“To Thine Own Self” S5 / E11
- B+ Community Grade
I didn’t recognize Donal Logue at first; in fact, I wouldn’t have known it was him until his second appearance if not for spotting his name in the opening credits. But that was him beating the crap out of Otto at the start, which makes for maybe my favorite guest-star turn this season. Admittedly it’s hard to beat Walton Goggins’ gender-bending appearance, but the sheer appropriateness of Logue’s appearance, combined with the fact that his character has yet to be named or even substantially defined, puts him ahead. Watching Otto suffer at the hands of some new sadist doesn’t hold much interest, regardless of how much he deserves it: He killed a nurse, which, in his twisted mind, serves the club, but I’d be just as happy if he never appeared again rather than getting reassured that someone is punishing him still further. But Logue’s character works for two reasons. As mentioned, he’s mysterious. He’s got a plan for Otto—a plan that Otto is not going to like—and the last we see of him, he’s following Tara and the boys out of the hospital. And the other reason is that the nurse Otto killed was played, as commenters have noted, by Logue’s sister Karina Logue. Given how little we know about Logue right now, it reads as if the actor has shown up on set just to punish the show’s creator for bumping off his twin. That is pretty damn clever.
It also underlines how much revenge has been a driving force this season. (Of course, it could turn out that Logue’s presence has nothing with the dead nurse, but I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption for now.) There’s Pope, who damaged the club severely in his efforts to get vengeance for his daughter’s death, and Jax, who makes sure to murder the men who killed his best friend. Every death leads to another death, which leads to another, and so on down the line. Jax is working to get himself and the club clean, and this episode goes a long way toward demonstrating just how far his plans reach, but there’s still that underlying brutality under everything that’s going to make redemption just outside his grasp. It’s not just Opie’s death that drives Jax. He still wants—needs— Clay dead, and while there’s no doubt Clay deserves it, Jax’s rage is clouding his judgment. He hasn’t made any mistakes yet—in fact, for the most part this episode could be subtitled “Jax, (Nearly) Triumphant”—but there’s a single-mindedness to his pursuit of his former stepfather that’s almost certainly going to bite him in the ass eventually. Clay is a cagey bastard, and if he’s going down, he’s going to take some bodies with him.
But that’s for next week, or the week after that, or some time in the distant future. This week starts winnowing the season’s focus, as Clay tries his play with the Galindo Cartel, and Jax brings his good news to the club. The brothel opens (Lyla has made her bullet wound sexy!), and the festivities are interrupted when Nero’s old crew comes by, causing problems and demanding to buy guns from the Sons. In the interest of peace, Jax agrees to sell off some old stock, but it turns into a trap, which gives us a pretty fun action sequence; I may be reading too much into the conclusion, which has Jax and the guys screaming for joy after their escape, but it seems like one of the rare clean victories anyone of the Sons has had of late. There’s also a definite adrenaline-junkie vibe to the whole thing, but it’s not like that’s surprising. While Jax grew up with the club as a part of his life, it’s doubtful that he, or anybody, would’ve stayed for it this long if he didn’t love the crazy violence and thrills as much as the cash and power. That is another bad sign for any chance of Jax ever making a clean break from SAMCRO. Addictions are hard to break, especially when the addiction is part of everything you know.
There are also certain legal complications to consider, like the fact that Tara may find herself arrested once her connection to Otto comes out. Jax doesn’t take this news well, yelling at his long-suffering lawyer (Robin Weigert is, as ever, great and under-used) to make all the bad news go away. That anger keeps coming out, and it’s what drives Bobby to go to Clay at the end of the hour. Bobby has been a voice of reason for a while now, and with Opie gone, he’s probably the only person left who can see what Jax is becoming. Where Opie used that as an excuse to retreat (before ultimately sacrificing himself), Bobby has apparently made a decision to try and save the club from its president, reaching out to Clay to save him from Jax’s plans.
Or maybe Bobby’s actions are just another aspect of those plans. It certainly seems like Jax has got a contingency for everything. One of his big goals this season has been getting the Sons out of the cartel deal. Tara’s work with Otto to convince him to drop the RICO cast was the most obvious angle, but here we see that Jax isn’t so stupid as to try and screw Galindo over in the process of leaving. He’s got another group standing by to keep the guns coming (making sure the Sons get a 10 percent cut of the profits), so Clay’s attempts to convince Romeo to turn on Jax fizzles out completely. Seeing Jax getting kidnapped in broad daylight is an intense scene, and while it’s only a matter of a conversation to get him free again, it does lead to Nero (who thinks his crew is behind the kidnapping) bearing down on some old friends and shooting a few of them in the process. When Nero was first introduced, the question was whether or not the character was really as friendly and open as he seemed. Turns out, he was, but his association with Gemma, Jax, and the club has brought him back to the life he’d been trying to leave behind. Time will tell what the fallout will be, but for right now, he seems shell-shocked and desperate for Gemma to help him. Only she can’t, because Jax still has her working on Clay.
It’ll all turn exciting and (even more) heartbreaking soon enough, and who knows, maybe they really will kill off Clay this year; but what’s most striking about recent episodes, and this one in particular, is how much taking control has turned Jax into his most hated enemy. Jax still hasn’t gotten so paranoid as to order his second in command to shoot people he thinks might have turned rat, but he’s still harsher and colder than he ever was before. You get the impression that that’s what leadership costs when it comes to SAMCRO: You don’t get to sit at the head of the table unless you’re willing to pay the price again and again. And even that might not save you. One of the oddest scenes in the episode has Clay trying to convince Jax to stick with Galindo just a little longer. It’s odd because you’d think it was in Clay’s best interests for Jax to try and drop the cartel; that way, they’ll take Jax out, and put Clay in the president’s spot. Maybe this is part of some scheme Clay’s working, but if I had to guess, I’d say Clay is legitimately trying to provide good counsel. He’s done a lot of stupid shit over the years—even over this season—but maybe he’s finally come to a point where he sees how much that shit has cost him, and he’s trying to give Jax some tips from the other side of the line. Of course Jax doesn’t listen, and he becomes even more obsessed with taking Clay down, which, given Bobby’s actions, probably isn’t going to work out. There was a brief moment of hope when Jax brought everything to the table and the club voted unanimously in his favor. But now it’s back to the muck.
- As always, Tara seems to have it worst. (Well, Otto isn’t sitting pretty, but he’s done more to deserve his suffering.) Thanks to her marriage and her involvement in the club, she’s had her hand mangled, put a promising medical career on hold, and now may end up serving jail time. It’s a good thing she loves being Jax’s wife, because otherwise, this would be a real drag.
- I realize Roosevelt’s wife wasn’t a major character, but it still seems like the show has shrugged off the death of a pregnant woman—one who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this foolishness—too easily. At the same time, I don’t know what else they could’ve done. Maybe make the Sheriff a bigger part of the story?
- It has no significant plot relevance, but my favorite scene in this episode is Tara meeting Unser in the hospital and the two of them chatting. Unser’s chemotherapy makes him so ill he vomits in a trashcan, and the two of them laughing together afterwards was another brief breath of fresh air.