Thus far this season, my main complaint has been that Sons of Anarchy felt as if it was at a standstill, with a number of its storylines turning cyclically and never reaching (or so much as nearing) a resolution. More than a couple times I found myself wondering out loud where this or that would go and if it would happen anytime soon. It’s apparent Sutter likes the slow burn, letting his characters stay as long over the heat as the meat my dad grills. But, by the time he’s taken them out of the fire they’re virtually unrecognizable; blackened char more akin to hockey pucks that my dad has the gall to call hamburgers.
The reason behind this is pretty apparent if one stops to think about it. Sutter compared Sons of Anarchy to a soap opera, and never-ending tension is one of the things it deals in. No sooner is one thread resolved than another couple are spooled out. That seems to be his approach here, weaving enough story threads together to make a tapestry and playing each of those strings, as if they were a violin. Eventually they snap and must be replaced with new ones.
To some, that makes for compelling television, ensuring there’s never a dull moment. To others, myself included, it results in a perceived lack of payoff. For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, except Sutter takes his time letting things balance out and as a result subjects his viewers to a waiting game that often lasts longer than it should.
Take things between Jax and Clay, for instance. Things seemed to be coming to a head last season, ready to go out on a high note, but Sutter instead decided to keep on playing that particular chord despite the fact that the fat lady had already sung and it was just him up there. Encore, the viewer could almost hear him say, a request I (as well as many other viewers) never would have made myself.
Because of that infuriating tendency of his, it’s a revelation to see him shift out of neutral and get those moving parts of his actually moving, as he does in this episode. Sutter was quoted in an earlier article as saying Opie’s death would have a great effect on the remaining episodes of this season and “Stolen Huffy” put those claims into practice.
Before I delve into the specifics of how that was done I must first comment on Opie’s sendoff. Now, I’ve called Sutter out in the past for his on-the-nose storytelling, the match-cut between Jax and Tara and John and Gemma being a perfect example, so one might expect more of the same from me this week.
By setting Opie’s coffin where he did, atop the table that Opie had refused to sit at at Jax’s side just a couple episodes prior, it’s clear the message Sutter is trying to send. Opie was a martyr for the club and it was the club that brought him down. Prior to his death, the club was a group divided, but his body literally fills in the gaps between them, touching every last club member. Nothing made this more apparent than the turnout for his wake, enough to fill the entire clubhouse.
Honestly, anything else would have felt wrong. Opie was beloved not just by the fans but his fellow characters as well. He was, as I’ve said before, the moral center of the show, the last remaining character to go through life uncorrupted, relatively speaking. Whereas the deaths of other characters felt almost justifiable, his was an unforgivable mistake, a wrong that must be righted. Jax realizes this, and so too does everyone else surrounding him.
It’s why the club tries to call for the heads of his murderers. With them having to kowtow to Pope, the orchestrator of it all, they feel as if there’s little recourse left. Retribution must be taken, and if not on Pope, Opie’s real murderer, then the ones that actually swung the pipes.
Knowing his club needs to be reigned in for their own good though, now more than ever, Jax is quick to shoot that particular proposition down. But that won’t stop him from enacting vengeance in his own way, which is to bring down the guard who threw Opie into that room to die. No headway was made on that this week, but it had to be in the back of Jax’s mind as he sat at that table attempting to regain order.
An attempt with a reach extending past that table and the clubhouse, as his discussion with Nero proves. Like I, and many others, thought, Jax sees Nero’s business as a safe(r) alternative to drugs and guns. Forget the fact that his place of business just got busted, and his employees thrown in jail, and not because of Gemma as was originally thought. At least all of them made it out alive and not at all the worse for wear.
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Emma Jean, thought to be the culprit behind them being turned in, might not be quite as lucky though. Nero’s men want a “thumb and a tit,” and while the Sons have the necessary ties to get both without harming her, knowing the man who runs the crematorium, it’s doubtful her impact on the show ends there. If I had to predict, I’d say they find out about Nero sending her off alive and get revenge by going after one of his new girls, on loan from Jax. Even if Emma doesn’t come back into play, those men are bound to.
Well, if someone’s going to bring them back into the fold, it’s Carla, the real reason for things going south with the whole Emma Jean situation. She was the first to lay blame on her as well as the one who sent Nero’s men after her. Up until this point, she’d been relegated to giving Nero disapproving looks about Gemma, so her finally acting on her disapproval was a welcome change. Plus, it gave Tara an outlet for all that anger that’d been building up inside of her as of late. Rather than letting Tara take it out on herself or Wendy, who is sadly the only person she could rely upon to bail her out from jail earlier, Gemma unleashed Tara on Cara by relaying to her that she’d almost gotten Jax killed.
Hopefully this will serve as an act of catharsis on Tara’s part and help her further bury the hatchet with both Gemma and Wendy. She’d already given in to Wendy, trying to sway Jax into telling Abel about his real mother. It felt a tad anti-climactic and sudden for her to give up the fight now, but it was still a welcome sight because it appeared, at least at first, to signal an end to their seemingly endless bickering.
Then Jax denied her efforts and it looked like she’d been brought right back to square one in yet another odd turn of events. However, with her conceding ground to Wendy, and finding someone to take her frustrations out on, I hope things between the two of them are, at the very least, winding down. If Sutter simply returns to the status quo in next week’s episode, then that’s it for me. My tenuous interest in that particular storyline is over with.
Despite the work being done to lead certain long-running storylines to some sort of end, Sutter still saw fit to introduce another thread. If it wasn’t Emma Jean brought the cops swarming down on Nero’s place of business, who was it then? Could Cara have been behind it, as well? Maybe this was a play by her to convince Nero that Gemma was someone he didn’t need in his life. All I know is that Sutter better not just string viewers along with this particular mystery like he’s done with the home invasions, the passing mention of which felt like a weak attempt to keep them fresh in viewers’ minds.
We’ll see in next week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy whether or not things stay on track or if this episode was just yet another in a long string of teases.Previous