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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