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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