In the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy we find out what drives Lee Toric, Tara’s exit strategy and Jax’s continued path down the same road as his father but is it Clay or John he’s following…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Follow on Twitter @DamonMartin
“Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.”
(As spoken by Lee Toric) ~ William Shakespeare — Sonnet 116
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has never denied the fact that he’s found inspiration for his work in the writings and creations of William Shakespeare. Several times throughout the course of the show’s history, he’s noted that the original story for his outlaw biker drama was based on the play Hamlet. In my talks with executive producer Paris Barclay, he’s said much the same. Sutter has also alluded to works such as King Lear when describing his show and the path it follows. The latest episode of Sons of Anarchy that debuted on Tuesday night titled ‘One-One-Six’ was a blunt object pounded across the face of the viewers that the show can still draw a new Shakespearean flavor when the right story comes across Sutter’s computer screen.
In one of the scenes that we first delve into the world of former U.S. Marshall Lee Toric we see he is reading a book titled “Watchfiends and Rack Screams” by Antonin Artaund — a French writer and playwright most commonly known for another work he did called ‘The Theatre and its Double’. It was in that book that Artuand introduced a theory called ‘theatre of cruelty’. The word cruelty in Artaund’s book wasn’t necessarily about torture or pain, but instead it’s revealing a truth to an audience that they do not wish to see and shatter a false reality. Artaund also commonly referred to Shakespeare as a major influence on his work. It’s here that Toric begins to take shape this season.
Toric is obsessed with putting the Sons of Anarchy down once and for all, and he’s willing to bend, break or shatter any laws that stand in his way of making that happen. He first has to deal with former president Clay Morrow who has agreed to turn state’s evidence and testify against his club on one condition — he wants to see his wife and his son before he will sign anything. Toric is able to make good on one of those promises when Gemma arrives to visit her soon to be ex-husband.
Clay says over and over that he doesn’t blame her for what she did, but Gemma quickly realizes what’s really at work here — her ex-husband is selling his club down the river to save his own neck. As Gemma exits she runs into Toric, who explains to her why he’s doing what he’s doing and how it’s all going to end in the downfall of SAMCRO. Toric is a driven man, but we find out much more about him this time around than we have in the past few episodes with his appearances. He was a dedicated lawman and the best at putting away criminals. You know why? Because he didn’t give a shit about justice. It was always about retribution. Now retribution is a funny word because it sounds like another way to say revenge, but the difference is this — retribution is when the punishment being doled out is understood to be ‘morally right and fully deserved’. Toric isn’t out to avenge his sister’s death at this point, he’s dismantling the Sons of Anarchy out of retribution because they need to be punished for years of wrong doing. It’s a painful truth the rest of law enforcement and the people in Charming have failed to see, but he’s going to work until he bleeds to make sure it’s revealed to all of them in his own personal theatre of cruelty.
Because of some more contacts that Toric has at the ATF, he’s able to get some inside knowledge on the tragic school shooting that took place last week. He quickly realizes that the gun the 11-year old boy used to kill several classmates was a KG-9 — the same kind of gun that SAMCRO has been putting on the streets for years. Toric meets the new district attorney on the case (played by the wonderful CCH Pounder), and offers his help. She’s looking for the Mexican street gang attached to the gun because the boy’s mother was the old lady of Nero’s cousin Arcadio (Dave Navarro). What she doesn’t know is that the gun supplied to the gang came from the stockpile of weapons handed out daily by SAMCRO.
Toric is conflicted but not by grief or a sense of regret. He’s conflicted because the years of drug abuse that he’s inflicted on his body makes it hard to function for several hours at a time, much less to hold the pen with which he’s using to forge Clay’s signature on the forms to make him an informant for the government. With his hands shaking, Toric turns to some self-flagellation to calm his twitchy arms and finish the job that needs to be done. The scariest thing about Toric is that he’s not only consumed to crush SAMCRO, it’s almost as if he is doing this knowing that when it’s done he will have nothing left to go home to and it will be time for him to lay in the ground for good. Maybe it’s divine retribution that Toric seeks because he’s certainly not acting like a man who has much to live for tomorrow, and that may be the most dangerous adversary Jax and the club have ever faced.
From his years writing The Shield, Sutter certainly understands how to write for a damaged, flawed and severely motivated cop — in this case Toric would make an excellent addition to Vin Mackey’s team of soldiers. As we look ahead, it’s clear Toric will soon come face to face with Jax when he goes to meet Clay next week, and that is one showdown I certainly cannot wait to see. The final moment we see Toric is as a guest at Diosa where he hands off a napkin to one of the young ladies with his room number and hotel attached to it. Before leaving, he slips one of the head girls his card and says to tell her boss that he visited and he likes the place. Toric may seem unstable in his private moments, but that may only be because he’s so driven in his thirst to finish the Sons of Anarchy — make no mistake it’s not revenge he’s after, it’s a reckoning.
Back in Charming, another bruised character comes home again when Tara is finally released from jail. Out on bail, she’s lost her chance to flee with her children to Oregon and the job has since scrambled away from her as well. She only wants to clutch her children close while preparing for the battle ahead. Tara has been scarred both inside and out from what she’s done and what she’s had to go through during her time as a Teller. Tara was like a porcelain doll in the early going of the series with skin that would crack and break in this outlaw world, but as time moved forward we saw her develop a leather-like exterior that only gets tougher with each crack of the whip. Jail might have finally been the place where the leather cracked, and Tara’s had enough of this life.
She begins planning an exit strategy with her lawyer where Wendy would get the rights to the children if she goes to jail, and during her time behind bars she’s written down every heinous act she’s witnessed and any activities she’s been privy to while with her husband. It’s not enough to end with either of them in handcuffs, but it’s plenty to set a pattern for any judge to see the history of violence infecting her life and the lives of her boys. The real shocker comes when Lowen (her attorney) reveals that she’s finished drawing up the divorce papers for Tara. While they can be put on hold for now, the proceeding is ready to start whenever Tara pulls the trigger (no pun intended). It’s obvious at this point that Tara can’t take anymore. The end of the episode is where we see the true pain hiding behind Tara’s eyes. She’s still forced to wear a mask of happiness with this man she can no longer be with, who has only brought her misery and pain with each decision he’s made, but until she can insure her exit free and clear, she has to stay. With each thrust of Jax inside her, Tara can’t hold back the tears anymore and it’s like a wave of sadness washing over when the scene fades to black.
Because of the double life he leads, Jax is oblivious to the pain hiding in his wife’s eyes. It was very much like last season when Tara felt what true love and passionate obsession felt like when she visited a grieving Otto who said goodbye to his wife Luann one final time in prison. Following that moment, Tara tried so hard to connect with Jax but he couldn’t spare the time for her. All that was left was for Tara to touch herself because her husband’s embrace had gone cold long ago.
Jax’s mind is always racing in a million different directions but rarely settles on the one that leads home. This time around he’s dealing with the fallout from the tragic school shooting, Nero’s cousin Arcadio, a heroin addicted mother, and a police force that wants to strike justice down on whoever handed over the gun to that 11-year old boy. Jax convinces Nero that they have to get the mother away from the house where the police are watching to make sure she knows that even in her moment of grief they cannot be tied back to this shooting. They quickly ship Arcadio and his old lady to Piney’s cabin in the woods, where they try to convince them both that there is no other course of action but to stay quiet and keep this tragedy confined to the school house walls where it took place. Unfortunately, an unstable, horrified mother isn’t the safest choice to leave with a gun, and she decides to form her own exit strategy while taking a few shots at Jax and his crew. The moment she convinces Arcadio to come with her, Nero has seen enough and unleashes a single bullet, turning his cousin’s head into a moon roof. The hysteric mother can only be calmed down one way — with a shot of heroin straight to her veins.
Jax assigns Juice to give her the dose as she’s tied down to the bed struggling to get free after almost escaping with a double-barrel shotgun in tow. After a tumultuous few weeks where he’s been called rat and traitor, and then asked to betray a former club member to pin a murder on them, Juice has seen all sides of his club and what they are capable of doing for the ‘greater good’. This time, Juice has been asked to silence the mother for good. After he gives the dose of heroin, he smothers her face with a pillow and with each sob and plea for help, Juice loses a little bit more of himself. He heads to the kitchen after killing the sad, young mother and begins to feverishly wash his hands of the stains now tattooed on his skin. This is where Sutter brings another famous Shakespeare moment to life in his tragic tale of outlaws as Juice now embodies Lady MacBeth washing the blood from her hands while grinding her teeth and screaming ‘out damned spot, out I say!’. This is just a theory, but it feels like Juice will soon meet his eventual end on this show. What was once a brotherhood has now become a room full of lies and backstabbing, and Juice doesn’t seem like he can take much more. Perhaps he is Lady MacBeth, or maybe he’s more Laertes, an instrument of the king who will eventually be driven to kill Hamlet.
The Hamlet in our tale is Jax Teller and he’s becoming awfully good at telling half-truths and manipulating a situation for what he perceives to be the best idea at the time. Juice killing the grieving mother was his idea, and he proceeded to lie to Nero saying that he had nothing to do with her demise and it had to be an overdose of heroin. The lies are spreading, and the thing about lies is they always come back to bite you. Jax never wanted to become Clay, but with each decision he makes without the club involved, he slips further and further out of his father’s shadow and into the mold his stepfather left behind.
One good idea that Jax is determined to make right is getting SAMCRO out of gun running. It was a mission his father died trying to make happen, but he’s finishing the plan and it starts with an exit from the real IRA and their contact Galen. This relationship is rockier than Tony Soprano and a phone that gives him a wrong look. Galen has never had much use for Jax, especially after his son being kidnapped led to the death of his good friend Father Kellan Ashby. The Irishman looks at Jax and sees a young punk, not branded for leadership who makes rash decisions and snaps at a moment’s notice. At strained as their relationship remains, Jax still unloads the hard news on his Irish contact — SAMCRO is moving out of guns — but they will move the shipment to another chapter in San Bernardino instead. Galen accepts the offer on the condition that Clay’s contacts in Northern California will still do business with them directly and take the guns off their hands to keep the Irish as the top supplier in the area. Galen points out that this tragic school shooting will result in nothing more than grandstanding by the politicians vowing to end gun violence, while every crook in 100-mile radius will be begging for the same weapon the 11-year old boy brandished on that fateful morning just 24 hours ago. Galen is not a man who bows down to tragedy because growing up in Northern Ireland where he’s lived around car bombings and the loss of family members for decades, a school shooting probably doesn’t even register on his moral barometer. His message simple — get the new gun operation up and running, he will try to sell the idea to the Irish kings back home, and the two parties can then go their separate ways. Something tells me much like Jax’s lie to Nero will come back to haunt him, Galen will be like shrapnel stuck in SAMCRO’s side for many months ahead.
Once again, Jax just has to make this one thing happen so much so that he wants to usurp his club’s vote to abandon guns and begin a more legitimate business in Diosa. Chibs is quick to point out that this needs to be taken to church for a vote, but Jax doesn’t seem too interested in democracy. It appears the path of the son could very well travel the same as his father — whether that ends up being Clay or John Teller is unclear.
One character I failed to touch on last week that I almost passed over again this time around is Bobby Munson. If you remember season two when Jax laid down his vice president’s patch, and exited SAMCRO for the life of a NOMAD because his relationship with Clay was so frayed at the time, it took finding out about Gemma’s rape to bring him back into the family fold. Bobby’s feeling the same kind of hurt right now after trying his best to keep the club whole, and with each bandage he puts on, Jax continuously ripped off a new limb. To end this cycle of betrayal, Bobby has left SAMCRO and relocated to Nevada where we hear the name Jury for the first time in a few years (Jury was the friend of John Teller’s from Vietnam who started a new club before they were patched over by the Sons in season one). Bobby’s looking for an even further exit from SAMCRO because he’s teaming up with a few other disgruntled members to hopefully form a new chapter of NOMADS. The group was dismantled after the string of robberies and murders perpetrated by the former NOMAD members last season, but Bobby wants to get a new band together to ride as brothers separate from any other charter. Bobby, like Juice, may have finally had enough and just wants to go back to a simpler time when this was all about the club, and what was good for the entire group and not the needs or desires of an individual. Living under Clay’s rule and now Jax’s has left Bobby a tired and weary man, and it’s time for him to find a new home far, far away from Charming.
A few other notes from tonight’s show — the song that opened tonight’s broadcast was “Set My Body Free” by The White Buffalo from his new album “Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways”. The tune that closed out the show tonight was a cover of a Rolling Stones song called “As Tears Go By” by singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen and the Sons of Anarchy house band The Forest Rangers, which you can pick up on iTunes.
Next week we see the encounter between Jax and Clay, and how the new president of SAMCRO will deal with an Old Testament lawman named Lee Toric.