Disappointment is a most familiar feeling for fans of Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy. Over the years, Sutter’s tried to deflect negative criticism by means of comparing his show to a soap opera, belittling what was, for a brief moment early in its run, one of the best shows on television. Soap operas are what my mother watches. If they were what I wanted, I would join her in caring about the overbearing melodrama inherent in every last one.
What I do want is something deserving of being tied to the hip of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and there was a time when I was under the impression that this was precisely what we were in for with Sons of Anarchy.
Fast forward to today and it’s become evident that Sutter has nothing on the Bard. Shakespeare is positively famous for the “everyone dies” approach to writing. Sutter, meanwhile, lacks such conviction, choosing instead to spare characters long marked for death.
To witness one member of the main cast perish is a revelation on account of it being a tremendous rarity. Last season alone, Juice, Tara, and Clay all appeared destined to die at different points during the season, but each of them made it out unscathed. Relatively speaking.
Juice wore the mark of his suicide attempt for the remainder of the season, Tara was lucky to regain the use of her right hand, and Clay narrowly survived Opie’s vengeance for the one character Sutter could bring himself to kill off: Piney.
While clearly worse for the wear, their fates are a far cry from the deaths they were marked for and an example of the show’s inability to commit to the end-games it sets up. All it took was one episode, the finale, to undo everything the season had been leading up to, thanks mainly to the end all, be all of deus ex machinas.
Of course, I’m referring to the CIA being in bed with the Mexican drug cartel and using their weight to put an immediate stop Potter’s RICO investigation right as it was about to land Jax, among others, in prison. Potter, like the viewer, was left with an extreme case of blue balls.
Despite wimping out at the last moment, though, Sutter salvaged enough intrigue from the wreckage to convince me to ride once more with the Sons of Anarchy. Killing Clay off would have been the natural conclusion to last season’s events, which sent him reeling out of control, transforming him into an unsympathetic monster; however, by placing him in the role of the wounded animal, and forcing Jax and Opie to let him slither around just a little longer, Sutter has given himself a deep well of tension with which to pull from.
One which he dives into headfirst with the season opener with Clay’s admittance of guilt when it comes to the death of Piney. Of course, there was a hitch; he laid blame for it on Piney not liking the direction things were going with the Sons’ dealings. He obviously wasn’t going to tell the club the real reason because it would out him as the man responsible for John Teller’s death, but it was a surprising power play by him nonetheless. Earlier in the episode, he’d seemed content to avoid the subject altogether by skipping out on Piney’s funeral without so much as a reason.
It does, however, make a great deal of sense. Clay wasn’t about to let Jax hold Piney’s death over him. By giving himself the chance to tell his side of the story first, doctored to keep temper the club’s outrage, he effectively takes that card out of Jax’s deck. Having witnessed his apparently heartfelt confession, it’s unlikely the club would buy it if Jax told them the truth. His rivalry with Clay is long documented, so what it would play as is him trying to kick Clay when he’s down as opposed to revealing this wounded man for the inhuman beast he truly is.
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