Unwarranted hatchet job on the most recent SOA episode

[“Editor’s” note, I wrote this a week ago but forgot to hit publish]

People like to complain about people complaining.  This is especially true when it comes to people bitching about Sons of Anarchy on message boards and comment sections.  I frequent uproxx.com which has covered the Sons for almost the entire run of the show.  I say almost cause I don’t know which came first, the website or the TV series, and once again i’m too lazy and I’d have to click all the way over there to do a google search and find out.

I think I know why people like me love to bitch and moan about Sons of Anarchy, and that is because almost all of us in that category really liked the show at one point.  Many were probably transplants from The Shield, and saw it as a natural extension of our regular viewing habits. For the first couple of seasons I really think that was the case.  The story kind of mirrored the show itself.  To the outside world you had a bunch of bad ass bikers no different than what they appear to be, but there at the center was an outlier who was frankly better than his compatriots in terms of not only intelligence but also heart.

As the series went on (dragged on at some points) it stopped being Shakespeare on motorcycles, and turned into a soap opera for guys who like action movies.  I’m’ not against the latter, but I much prefer the former and it is that which I was emotionally invested. Now that it is almost just a constant string of “That was awesome Bro” moments, it brings me almost as much joy to complain and pick apart an episode as it does to watch it.  In fact, it might be difficult for me to think of an episode or a scene this or last season that I truly enjoy just for what it is.

I think Tuesday night’s episode might have been one of the more maddening episodes for me since it seemed to touch on so many story lines and character motivations that cause me to have an almost apoplectic response. With the hotel pretty quite tonight, I wanted to take an hour of my time to howl at the moon while re-watching the episode. Not only will there be spoilers below, but there will also be a lot of overly unfair criticisms wrapped in snark and unearned condescension.

So let’s begin:

Episode starts out with a recap which should probably do more for me than it does. That’s my fault though.  I’m not sure if I am in the minority but the business arrangements between the different factions is kind of beyond me.  It’s not that it’s too complicated to follow, I think I just stopped caring a while ago and maybe realized that keeping track of who is betraying who and which crews have beef with other crews doesn’t necessarily increase my enjoyment of an episode.  It could also have something to do with me as a viewer getting desensitized to the constant shifting of alliances.

The one big thing from last week was the episode ends with Jax and the Sons walking Juice to what might be his execution. This episode starts with Jax giving juice his cut back and then Juice riding off on his bike. Juice then stops to fire some warning shots at some cops, which turns into a police chase and then a stand off where I thought maybe Juice was going to go the “death by cop” route. Instead he surrenders and it looks like juice’s penance is going to jail to kill Henry Lynn.

Jemma is worried because she found out the sons have Jax and thinks he is going to tell them that she killed Tara.  She confides in Wendy but makes it seem she is worried about Jax spilling the beans on them helping him escape.

Uncer and Jax have a moment where Uncer says that the cop that was shot up while watching the Sons is ok and not going to talk, and then there is some other back and forth where Uncer realizes that the sons already know about juice getting caught, like they were behind it.

The sons have a very soft spoken round table meeting to layout the plot of the episode and catch up the viewers.  Chucky then has a heart to heart with Gemma that was really nice, and showed some self awareness by one of the ancillary characters.  This all so far has been pretty good stuff and reminds me of the stuff I like about SOA.

This next part; bleh.  Gemma and Jimmy Smitts talk and Smitts wants him to run away with her kind of.  I really hate the Gemma stuff at this point unless it involves her maybe getting killed. She has become such an unlikeable character, not just from being a terrible person, but you just don’t even want to see what she is up to since it amazes me that no one has caught on to her shit yet.  Unser is maybe a little bit on to her, but not enough after all these years.  And I have no idea what Nero (who’s name I just remembered) sees in her.

Next we see Jax and company harassing the church widow and her sons in the guise of being their only hope. This is one of my problems with the show.  We have, as far as I can remember, perfectly innocent people who are probably going to have their lives ruined because they are a pawn in Jax’s game.  This wouldn’t be bad if we were sold on the idea that Jax is a bad person (which he clearly is) but everyone around him is blind to how shitty he is and how shitty he makes them when they help him out.

Next we have Jax and Chibbs meet up with Nero for this weeks quest which resolves around a pimp named “Greensleaves”.  I’m saying right now I liked the whole greensleaves thing, except for the end of the episode which I will probably bitch about A LOT!!!.  Ok just a few minutes after I say that I change my mind. Here’s the thing. I understand why they have these side missions in almost every episode… but…. do they really need them? Honestly. They have enough shit going on that they don’t need to write in all this side bullshit.  I’d rather they move the overall plot forward some other way, which I would think would have to be possible.

I think my problem with the side missions is that… well they really feel like side missions when you look back at a season as a whole.  In most other shows in the same vein the side missions if it something like Justified or the Shield were mostly there for the other characters to work on (usually a case) and didn’t seem to detract from what the strike team was doing with their overall arc unless it was used to put an obstacle in place to slow them down.  … I’m doing a shitty job of explaining my beef with this, but I guess it comes down to my perception that with these side missions the Sons can do just about anything, anywhere, in front of anyone, at anytime, and there is barely any carry over.

I’m going to be hyperbolic to make my point; I could see a side mission where Alvarez wants to help the sons do …. whatever, but before he can do that he needs to free up some of his crew that has been trying to case a casino to get money or something.  So on the side mission the sons go and rob the casino, shoot 30 mob people – just in case the writers actually feel like having the sons only kill people who are probably bad – then they steal a tank and drive through two government buildings in order to get away. When they get back to Alvarez and are like, well your men are free now to help on whatever we are doing… that’s it.  No one in the rest of the SOA universe is impacted by the fact that a casino was robbed, 30 gangsters were gunned down, and two government buildings were destroyed by a stolen tank.

Hell, even some of the main story lines have this same problem where the impacts are only felt for an episode or two.  Last year or the year before there was a tragic school shooting that was partially the clubs fault since it was the guns they were trafficking that were used.  The sons were kind of depressed about it for a week or two, but nothing actually changed. None of the Sons stepped back and said, Holy Fuck, this is our fault, we can’t make this right, I’m done.  This year an entire whore house was shot up, and now in this scene Jax has convinced one of Greensleaves girls to work at his and Nero’s brothel.

The woman is a prostitute. how does she not know about the 20 dead hookers that worked at the club Jax is trying to recruit her to work at? It’s insane. I also hate how easily strangers just believe in whatever plan Jax is selling. This is especially true with someone like August Marks who turned on his mentor Pope even though, from what it seemed, there was no friction and he had a really really good thing going.

So, …. i’m about to loose it here. So when I said I liked the greensleaves thing, all I guess I really meant was that I like the name for a jewish pimp. It didn’t seem stupid or hackey or random. It worked. Everything else about this sucked though. So Jax gets the side mission thing he needed from the greensleaves after shooting him. Greensleaves is hurt but still alive and starts talking shit. So Jax decides to fake the dudes death by trying to throw him out a window.  I understand it was maybe kind of tongue in cheek, or at least was suppose to be played that way but the delivery was soooooooo fucking off.

Let’s walk through what happens in the scene step by step.

1. greensleaves is shot in the shoulder/chest area where it appears to not be a critical hit.

2. Jax gets the dudes cell phone that he needed.

3. Greensleaves is talking shit so Jax grabs him asks him about if suicide is against his religion and the shoves him towards the window. The implication being that he is forcibly staging greensleaves suicide.

4. Greensleaves doesn’t go all the way through the closed window and ends up being mortally impaled on the glass and wood.

5. Chibbs says something about how shitty a job of a suicide it looks like, and JAx is like, well it still works and maybe the cops or whoever will just think he did a shitty job of jumping.

So here are my issues. Jax and Chibbs have to be smart enough to know that no one would believe the suicide angle even if he cleared the window for many reasons, number one being the fresh bullet wound. This means that they either got real stupid, or they are just joking around to each other and instead honestly don’t care about any police investigation into the pimps murder.  This is insane because it’s broad day light, there is a witness in the room, they drive around on loud motorcycles and are known violent felons who were earlier spotted fighting with the pimp and his hoes who could probably easily identify Jax and Chibbs, and they seem in no hurry to leave the scene of the crime even though it looks to be in an apartment building where other people could/should have heard the yelling and fighting and probably called the cops.  Even if the other tenants in that building decided to ignore the screams, then wouldn’t someone who is walking by the building possibly notice a bleeding body hanging out the window and call the police and possibly take note of two completely out of place bikers exiting the building?

That’s why I refer to this type of shit as a side mission. I’m surprised they haven’t been going on side missions and collecting “cuts” and after they get 50 of them they get a free weapons upgrade.

ughhhh, any ways, next up nero and jax have a heart to heart and nero tells jax he wants him to buy him out. Good scene cause Nero kind of calls out jax on his “I promise” bull shit that he is never able to follow up on.

We see bobby Tig and that dude who is huge break into a pope construction site, casually, in broad day light, with no attempt to disguise themselves as they proceed to dig a hole and put a dead body there and take a picture to let pope know they have leverage.  Once again, i’m so numb to caring about the trickery, deception, plans and everything else the clubs are doing to each other that I have no idea if this is even a good plan assuming it goes off without a hitch.

Can I point something out right now? This might be one of the only shows I can think of where every scene features the “good guys”.  I can’t remember the last time we saw a scene where one of the Sons, or Friends of Sons like Unser, etc… weren’t in it.  Is that how the previous seasons went down? Like we never had a scene with just the skinheads planning something by them selves? It just strikes me as weird all of a sudden.

So now we go to TM where Gemma thinks she is being taken to the cabin by Ratboy and Happy to be put down. They set this up in a previous scene by having jax tell happy and Rat not to give his mom any details about why she is being taken to the cabin. Here’s the thing, if this whole thing actually had a payoff, then it wouldn’t be that bad.  Since you will see later on that she doesn’t end up shooting anyone or running away or doing anything interesting or dramatic with what she thinks is he life in the balance, well… it makes it all very stupid.  They built this up like it was going to be one of those miscommunication things that leads to a bunch of drama, kind of like what caused Gemma to kill Tera at the end of last season.  Nothing happens. Nothing.  Maybe they are trying to throw off the fans who are waiting for her to die. Trick them into thinking she is safe and then killing her out of no where for the shock value. who knows.  On a second viewing this whole thing is just so random and odd.

Next scene we have Jax talking to that black dude who i guess kind of works for Pope or in another non rival gang and as mentioned before is one of those dudes who just randomly trusts Jax because he gave him an offer he could probably refuse fairly easily.

Next scene features Able and is fucking terrible.  Look i’m sure he’s a nice kid, but he is a terrible actor. Yes he looks just like what I think a young jax would look like but jesus he really distracts from the scenes he is in. The only thing worse than his acting is the whole Gemma confessing to the younger kid that she is the one that killed Terra.  OF course Able is standing in the hallways listening so I guess he will tell someone and hopefully that means they kill Gemma.

Next up, Nero sits down with Alvarez in the whore house that just got shot up a few weeks back and is still being repaired… because..??? Seriously, there were so many dead hookers in there. Let’s pretend for a moment anyone would ever work there again, who would ever go there to get some knowing that a ton of hookers and johns were all killed there.  That place would be shut down FOREVER TIMES INFINITY.  Guess what Nero and Alvarez are talking about. That’s right, Alvarez agrees to pay Nero 300k for his share of the escort business.

Are the Sons and Mayans and everyone else flush with cash?  It wasn’t long ago that everyone was struggling for money, or at least the Sons were. Now they never seem to discuss money.

Unser comes in the flatbed to pick up Jax’s messed up motorcycle and they make arrangements for Bobby to drive the one car and do something blah blah blah. It seemed kind of obvious this was setting up something bad for Bobby.  Normally you don’t spend that much time and emphasis on travel arrangements. A minute or two later Bobby is driving alone, singing Elvis, and despite the fact that he is caught up in the middle of a gang war, fails to notice some menacing black vehicles (black in color) driving up fast behind him on a deserted stretch of highway.

We come back to the Sons and the Myans in the park waiting for August Marks and that is when the funniest shit of the episode takes place. So…. god where to begin. The musical montages sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end of an episode use to be kind of cool especially when they took a classic song and had a cover of it that was kind of melancholy. Like many things, it is getting a little repetitive.  The montage in this episode feature Katy Segal singing a song that when I was listening to the lyrics when it first began, sounded kind of apropos to the episode. Then I realized what song she was singing and I actually laughed out loud, shook my head and said “Greensleaves? Really?”. So yeah, a Christmas song is being sung as we find out August Marks kidnapped Bobby and cut his one eye out.

The end.

Seriously, why has no one ever called for a vote to replace Jax.  I guess it is because he always seems to have the right answer and the right plan for the club in the moment.  If you look at each situation on a micro level then yeah he usually has the right plan based on the information they are given. Still, someone has to take a look at the club on a macro level and think that maybe the outlaw biker thing isn’t going so well.

Lets review what has happened over the 7 years, which maybe be only like 3 or 4 years in the show’s timeline.

The Sons’s whore house was shot up and a bunch of their escorts were all killed. Opie was murdered in jail. His first wife was killed by accident because they thought he was a rat. Btw, where are those kids now? I never see them or Opie’s grandma. Clay was killed by the club for like a thousand reasons, one of which was that he killed Piney (opie’s dad).

Jax’s wife was killed, as was the sherrif of charming. That would be the 2nd sheriff of charming to be killed because he was caught in the cross fire of what the club has going on. Speaking of cops getting killed, that lady cop is recovering in the hospital after getting shot watching the Sons sell drugs. Her partner didn’t make it however.

At least three of the Sons Buildings have been blown up or destroyed at some point, ice cream shop, teller motor, and the first warehouse.  Was the porn studio fucked up at some point?

What else? Oh just about every other day the Sons shoot their guns in broad day light somewhere near the city. They blew up Lem at one point. The fat prospect was also killed. Juice was forced to turn on the club and tried to kill himself because, yeah that’s right, he also killed another club member. There was also another club member killed this season as he watched over the guns protected by Robocop. I don’t remember that Son’s member’s name. You know what I do remember?  Tig’s daughter being burned alive because he accidentally killed some other gang leader’s daughter… it might have been pope now that I think of it.

Oh and Unser is still somehow still alive, he and Carol on the walking dead are inspirations to anyone living with cancer.

There is probably so much more that I am forgetting, but it still begs the question, why aren’t people in charming constantly picketing the club.

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