Sons Of Anarchy Review: “Laying Pipe” (Season 5, Episode 3)

It seems that Kurt Sutter does listen to Sons of Anarchy‘s detractors after all, or so “Laying Pipe” would suggest. Following last season, critics called him out on his reluctance to kill off major players. With the exception of Piney who, like Clay now, was on his way there already, no one of significance was visited by the grim spectre of death. Furthermore, multiple characters like Clay and Juice, survived in spite of their deaths appearing as the only recourse for the season’s events.

This week, however, there were no last-minute saves in store for the Sons of Anarchy. No, Pope had a plan in mind and he wasn’t about to let Jax stray from it. For the death of his men at their hands, they would pay in turn by sacrificing one of their own, willingly or otherwise. Of the four, one wasn’t making it out alive.

With that setup, the conclusion was obvious. Jax had immunity, so to speak, being the hero of this story and the leader of these men. Tig’s punishment, remaining inside till the end of his days, was already set forth by Pope. Chibs dying wouldn’t carry with it the requisite impact as his character was one of the least fleshed out on the show. So, all along, there was only one option. The only thing left up in the air was how Sutter arrived at that particular inevitability.

It started with Jax, understandably, keeping the others in the dark. Part of me took this as a sign that he was going to drift closer to becoming more like Clay than his father, that he would simply make the decision himself and deal with whatever consequences it would bring. Thankfully, Jax stayed a force for good, relatively speaking, and told Opie first then the group later.

The others though were no quicker to make a choice. Tig offered himself up for the slaughter, but Jax’s hand was forced. For better or worse, Tig was safe, at least in that immediate moment. After that, before the four had time to work it out, their executioners showed up and Opie took it out of their hands, unintentionally offering up himself by taking his frustrations out on the man holding the gun.

When it happened, I wasn’t sure of my stance on it. On one hand, it left me maddened. Opie lashing out felt too easy and not sufficiently set up. Did he have a death wish after Jax revealed to him the real reason Clay killed his father and why he had to be kept alive?

Maybe this, postponing Clay’s deserved demise for the sake of the club, was a living arrangement he wanted no part of. Perhaps it was simply a brief fit of rage, as both he and Jax have been known to be prone to. Or was this a repeat of last week where he stupidly and seemingly without reason, played right into what Clay wanted?

Looking back at it, I honestly can’t tell you the answer, which is a problem. Rather than his death feeling arrived at naturally, it had a certain randomness to it. Could that be what Sutter is going for? Establishing that anyone can die at any time and for any reason, despite what the first four seasons would lead one to believe? Making his death hurt that much more because one might feel as if it could’ve been avoided? Even so, it seemed, to this reviewer at least, the slightest bit contrived.

Plus, as I talked about earlier in the week when it was revealed that this episode would bring with it a death of significance, Opie is the moral center of the show, meaning there now remain no characters who I can truly and fully sympathize with.

Jax and Tara both started trending towards the dark side, becoming in part Clay and Gemma. Similarly, every other character has been morally compromised in some way. This isn’t to suggest that Opie was perfect. Not a single character on this show is. What he was, though, was relatable. He never felt quite like he belonged in the club, largely since his conscience held him back. Opie was akin to a mole, going along for the ride as best he can and giving us intel on the club, but never fully assimilating into the group due to him being a generally decent human being. Now that he’s gone, I have no character left to latch onto.

That being said, on the other hand it was, as I already said, unavoidable. Given the circumstances, this was the only direction that it made sense for things to go. Moreover, while a small part of me hoped that Sutter would diverge from the Hamlet structure that his show has tried to adhere to and that Opie would turn out the true hero in the end, it wasn’t happening.

Like in Hamlet, the people surrounding the main character are bound to die, and in great numbers. It’s only a matter of when and where. None of this will keep me from direly missing Opie and, more importantly, Ryan Hurst, who’s proven to be probably the show’s most capable actor. Yet, it will help to ease the pain a little.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Prisssays:

    “unintentionally offering up himself by taking his frustrations out on the man holding the gun.” Are you serious? He knew exactly what he was doing! What a terrible review…

    1. Travis Jarrod Smithsays:

      That may very well be the case. What bothered me the most is that I didn’t feel like things properly built up to that moment, just like when he pulled essentially the same stunt to get into prison in the first place. After everything, how is he still that loyal to Jax and to the club that he would give himself over to be beaten to death? That’s what doesn’t make sense to me. Unless, like I said, he just had no will left to live after losing Donna and his father, his marriage not working out, and being stopped from killing the man who was responsible for the death of both of the aforementioned people.

    2. Guestsays:

      That may very well be the case. What bothered me the most, though, is that I didn’t feel like things properly built up to that moment, just like when he pulled essentially the same stunt to get into prison in the first place. After everything, how is he still that loyal to Jax and the club that he would give himself over to be beaten to death? That’s what doesn’t make sense to me. Unless, like I said, he just had no will left to live after losing Donna and his father, his marriage not working out, and being stopped from killing the man who was responsible for the death of both of the aforementioned people.

      1. Brian Madigansays:

        Actually, I think that if you look at Opie’s actions based on this one episode his action don’t make sense. But if you look back all the way to Donna’s death – he has shown this type of behavior before; he had a real deathwish in season two – and Clay manipulated that at the time. In fact, it took Opie confronting Staal at the end of Season 2 – “to return him to normal” – and Jax’s play to setup Staal at the end of Season 3 allowed the show to “reset” Opie’s character. Season 4 repeated the cycle again – but this time Jax “betrayed” him. The first two episodes showed us that Opie was lost and “needed” the club and yet couldn’t be part of it. Clay letting Opie know that Jax needed him – gave him a way back in – that would allow him to exercise that deathwish. It really did seem in character in that light

  2. MIKEsays:

    by taking opie out of the show sutter can kiss my ass and stick his show up his ass to WHAT A F……G CLOWN

  3. declansays:

    im with you mike im sickened that opie died. what character is sutter gonna shit all over now. im finished with sons of anarchy. too brutal of a death

    1. You guys are pussy’s… The Opie death was a plan for the show and that is it.. It is a show. you can’t piss on a show because your favorite actor was eliminated.

  4. ButterySteelosays:

    Ryan Hurst the most capable actor on the show? Is this serious??

    1. Travis Jarrod Smithsays:

      Sutter didn’t give him much to work with, but I think he took what he was given and hit it out of the park. His character was so beloved for a reason, and a large part of that reason was Hurst’s performance. When I said that he’s “probably the most capable actor on the show,” I didn’t mean that as a slight towards others, such as Perlman or Hunnam who are both equally perfect in their roles, but as an honest attempt at giving Hurst the recognition I feel he deserves but hasn’t quite gotten because he didn’t get the same chances as others like those two. Maybe I went a little too far in praising him, but I threw that “probably” in there in an attempt to clarify that it is by no means a fact, just an opinion, and one you have every right to disagree with.

  5. Baaaasays:

    Some points in this review seem to be written from someone who has only watched this season. Opie knew what he was doing hence why he showed a little smile after he hit the cop. He had lost so much in his life, it had beaten him down and then finding out his best friend had saved the guy who killed his dad so he could keep the club afloat was the nail in the coffin, the only way out for him was to die, he knew otherwise he would keep being pulled back in time after time and would never be able to leave the club that has caused him so much pain. In terms of why is he being so loyal and get locked up in the first place, he loved Jax and wanted to be there with him, no one just goes ahhhh forget they will do what they want when he has essentially been raised by the club. Now in terms of Gemma attacking the hooker and saying it was because she was angry, feeling that that isn’t a good enough answer, of course it is. She was married to clay for years and loved him, she wouldn’t just stop just like that, it’s jealousy, she still loves clay just because she didn’t want him to touch her or be near her, it’s a completely different feeling and you can definitely have one with the other.

    Hopefully some of your points have been cleared up with this, or at least made you think a little more about Sutter’s writing.

    1. Travis Jarrod Smithsays:

      Simply put, those bonds just didn’t seem as strong to me as they obviously did to Sutter. Especially when it comes to Gemma. I just don’t see her reacting like she did when this is the man she’s been begging her son to kill. Once you see someone as a monster who doesn’t deserve to live, who needs to be punished for his many sins, it’s nearly impossible to see anything else. When it comes to Opie, Jax is, as you put it, the one who “saved the guy who killed his dad.” He knew that prior to this episode and had been steering completely clear of the club up until now as a result. Plus, it was Clay, “the guy who killed his dad” of all people, who convinced him to get himself locked up with them. Given both the messenger and the message, it just doesn’t quite work for me. Likewise, as Opie said, Jax made the wrong decision. If he’d gotten out alive with the others, he could’ve made the right decision for Jax by finishing the job and killing Clay. Then everything would collapse in on the club with the RICO case and he could’ve gotten out from under them that way. Barring deus ex machina rearing its ugly head once more, as in last season’s finale, that would likely accelerate the show’s time table and bring it to an early end, but I think it too would’ve worked. I’m just spit-balling, though. Mostly, I was just bothered that Opie went from refusing to be there for Jax to first risking, and then giving up his life for him so quickly. The dynamic between the two of them brought about by Jax being forced to keep Clay alive long enough for the deal to go through was one of the things that excited me most about this season, but we ended up getting very little of that. Opie just walked away from the club, and his bike, then stormed right back in soon thereafter. Further, I feel like there was so much unresolved between the two of them. That will make things interesting, because it’ll probably eat Jax up a good bit knowing how they ended things, but it still bothers me. Opie wasn’t just his friend, as Jax puts it. He was like a brother to him. So for Opie to treat him like one by laying down his life to save him shortly after getting into it with him and calling that bond into question feels slightly off to me.

      Hopefully my points, and why I made them, have been cleared up with this.

      1. RonPearlmanisAwesomesays:

        Gemma’s reaction was actually very true to life. Women in violent relationships leave and come back to them all the time. It takes an average of six times leaving a domestic violence relationship to leave for good. She has shown multiple violent tendencies over the course of the show, and her reaction was completely within character. Just because you want someone dead, think they are a monster, hate them, whatever…doesn’t mean that you stop loving them. She reacted in a very Gemma manner to Clay’s passive aggressive play to hurt her.
        Opie’s death was absolutely a sacrifice for Jax to not have to make one more decision that would make him more like Clay. I think he was showing Jax that there is another way, a way to have men love you and die for you, rather than fear you and be killed by you. Just my two cents.

  6. Opinion 101says:

    Opie knew what he was doing he had nothing left to lose. In my opinion he gained from proving that he was still loyal to the club and to jaxs ! Ok the way he died was harsh but thats why i watch sons its real no matter what and unpredictable I just hope jaxs gets mad but smart and fucks all of them up and let there deaths be 10x as bad as Opie was! (Ryan Hurst) you played the part very well and thanks Kurt Sutter for another great episode.

  7. Opinion101says:

    Opie knew what he was doing he had nothing else to lose I think in my opinion he gained by give his life it showed that he was still loyal to the club and to jaxs! Ok yes it was very harsh the way he died but thats why i watch sons because its real and unpredictable. I just hope that jaxs will get mad and smart and find a way to fuck them all that is hurting the clup and get some revenge and i would like to see them all die 10x times worst then opie. (ryan hurst) you played your part very well and thanks to Kurt Sutter for another great episode.

  8. You may be right about it being a randomness/wildcard thing. You did see that from time to time on The Shield. But I did not at all think it was random. Here’s what I saw:

    1) Clay goes to Opie to send him back to Jax. We don’t know what that play was, but my suspicion is that Clay wanted all who know the truth and oppose him out of the picture for a time. What he got from the stolen safe may be what is led up to.

    2) Opie doesn’t go to Jax or the table – he goes to Lila. He gives her $10k and says something very, very important – “I don’t know if I love anything anymore.” Without her, his father, Darla or the club, what is his life worth? (I’d argue it’s for his kids, but they’ve been conveniently kept off screen long enough for us not to really consider them.)

    3) Jax tells Opie the whole truth. He lets Opie deal with it – giving him the most time to consider what to do outside of himself. Opie knew he was sacrificing himself – it’s what he wanted.

    4) If you look back at Chibbs, he’s been an unflinching supporter of Jax all season, even when you can read plainly on his face he’s not sure it’s the best idea – he follows orders. Jax sets up Tig to have his back too, with an anytime card to play with Pope to kill Tig off if he crosses him. Now Opie’s full pain is Jax’s pain and that delayed vote about Clay may be a much different event.

    1. Know this comment is a week old at this point, but I felt compelled to comment all the same. I don’t think it’s that the kids have been conveniently kept off screen. I think Opie had a hard time connecting with his kids after he got out of prison and I think he is concerned about his kids winding up mixed up in something he no longer wanted a part in – the club. There is little doubt that Jax’s kids will wind up involved in the club should it continue. I think you got it entirely right on point 3. There was nothing “unintentional” about Opie’s sacrifice. He knew he was going to die. I think the reason he did it is still to be seen though. My guess? Opie wanted Jax to really understand what kind of situation he was in. I think he wanted Jax to understand that the decisions he’s made are going to bring more blood. Jax can’t keep everyone safe and I think Opie gave his life to force Jax to open his eyes and see that truth. The rest of this season is going to be painful. I’d be surprised if we don’t say goodbye to more characters we love. Kurt Sutter doesn’t do anything to appease critics. He has a plan for this show and I think that plan is going to leave very few of the characters we know and love standing in the end. Perhaps Opie’s death was the first, but it won’t be the last. It may have, however, been the most painful. One last bone of contention with the original article. While I adore Ryan Hurst and his acting prowess is certainly not in doubt, calling him the show’s most capable actor is kind of insulting to the rest of the cast, most notably Katey Sagal. That woman is a powerhouse – flawless in everything she’s in. While I don’t always love what Gemma does, Katey always sells it brilliantly. The same goes for Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman and, heck, the whole cast. This is a phenomenally talented cast with no real stand out in terms of acting. I will miss Ryan and I will miss his character but as much as I hate to admit it, I think killing off the character was the smartest move Sutter could’ve made.

      1. Just noticed your response – I think we mostly agree. My point about the kids isn’t that Opie had a good relationship we never saw – he didn’t. He tells Lila he doesn’t think he loves anything any more. From a storytelling perspective, keeping the kids off-screen is a deliberate move. It makes us more sympathetic to Opie because we don’t directly see him abandon his children. What he does is a “great sacrifice” rather than an “easy out” of his miserable life. The kids don’t show up in the next episode either – we just have Lila to represent Opie’s family.

        To me this represents a kind of compromise. Hard as it is to lose Opie, if they in any way suggest that what he did makes him a terrible person for leaving his kids we suddenly have a huge audience backlash. It would feel wrong for the character. I think that’s the reason Opie’s kids are absent – so Opie can die a hero and haunt Jax. Your guess about “the reason he did it” is what I believe as well, only the “he” is Sutter, not Opie. Sutter wants to raise the stakes for Jax and torment him for his choice to save the club.

        Now how about that Walton Goggins appearance? 🙂

  9. maracosays:

    Out of all the characters, I don’t know why it had to be
    Opie. I’m honestly not used to feeling so disturbed about a character’s death. I
    was tossing and turning all night, unable to shake the disappointment; that definitely
    made for a coffee-fueled time in my office at DISH the following morning. I
    know that his death is leading up to some sort of significant plotline, but
    right now it feels really unnecessary to eliminate such a sincere character. I’m dying to see what other tricks Sutter has
    up his sleeve to justify this death. I am going to be glued to my TV every
    Tuesday now. I know I’m going to hear tons of complaints from the wife (she
    hates all the violence), but I don’t care! Besides, since we have the Hopper
    DVR, with three independent tuners, she is free to watch whatever else she
    wants without affecting my SOA. But I don’t even know what character to root
    for anymore now that Opie is gone.

  10. Ga. Empresssays:

    I think all that was planned out by anyone up until now is out the window even from Tara and Gemma….Jax is about to switch it up and put his own plan in place andif anyone astrays for their own reason then step aside….Opie gave him self up to give Jax the reason t do what he could not do and thats step up and take charge and at some point kill Clay. He didnt trut himsel not to let Clay live long enough to complete the deal with the CIA. This way Opie know that JAx could not live with his blood on his hands. He and Jax are truly loyal to each other. Even inlove with Tara Jax cheated but he’s never cheated on Opie. All involved will pay and if Tara dont slow down she might find her husband in bed with his ex.
    Wendy is shown weak yes but she is also displaying change and is thinking before she acts, what if Tara spends out too far into Gemma and Jaxs needs a shoulder. You see Jax has needed a shoulder once or twice before and Tara was wrapped up in beating Gemma thats why he slept with the porn star and then almost slept with his sister. Jax is a true mommas boy and needs that female as a comfort. Which leads me to say no one beats Gemma but Gemma. She will destroy herself. As they say you may lie to the world but never to home. She’s digging her own grave, I just hopeshe don’t put Tara’s next to her. If Tara knows about Gemma hand in Jax’s dad dealth and with holding for leverage OMG Jax wont see it as loyalty only her being Gemma.
    I just can’t take in the only character with a little of honest good to be gone.

  11. Ga. Empresssays:

    Now Jax has every reason to kill Clay and man up which he could not do in the past…It needs to be shown Opie dealth stood for something and in the end his sacrificing himself makes him the hero even in dealth.

  12. sandmansays:

    I think it was one of the best moments of the whole seasons.

    I think Opie sacrifice in order to save Jax´s life, he´s a hero and he totally proved it.

    I´ll miss him but I think Sutter has written the best lines Opie could ever had, he was the very best to die in front of Jax´s eyes, being his best friend Sutter tells us he will never ever be able to forget or forgive his death to Pope and the longer he should wait to have his revenge the harder it will be. It´s the best thing Sutter could write to elevate the serie to the new states of violence and to justifcie Jax´s trip to become the godfather.

    I don´t think Jax could ever be like Clay, he is not selfish, greedy or impulsive as he has proved after his friend´s death convincing the group not to go to war for retaliation against an unknown enemy stronger than them.

    I was wondering how likely is this situation to one comic book of the walking dead ( the 100th number ) written at the exact same time they were shooting the episode.

    SPOILER ; in the comic Rick ( leader of the good ones as Jax ) has to see with a bunch of friends how a more powerfull enemy kills his best friend in front of him. unable to stop the baseball bate breaking his head one hit after another. And as Jax he convinces his group to aparently submit to this powerfull unknown enemy´s demands and not go to a retaliation war…. isn´t this an extraordinary coincidence?

    Have Robert Kirkman and Kurt Sutter the same muse?

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