Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sons of Anarchy, "Service": Meet your unmaker

Spoilers for tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I say things in smaller doses...
"The outlaw had mercy." -Opie
One of the trademarks of "The Shield" was watching Vic and the strike team dig themselves a deep hole and somehow find a way to climb out. Most of the time, though - the final few seasons obviously excepted - the escapes were external and plot-based. Vic would find a patsy, or figure out a way to blackmail someone with influence, and the problem would go away (sometimes permanently, sometimes not).

It's not surprising, then, that Kurt Sutter would spend a lot of time on "Sons of Anarchy" on the SAMCRO members painting themselves into corners, then searching for an escape route. But what's been so remarkable about the episodes this season, particularly last week's and tonight's, is that the escapes (and in some cases, the additional jeopardy) are coming internally, out of character rather than plot.

Gemma heals the Jax/Clay rift by finding the courage to speak up about her rape. Opie finds out Tig killed Donna only because Tig was finally so consumed with guilt that he had to tell. And the inevitable Opie/Clay/Tig confrontation, which we all assumed would end with at least one fatality ever since Donna died, instead leads (for now) to a detente, as Opie comes to realize that he needs the club - and needs to find some inner peace - more than he needs vengeance on Clay, or Tig, or even Stahl. And that decision, in turn, helps save the lives of both Chibs and Piney, under circumstances where Clay might once have shot first and asked questions later.

Before watching "Service," I never would have imagined a circumstance under which Opie, Clay and Tig would all be living and riding together over whatever long term this series has. But because the solution came from the characters first, I completely buy that this could happen - that Jax and Opie, now teamed up again, may find a way to save the club without drenching it in even more blood, and have for now decided that's the best tribute they can give to Donna's memory.

(Or, conversely, Opie may just bide his time for a season and a half, then drop a car on Tig after he, like his old man, gets impatient with the pace of Jax's plan.)

It's pretty ballsy what Sutter (co-writing the script with Jack LoGiudice, based on a story by Brady Dahl and Cori Uchida) does here. "Balm" ends with Jax and Clay making peace, and "Service" opens with the two of them seeming to unite all of SAMCRO to avenge the attack. And just as we're all feeling somewhat complacent and ready to watch the club whup white supremacist ass, Tig has to continue his doom spiral by making out with Gemma, and chooses to punish himself further by spilling the beans to Opie (and then in front of Bobby). The episode still ends with SAMCRO united to go after Zobelle - and to get Chibs out from between the rock (Stahl) and the hard place (Jimmy O) - but it's a much shakier union now, one that no one feels very good about.

One of the episode's quietest scenes is also its most important. As Gemma sits with the priest, he tells her about the value of helping others to help assuage guilt over your own transgressions. Over and over, characters choose to live up to the episode's title at the expense of their own desires. Even before she met the priest, Gemma knew that she had to let go of her pride and fear to tell her men the truth. Tara downplays her career trainwreck because she knows Jax needs her to be strong now. Opie swallows his desire for vengeance to help the club, in the short-term trading his right to be aggrieved for the lives of Chibs and Piney. Clay lets Chibs and Piney walk because he owes that - and so, so much more - to Opie.

But if everybody makes the somewhat noble, community-minded decision in the end, they struggle on the way to those decisions, and the actors - directed by "Mad Men" veteran Phil Abraham - play the hell out of those journeys. I could spend paragraph after paragraph on the way Kim Coates shows how much this has been eating Tig up inside, or how Maggie Siff plays Tara's freak out about the life she envisions with Jax, or how Tommy Flanagan plays Chibs' despair with Gemma, or how Katey Sagal plays Gemma's fear for Chibs (Gemma knows Clay and what he's capable of), or how Ryan Hurst plays Opie's stoic anger, or how Ally Walker handles Stahl's shift from feigning control to realizing she's about to die, or... but in the interest of time and equality, I will just say this: everyone in the cast (everyone) was at the top of their games this week.

And for the second week in a row, this show about these tough men and their violent worlds ends on a scene of heartbreaking tenderness. Tig - who really, really wants to be something other than Clay's blunt instrument, and who has obviously nursed a thing for Gemma forever - points out to Clay that the best thing he can do for Gemma, even more than killing Zobelle and Weston, is to show her that he still desires her. And Clay - who has been shaken to his core by the developments of the last two episodes, and who seems to finally realize he needs to step back and think about things, rather than simply acting on his gut - hears him, and goes to his wife and sweeps all of her fears away as easily as he sweeps all the papers off her desk.

And it's great.

As Dan Dority once told Al Swearengen, we're fixing for a bloody outcome, but what "Sons of Anarchy" has shown us lately is that the show can be just as powerful when restraint is being shown: when it's just a woman telling a painful story, or a grieving man showing mercy, or a husband making sweet, necessary love to his wife.

Only two episodes left in this season. Based on the two we've just seen, they have a lot to live up to.

Some other thoughts:

• I want to see how the Jimmy O and Zobelle stories intertwine over these last two. Jax seeing Zobelle with the Mayans paints such an obvious picture of how SAMCRO is going to take down his operation that I have to assume there will be some more twists along the way.

• It's been implied that Unser feels more than just big brother affection for Gemma, and Tig's aborted makeout session with her only crystallized the idea that all the men of a certain age in SAMCRO's sphere of influence would have some kind of crush on her. Like, of course they would. Hell, even Half-Sack once called her a MILF (much to Clay's displeasure).

• Speaking of Unser, I wonder how big a deal it is that he's unofficially made Hale the acting chief. What exactly is Wayne planning that requires him to surrender the responsibilities of the top job?

• More idle speculation: what are the odds that the clip Opie handed Stahl had any of the homemade bullets in it? I'm guessing not - and I'm also guessing that June Stahl will never, ever tell anyone she knows (let alone any fellow ATF agents) about what happened in that parking lot.

• Interesting to see Tara and Lyla hanging out without incident, or even any real tension. I guess things have now gotten so bad for Jax and Opie that they, like the men, have to put that junk aside.

• Though it sounds exactly like The Rolling Stones doing a country song, the closing tune is actually "Can't Make It Through The Night" by Deadstring Brothers.

As we head into the home stretch, let me remind you about the commenting rules - specifically, the No Spoilers passage, which includes the part about not discussing anything in the previews. Period. Any comment in violation of that will be deleted.

What did everybody else think?


Phil Freeman said...

What did I think? I posted on Twitter that this show is now officially in "if you're not watching, there's something wrong with you and you can't be my friend" territory. This was the best episode yet of an unbelievable season. It went in a completely different direction than I thought it would, and in so doing only revealed the poverty of my imagination.

I mostly wonder what's gonna come of Jax passing his father's book on to Opie - clearly he envisions the two of them as co-leaders when Clay is too arthritic to ride, with Opie as his Tig, basically.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Otto Man said...

I love how unpredictable this show can be. I really thought Piney was heading to take down Stahl, not Clay.

Scott said...

My palms are sweatier than E.B. Farnum's and I'm out of breath. I'm too spent to add anything.

Tina said...

Why is it, when Alan posts quite clearly not to talk about the previews, does some [person] like Anonymous 11:13 above do just that?

Wow, great episode. I was expecting big noise and violence, and the quiet of this episode was even more powerful. And yes, the last scene with Clay and Gemma was wonderful.

jerseychick said...

"sweet, necessary love"

That's the whole episode right there, everyone did what was necessary and in the best interest of the club
We've never really seen the club move with one head and heart the next two episodes are going to be great!
I just don't understand wanting to continue to use the Irish as their supplier when the ATF is taking home movies of that whole operation
Another great episode, phenomenal ensemble

Matt said...

Wow. I didn't post anything last week because my head was spinning too fast. This week only made it worse. I sure as hell never saw the Tig thing coming. I'm at a loss. I really don't think I buy the way this episode played out in some respects, but it was so incredibly dense with plot that I'm not sure I can put my finger on what's bothering me. Awesome.

Dave F said...

The one thing I didn't understand when Jax was speaking to Stahl a few episodes ago was why he wouldn't dime on the Irish even though the Irish betrayed SAMCRO. Is the rule (based on Chibs conversation with Stahl tonight) that you never rat, even on enemies? Is this like Breaking Bad when the "OG" uncle wouldn't rat on Walter White even though he tried to kill his crazy nephew Tucco?

I really thought Piney was going to off himself...Great episode otherwise, though I wonder if Tig is really perceptive enough to realize Gemma needed Clay to have relations with her...

WI_Debi said...

Holy ****!
My head is spinning and it's hard to catch my breath. Just when you "think" you know what's coming Sutter & crew hit you with a Mac truck and you thank them for it. Talk about a dysfunctional relationship!

Sons of Anarchy is easily the best show on television right now and those of us who have been along for the ride since Season 1 mourn the season finale with no clue what we'll do until Season 3 begins.

Hopefully Mr. Sutter will continue his interaction via his blog & twitter cuz if we have to quit Sutter & Co cold turkey, it's bound to get ugly..

cp said...

These last two episodes have raised the bar on what was already an award-contending show. If the upcoming episodes equal these in writing quality, statues have to be going home with SoA, right?

Am I right in thinking that SoA, Mad Men and Breaking Bad are all in the same awards category when it comes to genre (Drama)? If so, how unfair to have to choose between them? They all deserve to be victorious.

Great synopses, Alan. I look forward to reading them every week.

Matt said...

Yes, I think the rule is that you never cooperate with law enforcement, period.

By the way, Alan, the magazine that Opie handed to Stahl was empty. Apparently he had decided in advance that he wasn't going to kill her. (Or perhaps that he'd only need one round to do so.)

Kimmy said...

Alan as much as I feel blessed by this show, I have to thank you for your gift of writing a great review. I think so many of us "fans" feel like babbling idiots after a show. At several points during the show, I couldn't even speak. WOWOWOW was my only thought, besides OH MY G! The way you describe exactly what I feel is amazing. You said, "the escapes (and in some cases, the additional jeopardy) are coming internally, out of character rather than plot." Being a Shield fan as well, I couldn't help but nod when I was reading that. We were always waiting for Kurt to give Vic and Shane a way out! Bravo! On this show the SONS take ownership, and carve their way out!

Thanks for the info on the song! I admit, I had to search for it before I came to read your blog. Already bought the album. It does sound like a young MICK!

Thanks again Alan! We love Kurt, Katie, and the entire cast and crew. Your reviews are now part of my Tuesday!

JanieJones said...

Every episode seems to increase in quality. The episode was wonderful because it didn't lead to bloodshed. However, I do wonder how long all will hold until the dam breaks. Jax still has plans that follow his father's thinking rather than Clay's. I'm sure it will crossover until next season.

There was a wondering layering to this episode.
*I particularly enjoyed the scene between Gemma and the priest. It also made me curious as to what else Gemma has been up to all these years without John that we have not been a witness of in prior episodes, including S1.

*Tara's mini meltdown made me feel for her as she has to put her wants and goals on the back burner to support Jax and SAMCRO.
*Ally Walker was great in her scene with the wonderful Ryan Hurst. I wonder if she will take anything valuable away from that experience.
*Tig finally coming out with the truth initially stunned me but he has been greatly hit with guilt for shooting Donna. I was happy to see him speak about it even though, as viewers, we cannot really expect Piney and Opie among others to be okay with the situation.
*Opie asking for leeway for Chibs and his father was touching and gave me even more respect for his character.
This has been such a wonderful season. Hat tip to all the cast, crew, writer's and director's.
I had to laugh at Half-Sack and his very infected nuticle. It was light moment with all the brevity of "Service."

*Unser, I would love to know what he is going to do. I suppose we will find out.
*Chibs-I felt for him too.
Titus Welliver looks to be a formidable and nasty person. I'm worried about his family.

I am invested and care about all of the characters in this show.

Hey, Anon 11:12, it's a tv show not every detail has to be exact. This show is not, to me, to glamorize MC clubs (which I have no problem with) but to deal with the intricacies of relationships, brotherhood, right vs. wrong, shades of gray, all different issues, etc. It's visceral and real to me. I know that is what counts as far as I'm concerned as a viewer.

Tom Farley said...

I hear you, Otto Man. I presumed Piney was going to kill himself, that that was why he made amends with Opie's mom.

Alan, I couldn't agree more about all the actors stepping up their game. Who wasn't great in this episode?

Shout-out to Ally Walker for conveying how Stahl had experienced the guilt of, but not the fear of being made to answer for, Donna's death.

Anybody who turns up here will enjoy this link, provided by Kurt Sutter himself:


Anonymous said...

I think you're right on the money. Rock on.

Matt said...

"*Unser, I would love to know what he is going to do. I suppose we will find out."

I've been saying since roughly episode 2 of this season that I think Unser may end up killing Zobelle. I still wouldn't bet against it.

+1 on Half-Sack's infected, er, sack. That story line is always hilarious, though they should be careful not to go back to that well too often. I'd hate to see them turn the character into a joke.

Unknown said...

It looked to me like the clip that Opie gave Stahl didn't have any bullets, and he was showing her that he never really intended to kill her, just to put the fear of God into her.

I could be wrong about that though.

Anonymous said...

With all of the hugging and crying, along with Half-Sack's condition, this was the best episode of Grey's Anatomy in a long long time.

I do not mean this in a bad way.

Anonymous said...

I read the AV Club review and saw the episode got a B+. Glad to see people thought this episode was amazing. I watched the episode twice back-to-back and I still cannot get over how much was packed into a single episode and how many times I was truly surprised.

I tutor kids, and tonight I read a little of Act Two of Hamlet with a student. His theme sheet included Appearance/Reality, Justice/Revenge, and Madness/Sanity. I think tonight touched on all of the above quite well.

Can't wait until next week!

Cree said...

Ally Walker's knock-out job as Agent Stahl is seriously amazing. I am blown away every time she's on the screen. I know she's not a top-line character, but she leaves as much of an impression as any one else on this incredible show.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't take a second to appreciate the lone comic relief this week. Half Sack, poor guy, just can't catch a break. Tig's vomit spew summed the whole scene up perfectly.

I think they've set the stage for an explosive ending to the season. Certainly Kurt Sutter has a few more tricks up his sleeve as this thing plays out, but even if the take down of white power and zobelle is as telegraphed as it seems, this will still have been one of the best seasons in the history of television.

Alan, you always express the things I see and feel in ways that I could never put into words. Thank you my man for loving television like we do.


cgeye said...

I'm sorry I skipped over your review, Mr. S., because I had to say immediately how this hour of television was almost more satisfying than the MAD MEN season finale.

It had fan service, it had Piney and Opie at last together, it had Tig showing love and remorse the only way he knew how (by almost screwing his figurative mom, and you know he'd be on his knees for Opie and Clay, given half the chance; that boy'll screw anything that moves, and a lot that won't, but I digress....). Opie even showing the ATF Bitch more mercy than she deserved. And Chibs? CHIBS. He did the right thing before the whole Opie/Donna mess started all over again. Everyone came clean. Everyone.

And the means of revenge for the club will be honesty. Weston will know what we've known for episodes -- that a true white power organization considers Hispanics as low as blacks, and selling guns to either is simply organized crime bidness, not the Race War immanentizing. Yes, a long-game can be played by flooding the prisons with H, but that's going to take a lot more white people down than a race man would want, innit?

The entire ensemble should be up at the Golden Globes next year, just like MM had its crew. And I still want SOA wifebeater onesies -- the perfect masculine baby shower gift.

SOA fever -- catch it, then go to the ER for antibiotics.

cgeye said...

And is it wrong that after knowing where that (that = some value of a Tig body part) has been, I now would not object to, um, snuggle with Tig? After his 'shroom trip, he's gotten all dreamy, and I can overlook about the farm animals. Well, maybe not the necrophila, nor the hooker beating, but yeah, the farm animals are a distant memory....

Unknown said...

I love this show. It has an edge that that no other show contains. Ths is such a complicated but very clever stroyline that draws you in...making the wait for next weeks episode long and adurous.

I loved the closing song tonight as well. It sounded exactly like the Stones,and the Stones are my favorite band. I had to search to make sure it wasn't a trak by Mick that I had never heard....amazing but right inline with this show, top notch all the way!

El Reyalto said...

My fellow SOA brothers and sisters have already expressed a lot of my same thoughts on yet another exceptional episode.

My personal favorite moment was Jax telling Opie that he had something for him to read. I have a feeling that will play a significant role next season with Jax and Opie carrying on the legacy of their fathers.

However, as Jax put it his father never had to deal with his wife being raped. The line "or he would have written a different book" sent chills up my spine.

I can't wait to see how this all plays out in the final 2 episodes. I'm worn out from the tension and glad I get a week to gear up for what comes next.

Unknown said...

Damn! This show keeps topping itself for awesomeness. Certainly nothing else on TV this week had me nearly as invested. I was very worried that just as Jax and Clay made peace everything would still go to reckless shit with the whole Donna thing blowing up and Gemma going all nutso with Tig and then also the Chibs issue and then it was all working out and I was so relieved. And then when Piney showed up I was all Yay Piney you didn't kill yourself and then he shot Clay and I jumped out of my chair. Fantastic. Can't wait for next week. Probably their plan will involve Halfsack flashing his horrifying nuts at Zobelle's crew, immobilizing them long enough to be shot with the handguns.

Unknown said...

Loose end:
There was no information in this episode about the final results of the investigation of the Caracara fire including whether any human remains (Darby and the accountant) were found. I wonder will the series resolve this or let it hang.

Not only did Zoebelle leave Weston behind, but he claimed he was meeting someone at a church. It will be interesting to see if Weston figures out the double cross on his own.

Jim Treacher said...

How can absolutely nothing turn out like you think it's going to from one moment to the next, and still work so amazingly?

After the first episode, I thought, "Why isn't Opie the next in line?" That kind of went away for a while, but tonight it was back. "WHAT DID YOU DO??" "The outlaw had mercy." "Gimme the room!" Damn, man. If you can't trust Ope to do the right thing after this, who can you trust?

Also, somebody needs to write a song called "Sweet, Necessary Love."

Jim Treacher said...

Probably their plan will involve Halfsack flashing his horrifying nuts at Zobelle's crew, immobilizing them long enough to be shot with the handguns.

I just wanted to say thank you for that. That is going to make me laugh for a while here now.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments from everyone. I thought Opie would demand that Jax take over as President of the club as a way for Clay and Tig to make amends during their meeting. Again, I love how nothing is predictable in the show so we'll see how Opie and Jax will challenge Clay's leadership once they deal w/ Zobelle.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: the clip, shows how much I know about guns. It looked to me like there was at least one bullet in there.

(Or maybe one of the "FX PUBLICITY" logos that FX stamps on every one of their screeners obscured the clip. Yeah... that's the ticket! I blame the PR department.)

Unknown said...

What all you guys said.

Also, I hope Stahl, while she was all terrified and crying, thinking she was going to die, peed her smarmy little pantsuit as well.

The outlaw showed mercy indeed!

Kevin Michaels said...

Great, great, great show - it's definitely the best show on TV right now - I stand amazed each week (both at the intensity and impact of the show, and the fact that more viewers aren't jumping onboard to watch).

The acting and the writing have been dead solid perfect all season, and I think Sutter deserves a lot of credit for the pacing of the story arcs. Even with the fight between Tig and Opie, and the confrontation between Stahl and Opie, and Piney and Clay, the episode had a "quite -under-stated" feeling to it. I think what really moved the story forward was the exposition and the character development, and as Alan noted, the fact that the characters found their own solutions.

BTW - loved the scene with Sack dropping trou - the expressions on each character's face as well as Tig vomiting (the hardened bad-ass) was priceless.

UnwantedTouching said...

Very satisfying episode, especially for one that lacked much "action." Though this show seems to get comparisons to "The Shield" for its link to Kurt Sutter, I feel like its spiritual cousin is more like "The Sopranos" due to its storytelling style and relative lack of action in each episode.

However, my one issue with the episode was that too much actually happened during this episode.

I've gotten used to the storytelling on SoA, which seems to take more time and is more willing to extend storylines beyond one episode. Alan mentioned "The Shield," which I loved too, but I got used to how yes, there were story arcs that covered entire seasons, but pretty much every episode had a contained story concerning the Strike Team getting into and out of an episode specific jam (admittedly sometimes tied to the larger story arcs, but also often not) and a contained B story with Julien/Danny or Dutch/Claudette.

SoA has felt much more paced, and therefore natural to me, because their story arcs often haven't been tidily resolved at the end of each ep, especially this season.

So with this episode, because its resolved so many of the story arcs, to some extent, it felt a little convenient that so many of them were resolved in one ep, all simultaneously. I'll admit, on some level it felt really good to see characters that I care about finally get their heads together (Gemma and Tig finally moving past their issues, Chibs coming clean, and Opie learning the truth in what felt like an oddly anticlimactic scene to me). And in terms of the larger concerns of the season, the timing makes sense, with only two eps left, now that the Sons have pulled together, they can pull Zobelle apart, which promises to be even more satisfying.

But I feel like how everything just came together in this one ep was a little too convenient, and didn't share the same organic natural development of storylines that prior episodes seemed to share.

Also, I'm still trying to process Opie's ability to swallow his anger against Clay. Not too long ago, Opie was behaving like he had a death wish (blowing up the meth lab, etc.). He finally finds out the truth about Donna, smacks around Tig a little, and then scares Stahl in a magnanimous display of mercy...I'm not sure how realistic a reaction that would be for a character like Opie. I suppose maybe that Opie's character is all about internalizing everything, which might tie in but I'm still trying to sort it out in my head. Thoughts?

Really looking forward to what will happen with Stahl now, as kind of the wildcard in the war between the Sons and Zobelle.

C. Wildy said...

Hi. Long time lurker, first time commenter. As great and compelling as this show is, I have to say this wait-and-see strategy by Jax and his allies is wearing a bit thin. What type of working class criminal(as opposed to a white-collar style con-artist type) would wait this long to even, at least, plan revenge on Clay. And now, Opie jumps on the Jax bandwagon and follows suit. The club does him wrong and he falls back into the fold?

As wise as this course of action may seem, its beginning to strain credulity. Seriously, aren't bikers supposed to represent rugged, unfettered individuality and freedom? I get that SAMCRo is the only family these guys have ever known but this amount of cowtowing, follow-the-leader inaction is counter-productive and hardly reeks of the individualism bikers are known for. At least when the time came, Piney stuck to his gun(s).

Forget helping the club win the Zoebelle War, Jax would prove amazingly adept and ruthless if he took advantage of the situation to snatch the throne. The longer they keep from going straight at Clay the more they enable his reign just as Jax said.

Rachel said...

Great episode. Nothing substantive to add, but I have a questions -- are there two episodes left or just one? I thought the preview mentioned just 1 episode left, but it might have meant 1 episode left before the finale. (The Sons website only has through next week listed on the episode guide.)

Thanks for the help in advance.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Two episodes left, as I said in the review.

Jeff said...

RE: The clip-- I assumed it was from HER gun, that way she couldn't shoot at him as he was leaving... keeping the gun but giving her the clip back...

And yes, a brilliant show. A few episodes back, I was afraid they were backing themselves into a corner with the main characters. It takes fantastic acting and writing to make grown men cry (on both sides of the screen.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jeff, Opie tosses Stahl's gun away as soon as he takes it off her. It was his gun he had on her, and his clip he handed her.

At least I got that detail right. I think.

Jeff said...

Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about this one. So Opie, Piney, Jax, and Clay are all still going to be active in the club? Just like that? Sutter has deferred resolution on Donna's death. After Sutter spent most of this season building it up I feel a bit cheated. I completely understand Jax and Clay putting aside their differences, for now, b/c of Gemma but I'm having a hard time accepting both Opie and Piney doing the same. Seems like Jax changing the direction of the club may be a series long process. I just thought how it was built up this year it would be resolved by season's end.

When Opie says, "How am I supposed to share a patch with those guys (Clay and Tig)" Jax says "It's a club burden." What does that even mean?

I don't know, for me it didn't really work. I would have liked a little more explanation and time spent on Opie's decisions. I think this could have been done in a scene between Opie and Piney in the "Church" after Piney shot at Clay. I think this could have been a great emotional scene in which Opie explained his thought process to Piney. We're supposed to believe that it happened. I would have just liked to see it.

Anyway, this entire episode was about the club getting right with each other enough so that they can focus on taking down Zobelle in the last two episodes. Pretty much every internal club beef got resolved to some degree.

I thought Clay showed the most growth in the episode. He's accepted Jax's line of thinking about Zobelle and the need to be smart about retaliation. He accepted Chib's explanation of what happened between him and Stahl. And, he let Piney slide on shooting at him. I thought Ron Perlman did a great job in this episode showing remorse and a little vulnerability which we haven't seen from his character since the night of Donna's death.

Kudos to Kim Coates this entire season. In the season one DVD, Coates says he told Sutter he has no interest in playing just a psycho. Up until Donna's death in season one that's pretty much what he was. But since then, he's been one of the most interesting characters on the show.

RoxieKat said...

Glad Piney didn't kill himself.(Whew) Thought that was defintely gonna be the way that story played out... I knew Tig would crack when he had taken the 'shrooms and was crying over the animal skull. He kept saying "he was sorry' I immediately thought Donna but others I talked to said he was saying sorry about 'doing' the animals. I think I was right. Tara reminded me of me, all those worries about her life and position and where is everything going just spewing out of her mouth. All she has said over and over again is 'when is this gonna stop" well honey it NEVER stops. So she was asking all in one spew "Are u worth it cause I'm seeing my professional life go down the drain"
I was among thousands yelling "Kill her" to Opie....His anger was quelled about Donna dying when he realized it was HIS life that would have ended....So many problems. So many ways to go. But we all know Zobelle is getting his in the end.

Alan Sepinwall said...

When Opie says, "How am I supposed to share a patch with those guys (Clay and Tig)" Jax says "It's a club burden." What does that even mean?

He means that Clay and Tig aren't solely to blame - that the club created an environment in which Clay might have that kind of power and order Tig to kill a club member - and that therefore the only way to really solve the problem is to fix the club, not to kill Tig and Clay, nor to quit.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person who said Tig's big reveal about who killed Donna felt a bit anti-climatic for me. Unlike some others here, I found Opie's actions generally believable. I think he has come around to understanding that killing anyone and anything in his path will not soothe his pain, and he still believes that the club is all he has. So it would make sense to me for him to give "mercy" to evil Stahl and to come back to the club, even knowing what he knows. I mean, if he kills Clay and Tig, then what? Where does he go from there? I was so happy to see Jax and Opie on the same page again. Also I loved the scene with Tara. She was trying so hard to keep everything in and be strong because she recognizes the strain Jax is under, but she just couldn't help herself and had to voice those little doubts about the future that I am sure have been in her head for a while. It felt very realistic to me. Although I was happy to see Chibbs come clean and be granted, at least so far, leniency, I fail to see how SAMCRO can protect his daughter in Ireland and his ex-wife who appears to be shacked up with Jimmy O. Seems like a difficult task, especially since they are trying to simultaneously escape the attention of the feds and crush the white power gang. The Tig and Gemma scene sort of creeped me out, but I can see how he would have a "crush" on her. It just felt strange to me. And I am glad I was not the only one to do a doubletake at the end when it appeared that Tara and Lyla were having a friendly chat as they waited for the club meeting to end.

Rachel said...

Two episodes left, as I said in the review.

Sorry, Alan. If it wasn't clear from my comment, I thought you might have been mistaken, which is why I asked.

cgeye said...

One huge loose end: Caracara and making good for Luann. I'm still not convinced that Georgie Caruso acted alone, nor am I convinced Zobelle backed his play. Since SOA would run out of gas without the pr0n hotties, that has to get back up and running by next season.

Either that, or there's gonna be one incarcerated member who's not down with this detente, nosireeebob...

Matt said...

"I fail to see how SAMCRO can protect his daughter in Ireland and his ex-wife who appears to be shacked up with Jimmy O. Seems like a difficult task, especially since they are trying to simultaneously escape the attention of the feds and crush the white power gang."

Well, there's the Belfast chapter of SAMCRO. And they could find a way to to burn Jimmy to the feds and make it look like Zobelle's people did it. A war between True IRA and LOAN could solve a lot of SAMCRO problems. (Of course this assumes SAMCRO gets the Chinese gun pipeline back online. Can't burn the Irish bridge until that happens.) And Stahl might just go along with it out of guilt; Opie made it through her armor last night.

Matthew said...

the Priest made my night. What an awesome line to Gemma, wrapped in a fantastic outside "pay it forward" initiative to put some real life into the cycle of healing for the club.

Jax's pop musta had his "guardian angel" patch on for the day all this occurred.

DTor said...

I’m with No More Vegas and C. Wildy on this. It strains credibility past the breaking point that Opie didn’t kill *someone* in retaliation-- be it Tig, Clay, or Stahl. Now I can buy him feeling some remorse afterward, but all signs this season pointed to an immediate reaction of explosive, murderous rage when Ope discovered the truth. I feel misled at best; betrayed at worst.

Another general opinion I feel compelled to share here: I’ve seen comparisons between SoA and Mad Men recently, which is ludicrous to me. SoA is a great show and I love it, but Mad Men is in a different universe. Mad Men is literary; it’s allegorical… Sons of Anarchy is not. It’s a great, fun tv show, but it’s not anything more than that.

DTor said...

Also: I'm assuming the reason no one's brought up finding bodies in the fire is because they escaped somehow; thus there were no bodies. I'm guessing this comes into play at some point these next two weeks.

Anonymous said...

Most points have been made be many already, my little quibble was the delivery of guns at the marina. Seemed a little obvious to me that you likely would wait for some less open area to do that transaction.

Also, if the IRA son, flipped on his Dad, did they leave him at the safehouse? Seems risky that they would allow an Irish national to stay free on a deal to trap the father, but if he is in custody how would they still be making deals?

Marvel Me Is A Mutant said...

Well said Matthew! Also, to respond to the anonymous commenter above:

I think we didn't see the talk between Opie & Piney for a reason. This Donna thing is far, far from over and for all we know they made a pact to take care of the problem together at a more opportune time later. For now, they seem pretty deferential not so much to Clay as to the MC, its interests and its established rules. It's their legacy too.

Anyway, great review & comments as always!

Unknown said...

As an avid reader of your blog I come here weekly and usually you and I are on the same page, but it seems like this week I am in the minority.

I want to preface this by saying that SOA is perhaps my favorite show and, especially after Sutter’s showrunner blog, I have a deep appreciation for all of the work that goes into each episode. But I was disappointed with this recent one.

SOA has always had such a great grasp on what propels a series through each season – the perfect balance of suspense and revelation. As the audience, we are privy to knowledge that the characters might not have and there is tension created watching the stories unfold. However in last night’s episode I felt like someone just shook up the bag of secrets and let it all rip all over the table.
In one episode: Tig told Opie about Donna, the core club members found out about it too, Tig "told" Gemma about his desire for her, Chibs confessed his fears, Piney acknowledged the situation with his ex, Tara told Jax about the suspension and her need for family and a future, Jax not only saw Zoebelle with the Mayans but also promptly shared this observation with the group, Opie saw Chibs with Stahl and also opted not to hold onto this info, Jax told Opie about John’s manifesto...

Maybe this was all triggered by Gemma’s big reveal last week and they all felt the need to unburden themselves after realizing the damage that can be done by holding on to secrets. But for me, as the viewer it, just seemed a) an unlikely turn of events for these characters and b) like an easy way to things to get tied up nicely since the season is coming to a close.

Greg said...

I don't have a problem with the way Opie responded because he seemed to have come back down to earth the past couple of weeks. If this would have happened earlier in the season when he was in his single minded focus vengeance mode, there's no way there's not a body count. And it is clear that neither he nor Jax has made peace with Clay. The reverberations from this should still be felt for a while, and that's why it's not a neat, tie everything together, solution.

I would like to think that her encounter with Opie would have Stahl reconsider her tactics (after she goes right back to the weasel well with Chibbs), but if Donna's death didn't change her, I don't know that this will. I wonder if now that the Club knows about her plan, can they manipulate her to get amnesty and to also get at Zobelle.

Alan, was there something in the screener about what happened to Darby in the fire (which I think you implied) that was subsequently cut?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Darby/Chuck explanation was cut from episode 9 (this was ep 11). I'm told it will now be explained at some point in the final two episodes.

zzzdog said...

It would be the expected thing for the truth about Donna to come out in some kind of crescendo of tension and drama, but how surprising and much more realistic that it come on an ordinary enough morning from a character who just can't keep the secret anymore; that it come from just being said out loud. Much of the life changing information we receive seems to come in disconcerting ordinariness, and this had that same breath-taking quality that comes with hearing world changing news you never saw coming. I loved the rush and clear feeling of the big secret being swept away; I understood Opie's bewildered rage along with a kind of numbness. One minute he's tinkering with his bike, and the next minute the foundation of his world changed, and none of us saw it coming. I can well understand Opie not killing anyone. Tig and Clay come jumbled in loyalty and brotherhood and the fiber of the only world he's ever known. I don't think he could form a clear enough intent through all that, though he knows he's wounded and enraged. He's still reeling and doesn't know what he wants yet; but he will, and we'll get to watch that play out in character strokes as Opie reinvents his life with the club - same for all of them really. This is a tectonic shift for everyone who knows about it. I think he didn't kill Stahl because he's starting to find some healing and he wasn't willing to plunge back into the abyss by killing her; he doesn't need self-destruction the same way he did when everything was black and hopeless - before his meltdown and before starting to connect emotionally with Lyla.

I loved that after weeks of secrets and bitter rages that Gemma's reveal and the reaction to it not only united Jax and Clay in their love for Gemma, but in their need to be right with one another again. Even more so, it caused this chain reaction of truth-telling and air clearing. Each reveal seemed to birth the next as the force of either unburdening or throwing down moved through all these related characters who had been living under the burden of internal deceit. I thought it was a thing of beauty. The acting was flawless, shaded and powerful and just grabbed the viscera.

I know there are some fine points and logistical points that seem to be left unshown, but with characters this rich and surprising and affecting, I'm more than willing to think more abstractly and live comfortably with spaces and holes. Close enough.

Anonymous said...

This show has taken off. Last night episode was great and the fans finally got what we have all been waiting for. Opie finding out the truth behind Donna's death. I can't wait so see how season 2 ends and season 3 begins

zzzdog said...

In my previous post I mentioned Jax and Clay getting right with one another which sounded like I thought they'd made peace. I don't. I think they've been reminded of their place in one another's emotional lives and are willing to feel that again and honor that. They are family, they love and are loved by the same people. That got lost for both of them.

I think the primal conflict still exists and I think the fall-out from all the reveals is far from over.

Zach said...

I didn't see it mentioned in the review or the comments, but I feel it was a conscience choice by the writers/director that Opie removed his beanie/hat while reading the 'Manifesto'. If I recall, that's the only time you've seen him without it on since Donna's death. Seemed very symbolic to me.

Jim Treacher said...

I think we didn't see the talk between Opie & Piney for a reason. This Donna thing is far, far from over and for all we know they made a pact to take care of the problem together at a more opportune time later.

My thoughts exactly. Clay and Tig have been granted a reprieve at best.

I feel it was a conscience choice by the writers/director that Opie removed his beanie/hat while reading the 'Manifesto'. If I recall, that's the only time you've seen him without it on since Donna's death.

He also took it off to bang his pornstar girlfriend on the floor. But, y'know, that's just being gentlemanly.

brett said...

As usual, a great review. Man, I really really love this show, especially this season and I think it's become hands down the best drama on television. Tight writing, believable acting (without over-acting, which would be really easy to do with a series like this) and just an overall great concept for a show. I'm loving it.

I love how the Opie story line is taking shape, and can't wait to see where it goes from here. Also, I loved that they used the Two Gallants song "Fly Low Carrion Crow" - it's the song that plays when Piney is at his house and holding the gun in his hand...such a great 'Americana' tune that fits the show perfectly. (scene can be watched at : http://vimeo.com/7695650)

Unknown said...

this show has reached spectacular levels. i honestly think it is currently better than the shield ever was (no disrespect to a show that i loved). the emotions that sutter & co mine from these characters is intense and always touching. last ep damn near brought a tear to my eye, and this one continued that brilliance. the fact is that gemma's unveiling of her rape at THIS stage in the season truly united the club. the show takes unexpected directions and comes back with pure quality. is it too early to consider SOA S2 for your best seasons of the decade?

Jersey said...

@brett the Two Gallants song "Fly Low Carrion Crow" was the best song of ep
"how surprising and much more realistic that it come on an ordinary enough morning from a character who just can't keep the secret anymore"
It think that's what makes the show so great the character relationships are so real that they don't the dramatics for a reveal.

Jersey said...

My issue only with the episode was Bobby.
Does he have amnesia? His reaction to finding out about Clay having Donna killed was ridiculous coming from a person who heard it from Stahl. I re-watched the season 1 finale last night and she told him verbatim. In one scene you have Hale telling Jax and the next scene is Stahl and Bobby in the interrogation room where she tells him that Donna is dead and how she set Opie up and what Clay must have ordered.
Its all starts at the 32 minute mark if anyone wants to see.

Dennis said...

I was only thrown off my Tig's confession because it came almost matter-of-factly and so early in the show but of course that was because it was the genesis for everything else that happens - events like Chibs being found out inadvertantly by Opie and Opie's father attempting to avenge Donna's death lead to a very cool scene where Opie looks on as Clay considers Op's opinion, knowing that's the only call he can make.

The only thing that rang false with me was Stahl's reaction to being on death's door. I would've preferred a more shocked facial expression or perhaps even throwing up and I thought her play was really an overact.

Finally, what was the name of the song that played for like 10 seconds over the scene of Op reading the club's manifesto? I knew it was too early in the show to go into a montage but it was odd for a song to play for that short of a time frame, no? Anyway, I hope someone knows what that was.

Dennis said...

I just saw that someone posted the name of the song i requested.


cgeye said...

What Bobby has is his own secrets: The embezzlement Luann committed at Caracara before her death, and his acceptance of her in trade, to keep silent.

He wasn't going to start a war over Donna, if breaking the club wide open revealed all the shit going on. He hasn't told a soul -- and it's up to Sutter whether Chuck also knew about the cooked books, before the fire.

verif: quitrap -- what Jax found himself in once Gemma started talking.

Anonymous said...

loved the glimpse of a nobler, better future with opie opting for outlaw forgiveness and locking step with jax.

that said, can't help thinking sutter is setting opie up to be sacrificed in the future.

change won't come easy. blood will be shed. and like so often in life, sometimes the good have to be lost for the wicked to find their way.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Alan that it's exactly the restraint in this episode and the character-based resolution that made it so awesome.

In fact, even though as a whole it's too early to call this show better than The Shield (not that I feel a pressing need to), I find this character-based approach much more satisfying than the way The Shield often handled it.

Can't wait for the finale, that's the one coming up, right?

Unknown said...

I agree with whoever said that Luanne and Caracara are a huge loose end right now. Are they sure it's Georgie's fault? Shouldn't the SOA be more upset about this? I know Gemma means a lot to everyone, but Luanne had a long history with the club as well.

Anonymous said...

Ally Walker as agent Stahl came through in bunches this week. I had to go back and watch her scene with Opie a second (okay, fine, third time).

I'm curious to see what happens resolving Luann's situation. I find it hard to see how they could tie in Georgie and Zobelle. They might have to be two separate incidents. I mean, how much of an amazing mastermind would Zobelle be if he'd also reached out to Georgie?

dez said...

Got to see this last night and was mesmerized throughout. The show's been so good that I'd completely forgotten about Chuck and Darby. Is it next Tuesday yet?

Hatfield said...

Yeah, this show is the best. But strangely enough, I predicted all of the crazy developments in this episode. Maybe that's not a big deal, but from Tig's confession to Opie's mercy to Piney's attempt, I called them all. Didn't make it any less riveting though. I don't know how the last two can top the previous three, but I hope they do.

I will say, however, that the explanation for Chuck and Darby getting cut is sloppy. I mean, it's safe to assume they're dead, but for no one to even mention it at all for two episodes is unbelievable.

Jim Treacher said...

My issue only with the episode was Bobby.
Does he have amnesia? His reaction to finding out about Clay having Donna killed was ridiculous coming from a person who heard it from Stahl.

True. Then again... it was Stahl.

Carolyn said...

@Dtor: SoA is a great show and I love it, but Mad Men is in a different universe. Mad Men is literary; it’s allegorical… Sons of Anarchy is not. It’s a great, fun tv show, but it’s not anything more than that.

I can't argue whether SOA is better than Mad Men since I don't watch MM.... but if you think Sons is neither literary or allegorical than you're missing a LOT of the underlying motifs and allusions.

Any show can be watched for entertainment value alone - either MM or SOA - but looking at it with a critical eye, SOA is deeply literary and allegorical.

Anonymous said...

I love that a Mad Men director made this episode, because there was a shot in there (Maggie Siff standing in a doorway) that was very Mad Men. I mean visually, but since it was a also a Mad Men actor, it was a bit of a shock.