An explosive episode turns volatile as Gemma faces another horror in the name of SAMCRO while Chibs tries to get Jax to look at some harsh realities…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Death is a common occurrence on Kurt Sutter’s bloody biker drama Sons of Anarchy. We’ve seen plenty of characters come and go over the years — from Opie’s brutal head bashing to Otto’s mercy killing last week — but there’s always been a constant on this show that goes beyond any actor or actress. The SAMCRO clubhouse is a staple of Charming, California. Built just behind the Teller-Morrow garage, it’s been a shining piece of Charming history for the last few decades. Two seasons ago when new sheriff Eli Roosevelt decided to pay a visit and desecrate those hallow halls with axes it was hard to watch. Now there’s no table, no vintage Harley, and no wall of SAMCRO mugshots adorning the room after Tuesday’s episode literally blew the entire place to smithereens.
The big boom at the end of the latest offering of Sons of Anarchy happened as a result of Jax’s continued efforts get his club out of guns without actually involving any of his other members in his decision making. Last week, Chibs called Jax out on his continued deception and secret keeping, and how he was looking more and more like his stepfather Clay with each move he made as a mad king instead of putting the club’s future back in the hands of its members. The power Jax has been given allows him to be in charge and make these big moves, but he’s no longer asking for much advice or counsel and it’s costing the club more and more.
To kick off our 90-minute odyssey, Jax is going after the Irish soldiers who took out two of his members last week, and it doesn’t take long to track down Galen’s No. 2 Connor, who has been left behind to clean things up before heading back to Ireland. It seems to be a theme with the Irish gun-runners that the second guy in charge is meant to suffer. In season 3, it was Jimmy O’s lieutenant that gets picked up and handed over to the DEA for safe keeping, and in this episode it’s Connor who bears the brunt of the punishment meant for Galen.
Connor gives up his cell phone with a way to contact the Irish kings back in Belfast, and Jax decides to offer them up some vital information in exchange for ending the war with SAMCRO. Once again, Jax would rather lead the charge head on without knowing who is actually on the other end of the conversation. Like a bull charging a waving cloth hoping to take it down with sheer force, Jax offers up a new gun deal with the Irish selling to August Marks and his gangsters in Oakland, while also telling the kings that Galen is essentially another Jimmy O. He’s back biting and dealing behind their back with Clay, hoping to secure his own financial future. Turns out, however, Galen is sitting at the table listening to every word Jax is trying to bury him with.
I thought at the beginning of the season that Lee Toric was the villain that the Sons would finally face with the cunning, smarts and outlaw spirit to go at them with as much venom and vigor as they would present as opposition. Turns out, Galen is everything Jimmy O wanted to be with Toric’s vengeful spirit and Lincoln Potter’s cunning coldness. Galen will gladly give the Sons want they want — he will deal with Clay directly after helping him escape prison, they will set up a new operation in Northern California, and the Sons of Anarchy will be cut out of the gun running forever. Galen knows the kind of man that Jax is, and he’ll give him exactly what he wants — at a steep cost.
“Teller’s just like his old man — weak, lost, loyalties in the wrong place,” Galen says with an evil grin creeping across his face. “Our history with the Sons of Anarchy has come to an end. He gets what he wants, out of guns, and ties severed.”
Now one major social construct that Sutter has dealt with time and again on Sons is the dynamic of racial inequality among some of the criminals that run the streets between Charming and Belfast. In prisons, the separation of color is almost universally recognized by the general public because movies and shows that have taken place in jails have all put that front and center for decades. It’s common knowledge at this point (or at least it should be). Where Sutter attacks racism is in our smug little faces where we don’t believe it should exist anymore but certainly does. Juice dealt with the harsh secrecy of keeping the fact that his father is black from his club. It led him to almost turning rat on his entire club and eventually a suicide attempt because he didn’t want that knowledge to become public. It was brought up again during Tuesday’s episode when Jax offered up a black answer to an Irish white problem.
As Chibs pointed out so clearly when he finally tried to talk some sense into Jax, the Irish kings would never hand over their gun running business to the black gangsters from Oakland. Racism is never an easy subject to tackle. It’s that ugly reality no one wants to face, but the fact is hatred and bigotry still exist in our society, and it’s still a major issue that can’t be swept under a rug just because it’s not posted on bathroom signs and restaurant doors any longer. Still, when Jax calls back the Irish kings and they promise to have an offer to them by 8pm he believes that maybe greed can trump racism. Chibs just wants to know if his good friend Jax trusts him or anyone in the club enough at this point to confide in them. Jax is more concerned about revenge and resolution, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from religion and other ideals held true over the centuries, it’s never safe to underestimate a person acting on belief.
Before Jax can get that call to see if the Irish are ready to deal, he first had to send his mother off to the prison to meet up with Clay, who receives a message from the IRA kings while he’s in jail referencing their new gun operation they want him to head up once they spring him from behind bars. Instead of taking the easy exit, Clay decides to reach out to the club with the information. Gemma is sent into the jail for a “conjugal” visit with her ex-husband, and he unravels the deal the Irish have offered him. He now wants to know what Jax wants done. On the surface, it appears Clay really is trying to find a path towards redemption after burning anybody that stood in his way over the past five seasons. Now after a clandestine presidency marred by bad judgment calls, Clay wants to make things right but he has to get to the son by the mother. He gives Gemma the information but before she can exit, the guards who allowed her into the cell decide they want to witness a conjugal visit.
So as two guards sit back and watch, they force Gemma and Clay to have sex in front of them with threats of rape and continued attacks on her ex-husband that will eventually lead to him never leaving the prison alive if they don’t comply.
Some might see this scene and call in gratuitous. Others might think ‘this could never happen in prison’. My reaction would be you’ve never been inside of a prison.
Now, to make it clear I’ve never been inside a prison either and hope with every ounce of my person that I never have to experience that life, but having a family full of prison guards and officers who have worked in the penal system, I can tell you things like what happened to Gemma and Clay don’t shock me one ounce. Prison is meant to be a place of rehabilitation, but it really serves as a house of punishment — sometimes it’s doled out by other prisoners, and many times it’s handed out quite brutally by the guards. It’s pretty clear that Kurt Sutter understands or has been told what can happen behind locked doors and prison walls, and he has a certain disdain for the entire system judging by his portrayal in the show. Now it must be stated not all prisons are the same, and definitely not all guards that work in prisons, but he’s certainly shining a light on a dark corner of our corrections system this season, and what we’re being force to see isn’t easy but it doesn’t make it any less true.
While the overwhelming theme of Sons of Anarchy this year has been secrecy and deception, the queen of manipulation is actually the one who comes clean. Gemma tells Nero what happened to her when she visited Clay, and he’s doing his best to work through it all. Actually, it’s just another nail in the coffin of the relationship between Nero and the club. He said very poignantly last week that it was time to distance himself from the club after he was brought in for questioning in the murder of one of his girls from Diosa. With the gun charges looming overhead after the school shooting, being forced to kill his own cousin, the continued violence that lands at his doorstep and now a potential murder charge, Nero is about to take one step out of the door away from SAMCRO. Hearing that the woman he loves was forced to have sex with her ex-husband after being asked to see him in prison by her own son, might just be more than he can handle.
Gemma’s other ‘confession’ this week came during her visit to see Wendy at work. Gemma is doing her best to confine Tara and her sons to Charming for good, and she’s hoping to use Wendy as a means to an end. Once again her ability to manipulate those weaker than her is something quite masterful to watch unfold. Gemma hands over some childhood pictures of Abel to Wendy in another attempt to reel her into her tangled web, and the sad part is it worked. We learned last week that Wendy’s entire stalker confession was just a way to draw closer to Gemma as she was actually helping Tara escape the club with her children still alive and in one piece. Now after Gemma’s visit, Wendy is feeling guilty about setting her up for the downfall and she’s demanding some one on one time with her son as proof that what Tara is doing is all worth it. Wendy was brought back on the show as an antagonist for Jax because when she was with him she was consumed by addiction and the pitfalls of the outlaw life. Leaving Jax allowed her to clean up her ways, get out of drugs and find a safe, stable environment. Since she’s returned she’s been kidnapped, shot up with heroin, and threatened numerous times. It’s also amazing to see a woman who came back from how many overdoses and literally being handed a drug filled needle by Gemma, somehow feel empathy for the same woman because of some pictures of her kid? It seems for now Wendy is still Team Tara but don’t count on that week to week at this point.
With Toric out of the picture, it looks like Eli Roosevelt will be the new hand of the king with District Attorney Patterson using him to find dirt on the club by connecting them to Nero’s street gang and the gun that was used to kill four students in the opening episode this season. Since he first appeared on the show, I’ve liked the character of Eli Roosevelt and Rockmond Dunbar is fantastic, and I’d like to believe he’s above manipulation for the betterment of his career. He saw through the bullshit that was being shoveled in his direction with the dead hooker last week, but now he’s scoping out Collette’s brothel looking for some dirt on Nero, Jax and anything that connects them back to the club. Maybe one of the best interactions yet this season was watching Eli go one on one against former cop turned street runner Charlie Barosky. Robocop doesn’t like seeing random cops parked in his neighborhood, so he shoos Eli away with threats of a call to the local jurisdiction of which he’s invading currently, and Eli is as cool as the other side of the pillow staring down SAMCRO’s latest dirty cop on the payroll. Hopefully we see these two face to face again before this season is over.
Back at the clubhouse, the entire family is on lockdown awaiting the call from the Irish kings about their final decision about dealing guns with the black faction Jax set up, and ending the bloody war started a week ago and continued into this episode. Deep down, Chibs knows this plan isn’t going to work and just like Jax thought Cara Cara’s porn empire could drag SAMCRO out of guns a few seasons ago, his idealistic nature is still giving him hope that the IRA would wear a black face in their American operation. At the bar, Jax is looking at his phone where he orders all of the members to the table so they can listen to the offer from the Irish about what happens next. It’s then that Jax notices a pen lying on the counter in front of Chucky, who is serving up drinks to all the members. It’s a green pen first seen earlier in the episode when Jax puts a knife into the left hand of one of the Irish thugs trying to find a location for Connor while attempting to get at Galen. The Irish thug writes out an address with a green pen where Conner can be found. The same green pen is now sitting in the SAMCRO clubhouse with some kegs of beer that have been delivered.
Jax realizes with two minutes to go until the 8pm deadline, it was never about a call, it was always about putting every member of SAMCRO around a table and with one flicker, the Sons of Anarchy die once and for all. Jax quickly gets everyone out of the clubhouse as he runs in to rescue his son Abel, who is asleep in the other room. Jax, Abel and Chibs get out just in time as the entire building goes up in one massive explosion. The only roof that SAMCRO has ever had over its head is now gone, blown into a million pieces and there was an audience there to witness it all unfold. Sheriff Eli Roosevelt happened to be in the parking lot serving an arrest warrant to Nero after the blood and tissue samples from his truck came back as a match for the dead hooker. So now every member of SAMCRO along with the law of Charming, Calif. watched the carnage ensue of what happens with a motorcycle club with about a 200-mile reach goes up against an organization recognized as a terrorist cell capable of killing all of them with one single phone call.
Now Jax has to go forward with the knowledge that two minutes more and his entire family would have been slaughtered — a casualty of a war that he ignited when he spat in the face of the Irish kings who put food on his club’s table for almost the last half century. It’s not to say Jax shouldn’t have gotten out of guns, but there hasn’t been a more perfect picture yet of what happens when the powerful walk alone — everyone’s voices soon become silenced — sometimes for good.
Notes of Anarchy (A new segment where we point out a few extras from the latest episode each week)
— The song that opened Sons of Anarchy ‘The Mad King’ was ‘Tessellate’ by Alt-J
— The song that closed Sons of Anarchy was ‘I Had Me a Girl’ by The Civil Wars
— The title of the episode ‘The Mad King’ was in reference to the book that Clay was handed while in his prison cell with the note from the Irish. The book was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan) about an American who is descended from European royalty and when he returns to his mother’s homeland he finds that he bears a striking resemblance to the king, who is actually family. He winds up falling in love with the king’s promised princess, and when the king is eventually killed, he stands in his place as the new ruler with the princess by his side.
— Actor Timothy Murphy who plays big bad Galen O’Shay actually hails from Ireland. He grew up there, earned a business degree that he never used before moving to the United States. He eventually moved back to Ireland where he started to work in theater before moving to Los Angeles in 1999.
— Chucky was the only one that seemed to shed a tear for Otto in the episode. For those that don’t remember, Otto was the one that earned Chucky protection from SAMCRO after he was being released from prison. Otto protected Chucky on the inside as well.
— Jax clasped hands with Collette just as she was leaving Diosa, and Gemma noticed which is why she asked Chibs about her as she exited. She realizes there’s more there than just a friendly working relationship
Come back next week when we return for our next recap of Sons of Anarchy for episode 605 titled ‘Salvage’ directed by Ethan Zobelle himself Adam Arkin.