Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sons of Anarchy, "Small Tears": A dish best served cold

Spoilers for tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as it's baseball time...
"What those animals did was to hurt Clay, Jax. Anyone finds it out, they win. I can't let that happen." -Gemma
The world of "Sons of Anarchy" is a violent one, and one where revenge is a prime motivator. But in "Small Tears," we see that there's more than one way to seek vengeance.

Opie is taking the more obvious route, trying to kill every Mayan he sees, and not seeming to care if he dies in the process. But that's not too surprising. Opie is a man of action - he's the guy in the club whose specialty is blowing stuff up, don't forget - and after he made a go at a more peaceful life after his prison stint, Donna's murder has sent him down a path it's going to be hard to steer away from.

We know Gemma's not opposed to violence herself, particularly if there's a skateboard handy, but she's also cagey enough to know when another response is called for. After being brutally beaten and raped by AJ and his goons, it would be easy for her to tell Clay what happened and be confident that Samcro would make her attackers suffer greatly. But she also knows that telling Clay would play right into their hands, and that the best - if hardest - way to hurt them is to carry the secret, and the pain. And we know that if anyone on this show is strong enough to carry this, it's Gemma, in an episode that's just a tour de force for Katey Sagal.

But it's also a great episode for Maggie Siff and Dayton Callie(*), as Tara and Unser become Gemma's unlikely and yet appropriate secret-keepers. This is a trio of characters who are of the club to varying degrees, but not in the club. Gemma's such a force of nature, and the stakes of this encounter are so high, that you can understand why they'd help maintain the lie, even reluctantly. While the culture of Samcro itself is fascinating, these first two episodes are suggesting that it's just as interesting to see what it's like just on the outside of the club, looking in.

(*) The longer this show goes on, the more Unser comes across as the Charlie Utter of Charming. I wouldn't at all be shocked for an episode down the road to have Unser refer to an ancestor who had a freight business in the Dakotas.

And affairs within the club aren't exactly peachy, either, as Jax's attempt to pin Opie's murder of the Mayan patsy on the One-Niners blows up in his face (and in Bobby's shoulder), and as Samcro is forced to get into the adult video industry to help out Big Otto's wife and make use of the empty gun warehouse.

The porn subplot, in addition to casting Tom Arnold in the part (sleazy porn magnate) he was born to play, baby, gave Charlie Hunnam another good opportunity to play the angry side of Jax. It's important to show that Jax isn't suddenly a full-on peacenik, that despite his intentions, his first impulse is often violence, and that he can be just as scary with people he likes (Luanne) as with people he hates (Georgie). The Clay/Jax conflict isn't entirely black and white, even if you factor in Donna's murder, and it's good to see episodes where Jax is messing up and being just as reprehensible as Clay can be at times.

And seeing these two at odds, and not at their finest, makes Gemma's need to hide her pain for their sakes sting even more. For all their flaws, these are the men Gemma cares about most in all the world, and she'll do anything - even swallow (for now) the knowledge of what AJ did to her - to protect them.

Some other thoughts on "Small Tears":

• In addition to the odd combination of Gemma, Tara and Unser, we also got a rare scene between Tig and Opie, which is tough to watch knowing what we know, and tough for Tig to sit through for the same reason. Clay helped him work through his guilt right after Donna died, but having to work alongside her husband, and to see how much he's hurting - how much Tig has made him hurt, and for what turned out to be no real reason at all - isn't easy even for a cold bastard like Tig. Nice work by Kim Coates (and, as usual, Ryan Hurst).

• Sagal, an accomplished singer who already did a song ("Son of a Preacher Man") for season one, contributes another cover to the soundtrack, here opening the episode with her take on "Ruby Tuesday." Her husband, meanwhile, steps in front of the cameras again as incarcerated Samcro member Big Otto.

• Can a show that cast Drea DeMatteo as Jax's baby mama then have Jax make a reference to Adriana on "The Sopranos"? ("You think I brought you here to Adriana you?")

• And speaking of meta references, I guess Charlie Hunnam's been compared enough to a young Brad Pitt in real life that it's okay for Georgie to bring up the resemblance with Jax.

• I couldn't help noticing that Ethan lies to AJ about being on the phone with Alvarez. Last week, we saw AJ scolding Darby for using non-whites to help manufacture his meth; perhaps there are different levels of hardcore within the League?

What did everybody else think?


Ted Kerwin said...

It means we underestimated Mrs. Morell

That is an understatement

Chris Littmann said...

I didn't even think about the Adrianna reference until you mentioned it with Drea's inclusion in the cast.

Good stuff though, following the craziness of last week. I will say that one thing that always comes off a smidge corny is stuff like Jax's "It's baseball time!" line, ha. I chuckled.

Can't wait for next week.

greentara said...

You're right, the Adriana reference was too on the nose since Drea is a part of this world. Took me out of the show.
Katey rocked the house here. Now I'm getting very nervous for the new black nanny and the baby. I don't think anything's beneath these nazi a-holes.

Hoosier Paul said...

Did anyone else get the feeling that Jax wanted Luanne to think he was gonna whack her? After all, who waits for someone in a dark warehouse? And since he was there to shove an unwanted partnership down her throat, it certainly wouldn't hurt to make her feel vulnerable.

Mo Ryan said...

Now there you go, mentioning Charlie Utter. You're going to make me get my hopes up for a Robin Weigert appearance. I always loved the Charlie-Jane scenes on Deadwood.

Sorry. Off topic. I think this season of SOA just gets better with each episode. Ryan Hurst just owns every scene he's in, often without saying a word.

Millie said...

Ladies and gentleman...Katey Sagal's emmy.

Matt said...

That's the problem with Gemma's decision to cover up the attack: LOAN will try again to get the reaction they were looking for, and next time they're apt to target Tara/Abel/the new nanny. This doesn't seem to have dawned on anyone yet, which is a little implausible. Gemma hasn't told Unser everything, but she's told him enough. Either of them ought to be able to read the tea leaves.

Chip said...

I couldn't quite hear what Zobelle said to Alvarez. Are we to assume he had something to do with the Mayan ambush?

Anonymous said...

To follow up on Matt's comment - the first thing I thought was that LOAN would just let SAMCRO know what they did themselves, subtly or otherwise.

Hatfield said...

If the Charlie Utter thing is gonna keep on keepin' on, Unser needs to pick a fight with AJ or Ethan at the local diner and whomp his ass but good, all over an alleged stomped toe. Wow, I'm with you, Mo, I miss that show so much sometimes...

Anyway, on the subject of shows that are currently airing, this one just keeps getting better. The scene with Opie and Tig was awesome, especially since Tig actually meant everything he said. Speaking of Tig, how great was his "I love you" after flipping the chick onto the floor?

What I have to wonder is, how far will these guys go? AJ saw Unser with Clay and Laroy, so will they consider him just as much an enemy? And I worry that Nita's introduction will only be for something bad to happen to her. Watch out, Aunt Lou!

cgeye said...

I only hope Mrs. Morell's everpresent sense of caution and protectiveness means that the nanny has a carry permit and an pistol in her purse -- if Gemma carries, then I'll be damned if she'd trust anyone who takes care of her grandson who didn't. Besides, I don't want Neeta to become a sacrifice or a Magic Negro -- give her agency, let her keep it, and give her stakes in the game, like everyone else. Give the White Power boys in the audience shpilkes.

I don't think anyone in SOA thinks of consequences. Not Jax in not beating down Tom Arnold any chance he got (which should be done weekly on general principle), not in keeping a secret that will only provoke fascists to hurt your loved ones, to send that message.

-- oh, THE LEAGUE? That is fucked. Somehow FX dramas I can brace myself for, but the comedies are insufferable, down to the promos.

Unknown said...

No-one else noticed that the black lady nanny was also on Deadwood as Hurst's cook in Season 3?

shara says said...

I thought this was another great episode for Katey Sagal - with all the strong talent in the cast, she has always been a standout. Charlie Utter (ok, Unser) also shined tonite, it was good seeing him be a strong, competent, active figure for once. The scene where he found her was just heartbreaking. I am now wondering who is the weak link in that circle of trust. Tara just got full honesty from Jax, and might feel obligated to reciprocate, but she isn't gonna want to ruin the newfound bond with Mama Morrow. Unser was too actively involved in planning the cover story, he seems invested as well. The nanny seems wise enough to keep her mouth shut, as long as she is in the "inner circle of trust" in the matter. Gemma isn't gonna say anything. So that leaves the Separatists coming back, hurting her or someone else, or telling Clay what they had done to Gemma. Oh, the fallout will be glorious.

I loved the Adrianna reference :)

I was also impressed with Kim Coates in this episode - great scene with him and Ryan Hurst. Looking forward to next week!

WV: pookinep

Sane Mom said...

I get the impression that Zobelle doesn't really care if Gemma tells the club what happened. He has accurately assessed her as the strong center of the club, the one who keeps Clay and Jax in line. If he weakens her, the club will be negatively affected whether she tells or not. He seems patient enough to wait it out and see what sort of psychological havoc he can wreak with his enemies. In the meantime, he can turn everyone against each other.
Oh, and it is hard to see Katey Sagal, who I love, portray such pain and sadness.

The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Katie Bennett said...

I actually think Tara was acutely aware of how what happened to Gemma could represent a new wave of attacks against the people on the margins of Samcro (i.e. Neeta, Unser, Abel, etc.). When she told Neeta to follow them to the hospital but particularly her coldness to Jax when he was thanking her for their full disclosure talk, she seemed very frightened. It's one thing to turn a blind eye to criminal activity if you think you can compartmentalize it. The assault on Gemma crashes through that framework.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just a reminder of the commenting rules, guys - specifically, the part about not discussing preview scenes for upcoming episodes.

Hatfield said...

@Geoff- I called her Aunt Lou, what else do you need?

Myles said...

Am I the only one who felt that Luanne staged the attack on one of her girls in an effort to force SAMCRO to take more extensive action? I think that's why she was so scared in the final scene, because she thought she'd been caught.

Loved the episode, especially how the title operated. I thought it would be an ironic understatement of Gemma's emotional state, but then it ended up being an ironic dichotomy between her physical state and her emotional one.

Unknown said...

Myles: I thought for sure the whole thing was a set up by Luanne to get her money back.

I'm still intrigued by the inclusion of the Niners into the world of SAMCRO. The Niners originated on The Shield, correct? The comic book geek in me thinks, therefore, that The Shield and Sons of Anarchy take place in the same universe. I know Kurt Sutter was a creative force on The Shield but I'm curious if he still had to get the nod from Shawn Ryan to use the Niners.

Unknown said...

I just caught up on this show over the weekend. Love it. One of the prevailing comments in the writeups/comments from Season 1 has been whether Hunnam is too "nice" or "pretty" to play Jax. But I think people are obviously coming around.

And if any of you can't get his character from undeclared out of your head, remember his role as Patric in Children of Men (my favorite movie of the decade). He's playing right in between that now and nailing it, I think.

JanieJones said...

I agree with those who commended Sagal's performance. I hope this puts her on the short list for an Emmy next year.
I, too, echo the worries regarding the nanny, Unser, Abel and Tara. In one scene, Gemma looked at though she was about to tell Nita? sp? something about her attack but Tara interrupted her.
A.J.'s is not only degenerate rapist but he is a fool, too. He is playing right into Ethan's deadly hands. A.J. is a means to an end. He is not a conduit like he thinks in their operation.

Chip, Ethan was talking to the Mayan, who thanked him for his intel regarding the Niner's and Samcro.

Ryan Hurst is wonderful. He's on a path now that could ultimately lead to self destruction.
The scene between him and Tig was a bit poignant, all of us knowing what Tig did to Donna.
I love when a show leaves you wanting more.

Charlie Hunnam is starting to come into his own as Jax. He is making decisions (not thinking of the consequences) but he made a solid assessment of getting involved with Luanne's business. Pornography is legal and the Feds cannot touch them if they are involved in legit matters.
Jax will continue to walk the line of violence and peacekeeper, imho.

Tom Arnold -made to play the role of Georgie. He was smarmy and condescending. I liked the reference to "bat time."

I'm not sure if Luanne set the whole thing up for Samcro to play a role in her business. If she did, she was not bargaining on a forced 50/50 split. I did notice that she did ask for her money back that she lent Samcro last season. I was wondering when she would make a play for her money.

The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre said...

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Alan Sepinwall said...

It happens. Better safe than sorry.

Dan Coyle said...

A guy like Zobelle probably sees AJ as a means to an end rather than a subordinate, and keeps him in the dark about certain things because it makes it easier to cut ties if AJ is arrested or otherwise compromised. I'm sure he even has an escape plan if his takeover of Charming fails.

Anonymous said...

I think that while Ethan's definitely a racist s.o.b., he isn't the same level of true believer that A.J. is. He's the kind of guy who uses other people's rage to fuel his own grab at power. My guess is that when his end comes, it won't be at the hands of SAMCRO but his own people once they realize that he isn't as pure as he'd led them to believe.

Unknown said...

does anybody know the song that was playing on the first episode of the season, it was playing throughout bobby elvis' reunion party, it had a really good rift and i still havent found it.

ansh said...

It wasn't really clear to me that Jax's plan backfired. The Mayans were turned against the Niners, not Samcro, as Jax expected. It hardly makes sense that Samcro would be in less danger if the Mayans were turned against Samcro itself which is what would have happened if Jax hadn't mutilated the body.

The obvious question was how the Mayans knew about the drop, but neither Jax nor Clay asked it. I was a little surprised at that. I guess they're putting it in the "shit happens" box for now. But that still leaves the question of how Zobell knew about the drop. Did he just follow Samcro around or does he have a mole?

As for people not thinking about the Aryans' next step (like threatening Abel), keep the timeline in mind here. It has been less than 24 hours, and no one Gemma has turned to has had time to think about too much other than Gemma herself. I imagine over the next few episodes we'll see Gemma and maybe Unser pull together a defensive strategy, particularly to protect Abel. But at the moment the Aryans don't even appear to know who Abel is, or at least AJ doesn't.

I too thought for a while that Luanne might have set the whole thing up. I guess she still could have. But if she had planned things out I couldn't see her yelling at Jax at the hospital, a move that is both risky and unnecessary if she just wanted him to attack Georgie. (Incidentally, I couldn't see her trying to con the money out of the club -- that could not only earn her Samcro's enmity but also cost her Big Otto as both a husband and protector. I know we haven't seen Luanne in a while, but that would require a big change of character from the Luanne we've met previously.)

Minor nit: It is "Morrow", not "Morrell".

@Gananja420: I don't remember the song, but I thought all the songs were listed in the music guide on the SOA page at the FX website.

jim treacher said...

When Netta says she doesn't mind waiting and "Feel better," and Gemma is so moved by her kindness that she grabs her hand and looks like she's about to drop her facade and say something from the heart, before Tara interrupts her... Damn, man. Katey Sagal is so, so, so good.

rhys said...

A very interesting dilemma is that now that Jax has decided to come clean to Tara, but now Tara is forced to hide something from Jax. Definitely an interesting twist regarding that dynamic.

I also noticed Ethan's eastern-european lilt when he was on the phone with Alvarez, which immediately dropped when he was talking to AJ. That scene clearly indicated that Ethan, despite his preaching regarding race, is not above using non-whites to do his dirty work. But he is not inclined to let anyone else know. Also, I thought it was interesting that he referred to Alvarez as someone from his church, because it was almost an acknowledgment that Alvarez and Ethan probably share a similar religious devotion.

Anonymous said...

@ganagja420 There is a FB SOA music page, which led me to an actual SOA EP on iTunes. The song you're asking about is a cove rof The Who's Slip Kid. Second great song from that episode was a cover of Girl from the North Country; I grabbed both. A few other songs also available on iTunes - including the theme song.

Anonymous said...


Above is the link to the FB SOA Music Appreciation page.

SOA Music Blog

Anvil covered Slip Kid and Lions covered North Country.

Eddie Paradise said...

I think Tig was made up his story about his old lady getting sucked under an 18-wheeler, if only to deepen his bond with Opie. He's shredded over Donna's murder and while Clay's pep-talk from Episode 1 may have helped him a bit, it's a band-aid on a shotgun wound.

Sharon said...

The actress playing the nanny was also one of the cops in The Hangover. She's definitely a "Hey it's that Guy/Gal" actor.

Florida said...

Just joining the group.

Anonymous said...

"This one here's got sort of a Brad Pitt thing going, only not quite as gay."

NOTE: Charlie Hunnam was also in the series Queer As Folk.

Other great porn scene material:

"You so much as send a friendly text to any of Luanne's girls, your next movie (bat gesture) 'Canseco Does Georgie'"

And of course, Scotsman Tommy Flanagan's accent is priceless, especially during the fight scenes.

"Come here, yuuu!!!"
"Good ta see yae too, Sugar T**s."

GT Black said...

I found the scene where Unser finds Gemma as emotionally harrowing to watch as end of last week's episode, in its own way. I think because last week we saw her toughing things out and now she's able to be vulnerable, if only briefly. And how tender and inwardly distraught he is. Perfectly pitched and acted.

Anonymous said...

the issue of the adriana reference being valid or not is no biggy. Three (at least) of the actors in the sopranos are in goodfellas and they talk about yhat all the time