Ever since Tara decided last season to stay in Charming and make a go of things with Jax, she's been a little off. One of the defining characteristics of their relationship used to be its violatile unsustainability. Jax was a good guy but a bad boy, and his life was not the kind of life that Tara seemed to want. But she kept getting drawn into it anyway, sometimes against her will and sometimes because he was the only solution to a problem she couldn't stop having. Now that she's apparently become resigned to her fate, the dynamic has changed. She seems to exist primarily as back-up, to fix whoever in the club gets wounded during their latest wacky adventure, and to keep the home-fires burning for her own true love.
The old Tara isn't completely gone; she still spars with Gemma (and it's interesting how this season their relationship is becoming more mentor/student then it ever was), and her insistence on total honesty with Jax was a step in the right direction. But you have to wonder how thoroughly she's committed to the SAMCRO way. Early in "Fix," tonight's episode, she and Jax are out picnicking, and she's reading The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's infamous muckracking exposure of the meatpacking industry. Jax tells her the book almost made him a vegan, and Tara says she's actually hungry for a steak. It's a throw-away line, but a telling one. There's a part of Tara that's always gets hungry when she hears the gory details. The question is if she can keep down what she eats.
Tara's storyline isn't the only thing going on in "Fix," and it isn't even the most important thing; but it is indicative, because what we've got here are people trying to be who they aren't, with varying degrees of success. Gemma is still living through the fall-out of the gang rape. She hasn't talked with anyone seriously beyond Tara and Unser, and neither of them can offer the kind of psychological release she needs. So she can't sleep in the same bed as Clay anymore, and spends the night making flower arrangements and being furious at what she considers a weakness. What's sad is that Gemma isn't trying to be someone new, like Tara--she's just trying to be herself. But "herself" has changed in the three weeks since the assault.
Her relationship with Clay is definitely taking some hits. Clay keeps getting more and more frustrated at her refusal to tell him what's bothering her, and since he's a biker and not a social worker, he responds by beating the shit out of her car. It's an ugly fight, that only stops when Clay reaches for Gemma and she screams at him; maybe this will be enough to get her to finally go to the support group Unser tells her about. While it makes for decent drama, it's weird seeing Gemma so hamstrung and unsettled. Her reasons for not telling the club what happened are sound, but it seems wrong that she isn't trying to get her own revenge; hopefully we'll see a more pro-active Gemma soon.
Hale is another one trying something new: he's thinking of getting into bed (not literally, because that would be the devil's work, of course) with Zobelle and his league of extraordinary assholes. Zobelle's proposition is that in order to take the Sons out of Charming, they've got to ruin the club's rep in town. And the best way to do that is by bringing in drugs. If Hale will turn a blind eye to Darby and his associates making meth, Zobelle can make it seem like Clay isn't keeping up his promise to keep Charming drug free; and then, once SAMCRO is gone, the drugs will supposedly go away as well. It's a dangerous plan, and if Hale goes along with it, he'll be compromising himself more than we've ever seen on the show.
Hale does go along with the plan, and it's an odd moment. Adam Arkin's performance is terrific here--the speech he gives Hale about why he stepped up for the movement (his wife was killed in a drive by) is reminiscent of some of Edward Norton's most charismatic bits of hate in American History X. At the same time, Hale's willingness to give in seems more a necessity for the plot to move forward than an actual character shift. In order for me to buy that he's willing to work with what amounts to pure evil, his hatred of SAMCRO must be equally strong as his moral convictions. But the last few episodes, Hale seemed to have come to some kind of peace with the club. I don't buy that he'd willingly let a meth lab keep running just to get rid of them.
At least the lab doesn't stay running for long; after the Sons use it to test Hale's resolve (he fails the test), Jax and the crew take out the building, with Opie running explosives timer-free. He still claims he's not trying to kill himself, but something's going on there. Oh, and on a lighter note, Bobby's got his own new role: Clay has him doing the books for Luann's porn business. Luann freaks out at the news, and for good reason--Bobby finds out almost immediately that she's been skimming for six years now, stealing from the club. Luann makes a deal with him that apparently involves some really acrobatic sex, but joking aside, this means Bobby's got to cover for Luann now, too. I wonder how long before he starts taking his own cut?
The porn business is making things harder (heh) for Tara as well; one of the girls, Ima, has a thing for Jax, and she isn't shy about it. Tara isn't willing to fight for Jax--at least, not yet--but she is willing to fuck him in a restroom during the wrap-party for Ima's latest film. When Ima walks in on the two of them, Tara gives her a big, nasty smile. It's still not sure if she's going to turn out to be the next Gemma, or something else entirely; but that smile is one step closer to killing the old Tara for good.
- A porno version of Mad Men? Yeah, I could see that.
- "What's an Anal Rain Dance?" This is both a good and a bad question.
- There was something horribly sad in Clay and Gemma's last talk, with Clay basically telling her, "Either we have a date night, or I'm getting a blow-job from a stranger." That you still felt bad for him was a testament to Ron Perlman, really.