Early in "Home," the Sons are on the road, heading to meet Gemma, when Clay has to stop his bike. His arthritis is acting up again, and he can't close his hands tight enough on the motorcycle's grips. So Jax has to tie his hands in place. It's a temporary solution to a permanent problem, a problem that has no solution, a problem that's only going to get worse over time. This is the first time Clay's hands have been a problem since, I think, the first season, but it's fitting the pain should come back with a vengeance here. Four episodes into the second season, and we finally have our Big Bad. It's not a white supremacist, or the Mayans, or even the IRA. It's time. Time is what's eating away at Clay's hands. Time is what stole Gemma's father's mind. And as the hours turn into days, time is what's slowly strangling any chance of Jax seeing his son again--because Abel is so young, and babies forget so quickly.
The details, man, those are what kill you. In "Home," life starts complicated for our heroes, and just keeps getting worse. We see the end of the Gemma/Nate subplot here, and it's heartbreaking, unsurprisingly. Nate has enough of a clear head to talk to Gemma about Rose, the dead wife and mother who Gemma seems to have spent her whole life running away from, and he says, "Don't let your family slip away," just as Clay and the others are driving up. Which doesn't mean Nate is all that fond of Clay; they have a brief confrontation in the kitchen, and Nate tells Gemma, "This is what killed your mother." Gemma's always been one of the harder characters on the show to get a bead on, not because she's poorly drawn (or poorly acted), but because she has this edge. You saw it with the caregiver, you saw it in some of her interactions with Tara in the first season (remember when those two were enemies?). Now we get a clearer idea of what drives her. She has the will to leave home, to abandon a controlling mother and a religious father who disapproves of her, and create her own surrogate family and a new life. But the ties to her old life are still buried deep, and that means a lot of conflicted guilt and self-loathing that can flare up under pressure.
Tara and Jax are having their own problems keeping the family together. Jax comes clean about the bail-jumping, and both he and Tara have something to say about the importance of honesty in relationships. This makes Tara's silence on the subject of Amelia all the more damning, but the silence lasts just long enough for Jax and Tara to get into a fight about what happens next. Out of everything in the episode, and even the show at this point, Tara's problems are the least interesting. She's been angsting about her position with the Sons for over a season now, and it looked like by the end of last season that she was finally stepping up to being a full out supporting of the Sons. Technically, she's still trying to support them, insisting that Jax let her go along when they travel to Canada hunting for Abel, but there's something about the way she does it that doesn't work. Everyone else on the show has done some significant growing since the first season, and while Tara has come part of the way, there's an increasing gap between her and Jax that makes their scenes together less compelling than they should be. When he tells her she needs to do what she's told, her response should be furious. Instead, she's whiny, and when she tells the truth about Amelia, she's even whinier. I don't need her to be a perfect character, but I would like to see some justification as to what she's doing with these people still--claims that they are her family are well and good, but right now, she's dragging.
In the middle of all this emotional turmoil, there's a nifty action scene with Bobby, Piney, and a few others. A woman selling meds to low income families is raided by thugs, just as the Sons pull up to pay her a friendly visit, and the Sons intervene. There's a chance this will become important for plotting down the line, but really, right here it's just a necessary reminder that the Sons can be a positive force for people who can't turn to the law for help. It also ties in with what we learn overseas. Maureen, still frustrated over the fate of Abel, has to face down an irate Jimmy; he wants to give the baby back, but also doesn't want the sons to know they still have the boy. When Maureen tells Father Ashby, he explains their intent: Jimmy has become too much of a gangster, so they plan on using Abel to bring the Sons to Belfast, and let them take care of Jimmy themselves. It's not exactly playing good guys, but it is taking a hand in somebody else's business. It's very satisfying to finally understand what's happening here. And that shot of Able in a crib, in a room full of babies in cribs, shows how much Jax is in danger of losing his son, even if no one harms a hair on Abel's head.
It was inevitable that Gemma would eventually find out what had happened to her grandson, much like it was inevitable last season that sooner or later, Jax and Clay would learn about the gang rape. But while Gemma was able to turn that assault into a positive force, using it to bind the two most important men in her life closer together (and notice how Jax and Clay are still pals? I keep wondering, with all the old scars resurfacing, if that damn book is ever coming back), Jax and Clay aren't as clever as she was, or as lucky. When Gemma and Tara bring Nate to the nursing home, his earlier clarity is gone, and he freaks out, pleading desperately for Gemma to take him back to where he belongs. This does something to Gemma, and she makes a call to Agent Stahl--although we don't ever find out what the call is about. Next time we see her, she's back home in Charming, searching for able. The boys follow, but they get there too late, as Gemma gets a call from Maureen, on Father Ashby's instructions, telling her that Abel is in Belfast. Gemma collapses, because her heart can't stand the strain. She's an old lady now, in every sense, and as much as the club needs her, she's not getting younger. And I wonder just how easy it's going to be for the crew to make that trip overseas after all...
- So, I'm thinking Gemma called Stahl to turn herself in? First she'd make a quick trip to say goodbye to Abel, and then it was off to jail. Although I wouldn't be surprised if there was more to it than that.
- Married With Children reference? "Maybe you go redhead for a while." "Christ, I'd rather shave my head."
- "We're not your family!" Jeez, Jax, way to sugar coat.
- "Why in the hell are you doing this?" "Cause we're the good guys."
- This marks the last the episodes I had on screeners, so expect recaps to be later, and even more riddled with typos.