back.)

Anonymous said...

Great job by Ron Perlman....the expression on his face when he cannot contact Tig on his cell...a look of total panic, followed up by such anquish when he realizes what has actually happened.
Alan, here's something for Sutter....what is up with that scar Gemma has, and also, does he have any motorcycle club members as de facto consultants for the show?
Hope you feel better soon by the way.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Gemma's scar has to do with the "weak" heart that runs in her side of the family. We know Jax's deceased brother had it and it's why Abel was in the NICU for so long.

SafetyJan said...

My first blog - ever - in my life, please bear with me.

Tonight surpassed last week (as usual) for excitement! I want to move to Charming right now.

I thought it was a bit "odd" that Donna seemed a little more loving towards the club. It seemed a little bit of a set up that something was going to happen
to either her, Opie or the kids.

Now Wendy is back - and, she's been clean for what, a week? day? 30 days? I totally get the angst between Jax and Tara - in fact, the conflict/passion is very addictive to watch - but come on, Wendy???

I can't wait to see how the Jax/Tara/Wendy/Gemma storyline goes - but, with all that estrogen, Jax may have to pack up Abel and hit the road to let the three of them fight it out. I just picture 'Raising Arizona' - and the baby and the bike...

And, the worst OHNO. They slept together. My only relief was Jax's furrowed brow, maybe he wondered "WTF am I doing?" Go for the doctor..... she'll "be cool" with the rules of the club just to keep Jax. Plus, she is a better fighting match with Gemma.

Cannot wait until next week. And then the repeat of the season...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who the female vocalist was who opened and closed the show?

Anonymous said...

Alan -- I meant to leave you a question to ask, too, but neglected to do so before:

There's something about shows like Sons of Anarchy, The Wire and The Sopranos. In my head, there's this formula of "Outlaw subculture" + "Humanizing story" = Gold. It's not unlike the fact that we never SHOULD have liked Tony, or the Barksdales, or whoever, and probably the same with the Sons. OK, that was all a rambling way of getting to this: Is there some sort of common thread here that makes these shows so inherently compelling? (And note that I'm not trying to say this show has reached Wire/Sopranos levels, just a similarity that I see.)

Get well soon.

Anonymous said...

This episode just sold me on jumping this from "pretty damn good show" to "freaking amazing show."

For the majority of the season, I've been a fan of the show, but this episode has really taken it to a new level.

That was a great twist, and really damn tragic.

Kurt Sutter, with his work on The Shield and now with Sons of Anarchy, as proven himself to be a genius in the art of television writing.

I eagerly look forward to the finale and season 2.

Alan, I do have a question for Kurt: Jay Karnes was brilliant in his role as the twisted ATF agent in Sons of Anarchy, and I was wondering if in future seasons we could expect any other cameos from Shield actors? (Specifically...please bring in Walton Goggins!)

If I could ask a second question, it would be this: In seasons 4 and 5 of The Shield, you brought in big name actors to play the part of very important characters for season story arcs, Glenn Close as Captain Rawlings and Forrest Whitaker as Jon Kavanaugh, which worked wonderfully, and I was wondering if there were any plans to follow a similar scheme with Sons of Anarchy?

Quick third question, don't you think Agent June Stahl and Lt. Jon Kavanaugh would make a great couple?

Anonymous said...

Here's my question for Sutter: Tig's daughters are named Fawn and Donna. What, you couldn't throw Monica in there?

As for this episode: Classic tragedy. The only way it could have been any worse would be for the paper boy to throw the newspaper in front of the crime-scene tape with the headline about the real witness.

Also, Kim Coates is making me rethink all my stereotypes about Canadians.

Anonymous said...

After a few initial misgivings, this show has really grown on me. I love the casting, the story arcs seem to be solid, and even if Charming is fictional, it is sorta fun hearing them name drop a part of California I am familiar with.

That said, the action scenes in this show have been bad or boring on a consistent basis. Too many shootouts either resemble the old A-Team model of lots of ammo expended for such a low body count or are just plain shot clumsily. The shootout with the Mayans towards the start of the season stands out, but even tonight's action in the warehouse came off flat. The action is a relatively small part of the show, but it takes an A- show down to a B or a B+. Here's hoping they work on this for season two.

Hatfield said...

What the hell, Tig? You obviously elected not to shoot Opie because he saved you, so why turn around and be ok with it later? That last montage just about ruined me, except I was so worn out from the 5 minutes or so that went from Donna getting in the truck to the end of her life that I couldn't work up any more energy to fret. The comment above that compared it to Frank Sobotka obliviously going to his doom was dead-on. The feeling of impending and inexorable doom was amazing and horrible.

I feel like I just wrote an essay on 1/13 of the episode, but it's all I can think about. Maybe I'll add more tomorrow when I can think straight.

Carolyn said...

@jim treacher: I thought it was "Fawn" and "Dawn"....hence Opie's amused reaction.

Alan: I had that same gut punch. WOW. What a great episode. Thanks so much, without your reviews, I never would have given this a chance. :)

SPA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SPA said...

This show has been good but the only thing that would make it truly intriguing is Jax turning against Clay. The thing that made the soprano's and shield great is while Vic and Tony are bad guys, they are easy to root for. Clay and most of the gang (and peggy bundy) are all bad guys you want to see die. They are annoying and have zero good characteristics, theirs no depth, their just plain a-holes. Jax is a cool character though and I hope the truth comes out and starts an internal war that could carry this show to being a really good show.

Anonymous said...

Tough to follow up last night's penultimate shield episode, but very good "sons" episode last night. Agree that this sets up a ton for future story lines. Also agree that if anything needs work on this show it is the action sequences. No one has remarked about the male officer (i forget his name) who got serviced by the fed agent, etc. He's had a pretty interesting story arc this season being in between all the muck.

Anonymous said...

Dammit. Not Donna. Sprague Grayden has been so fantastic (and kinda hot in a low key way), when she was someone I had little time for before... but damn, what a way to surprise not kill Opie.

Few actors can suffer in silence like Ryan Hurst can. His face in that montage... wow. I also loved Opie's parents sharing a good cry too.

I'll be sure to pay attention to whatever Grayden does next.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who was the band in the song that was playing while Tig was stalking Donna and finally shot her? That song really added to the impending horror of what happened. I actually dreamed about this episode last night because it was so gutwrenching, the way Donna's eyes were open like a dead squirrel...Ulp!!!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Grayden's gonna be on 24: Redemption this Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY! On Fox! Fox! FOX!

ThreeSheets said...

I'm pretty sure the singer is Tara Holloway.

She had a song in a previous episode and it sounds a lot like her.

Dan said...

Another night of gut wrenching television. I was very fond of Tig, and after the shootout I expected him to go to Clay and tell him he didn't think Opie was turning on them.

The song list from last nights episode:

Forever Young - Audra Mae
End of Story - Fireball Ministry
Stray Bullit Woman - Greenleaf
No Generation - The Lions
Bodacious - Mojo MOnkeys
Who Stole the Booty - Boo Boo Davis
White Angel - The Lions

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tig will make it through the finale intact. Kim Coates has been around for 20 years and he's NEVER done series TV to any real extent (he was in a few busted pilots I've seen). He's always a recurring or guest star.

It's possible he took the role because it was a short term gig.

Anonymous said...

Clay and most of the gang (and peggy bundy) are all bad guys you want to see die.

Speak for yourself!

Hatfield said...

That prediction about Tig is interesting, because it implies that either Jax or Opie will come for him. Makes sense, as neither of them are stupid and Clay's weak rationalization that the 49ers must have done it will not hold up to scrutiny--Unser and Hale obviously know, and Clay looks guilty as hell. The frustrating thing is I want Opie to get revenge, but I don't wanna lose Tig or Clay (hey, he is listed as "and Ron Perlman," crazier things have happened).

Even having slept on it I'm still incredibly disturbed by Donna's death, not least because I was as thrown off as Alan, waiting for someone to save Opie and shouting "No!" when she got in the truck. But what a ballsy move by Sutter, doing something that could have such wide-ranging effects and dire consequences. Again, I am blown away by how tied into this show I am now, especially after scoffing at the promos when they first started airing.

Some other favorite moments:

Hale dropping Stahl's annoying little sidekick.

Tig's fear in the dollhouse, just another of those little quirky details that makes the show so enjoyable.

The dollhouse shootout itself. I agree with the other posters who've said the action is not as exciting as it should be, but that one worked for me. And yeah, Opie did look a total badass when he took out that guy.

Hale's scene with Unser. "It ain't even real silver, son," or whatever Unser said, was amusing, but Taylor Sheridan was especially good in that scene. Nice to see him painted a little grey, even if he still wants SAMCRO gone.

I should be studying for my Statistics test, so I'll apologize for blatantly attempting to steal Alan's writing format and go back to my hypothesis testing.

SafetyJan said...

Found "Forever Young" on YouTube with a nice montage.

Love it.

Anonymous said...

I've been really into this show and I thought last night's episode was fantastic.

What was your take about the beggar lady? It seemed really random, unless it has some consequences in the next episode.

Unknown said...

eh, since ATF left town, does that mean even if Opie was to find out the truth and wanted to become a rat; it's not going to happen?

Anonymous said...

Did we ever find out how Jax's dad died? I've kinda suspected Clay had something to do with it, ever since Gemma said something to the effect of wanting Jax to "take after the right father."

Dan said...

Did we ever find out how Jax's dad died? I've kinda suspected Clay had something to do with it, ever since Gemma said something to the effect of wanting Jax to "take after the right father."

We've been told by Gemma thathe was hit by a truck and dragged behind it, and still survive 3 days. At least it was very close to that.

I don't know if I believe it, but the show hinted at it a few episodes back when a body turned up (it ended up being Lowell the Mechanic's Dad).

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna miss Tig--no way he makes it out alive of that finale! I also wonder what Clay's going to do to the ATF agent after this.

What a heartbreaking ep. What is it with Sprague Grayden and short roles?

kellyg42 said...

This show is the only one I am watching right now that is consistently good EVERY week, and always leaves me hungry for the next episode. I was right there with everyone else shouting "OMGNO" when I saw Donna get in the truck.

I think the writing, for the most part, is fantastic with the show. My only concern is the quickness with which characters turn. Opie leaves his family so quick for the club. Gemma turns back and wants Wendy to be in her son and grandson's life to push out Tara, despite Wendy being all kinds of f'ed up. Donna turning and deciding the club is a-okay after they were in lockdown for a few days. These seem like sudden character 180s, but it could also help with the quick pacing of the show (which is one reason why I enjoy it).

Did anyone else think when Donna mentioned Opie's mom taking the kids that Opie's mom was going to run with them? The thought definitely crossed my mind after her encounter with Donna last week.

This episode - acting was SPOT on. Just amazing. And I loved the "dawn" montage that would coupled with the "night" montage to sandwich one of the most intense days in SOA thus far. Beautiful.

Finally - who do you think put 2+2 together and realizes who really killed Donna? And based on that, what do you think will happen? SOA civil war? Or something else? I couldn't tell if Opie was just mourning at the end, or full or grief/rage.

Anonymous said...

Come on, now. This wasn't that much of a fake-out. Didn't this happen to Dylan's wife/fiancee on 90210 like ten years ago?

Anonymous said...

Tig is by far the most interesting character on SOA. He is the protagonist in the club and he is the one character that keeps things from running smoothly, so to speak. I do agree that he will not make it out of the finale alive which is disappointing, Kim Coates really does a terrific job on that show. Although I was hoping that he would realize Opie was not the rat or at the very least see it was Donna in the car and not kill her. Regarding the finale, I recently read an interview with Charlie H. and Theo R. about the show and the finale and they hinted to another death occurring in the finale, here is the website, Either way I am excited to see how it all unravels!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Didn't this happen to Dylan's wife/fiancee on 90210 like ten years ago?

Different shows, different characters, different rules.

90210 wasn't going to kill off Dylan, nor did we have all that much emotionally invested in his special lady friend. Ryan Hurst was not a regular castmember, and this is exactly the kind of show that might kill off someone like him. So we spent most of the hour bracing for one awful death and then got stomach-punched with a different one.

(In fact, Kurt Sutter told me -- in an interview that's running tomorrow -- that the original plan was to have Tig kill Opie.)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree (we're just about to finish season 1 now, 2 years late...better late than never). I too had been so nervous about Opie since the last episode, I didn't think to even worry about Donna until the second they swapped the van (and then had the same dread wash over me because at that point, it was clear she would die. I don't know whether to be at least comforted that Opie escaped his death, or mad that the cops didn't alert Clay in time). And just when Donna decided to stick with Opie and Samcro and for the first time, actively wanted to engage in their social events. SIGH.... I'm so sad.

Christopher Nguyen said...

I just started on "Sons of Anarchy" during the holidays. And when I saw this episode and what happened to Opie's wife Donna, I immediately thought of Toni Marchette's death from "Beverly Hills 90210". Very glad that someone brought it up and that Sep has commented on it.