Man, Ireland is starting feel like the fireworks factory, y'know? I'm all for decompressed storytelling, but "The Push" is comes just before the season mid-point, and the Sons are still scrounging for cash and finding themselves burdened by new woes. I'm appreciating this season's focus on attrition, and showing how the club's rough-and-ready approach doesn't really make for much in the way of long term-investments, but I'm wondering if this is the sort of story that will play better when you can burn through it on DVD. We've had some memorable moments so far (most of them coming from Gemma's time with her dad, come to think), but so much of what we're seeing right now seems to be building towards some kind of conclusion (I know, duh, right?), and it's hard to judge a lot of it without knowing what that conclusion is. I want to know how this ties together, but we won't know that for another month. So I'll wait patiently for that fireworks factory, trusting in the show's creator and writers to know what they're up to.
In that regard, "The Push" shows some definite promise, because it resolves a few important plot threads. The trouble with the Mayans is finally taken care of, and while we've seen peace between the groups before (or at least a tenuous truce), this one seems legit. After a nicely staged van-theft, Clay offers the rival club a better deal on the drug distribution than the Calazars, the Mayans accept, and Juice gets his cut back. This means an ease up on the bloodshed in Charming, and it also gets the Sons some more of that desperately needed spending money. (Does it violate the club's position on drug-running in Charming, though? I'm not sure if I'm just getting past seasons mixed up with The Godfather, but I thought that Clay and the boys kept the hard stuff out of town. This would fit in with the rest of the season, seeing as how every solution SAMCRO finds means compromising themselves some other way, but I could be wrong.) Clay also uses the peace to show Oswald that the Sons have taken care of the violence that killed Hale and put the populace on edge. At least something's going all right.
Jax and Tara finally hit their crisis point, thank goodness. Jax gets over his conscience long enough to use Tara to sell some of meds they scored last episode; she finds a clinic that can use it, and while they can't pay the full price the club needs up front, Jax lets that slide, because he's a good guy and all that. Too bad Darby sees them making the sale, and rats them out to Hale's brother. It was nice seeing Darby again, scumbag though he is, and if this is the last we see of him on the show (he claims he's gone straight), it's not a bad way to go out--burned, but ruining SAMCRO's day. Darby's report leads to the clubhouse getting raided, which leads to a lot of pointing fingers aimed in Tara's direction. Jax doesn't really question this. He gets mad, and he's been mad around her all season, so his "I'm sick of this" style break-up just feels like something he's been wanting for a while. Jax is hard to read, and after that explosion in the premiere, and his obvious concern for his son, I'm not sure what's motivating him here. I can guess--it could be that Abel's kidnapping, after his moral crisis with the club, combined to make him want to simplify his life, and Tara is a reminder of responsibilities and loss that he just doesn't want to deal with. That makes Jax to be kind of a dick, but that also fits the episode's final sequence--we see Tara, alone, and then we see Jax, screwing the porn star that's been dogging him for a season and a half now. If Jax is giving up on the principles he found in his father's writing, what does that mean for the Sons? And what does it mean for poor Abel?
Gemma's situation just gets odder. Stahl manages to get the club's bail hearing pushed back ten days, and she also gives Jax a story for Gemma to feed to the cops about the shooting. Jax gives his mom the intel, and, of course, she questions it. I can imagine Jax keeping his double-dealing with Stahl on the downlow from the rest of the Sons, but Gemma? No way. He gives her a big speech about her being just another club member's wife, and doing as she's told, and, well, I'm not sure if she does or not. When it comes time to give her story, Gemma says there was an ATF agent in the house with her, and she accuses Stahl's partner. Now, we never hear one way or the other, and Stahl certainly plays shocked well enough, but I'm betting that this is her play. Somebody needs to go under the bus for those deaths, and if it's not going to Gemma, it's sure as hell not going to be Stahl. It fits with her character being, y'know, incredibly evil, and it also explains why Jax and Gemma were both so shocked when they read the file Stahl fed them. Only problem is, since Stahl's lover wasn't on the show last season (right?), this is a cool twist that doesn't really have a huge amount of weight behind it. In a weird way, though, it actually makes me appreciate Stahl a little more as a character. There's something fascinating about people who are willing to use anyone, no matter how close, as a piece on a board. Somehow, by betraying one of her own, Stahl becomes weirdly compelling.
Or maybe I'm just a sucker for a good Iago. Anyway, very curious to see how this play will pan out. "Push" doesn't end with the boys getting on the boat to Ireland, but it does finally give us the way there, through Oswald. We get some progress, we finally get Jax and Tara to do something beyond repeat the same argument they've had for the last god only knows how long. And there are some cool world-building beats as well. The club welcomes in some new prospects, so hey, there's some more cannon fodder. (I kid! I'm sure Fat Guy, Talkative Guy, and Other will go far.) There's also some tension between Tig and a potential transfer (Kenny Johnson), which leads to a fun fight scene and some exploitable tension between the two. And we get a murder--in order to seal the deal with the Mayans, the Sons have to kill an informant. (Is this the guy that Jax beat up earlier?) We're seeing a lot of people just doing whatever they can to get by. That makes for bad futures, but thankfully for us, it also makes for some good TV.
- Grading this show has become nearly as tough for me as it was during 24. Sons is a hell of a lot better than than 24 was at the end, but the storytelling has switched over to heavy serialization, which makes it harder to judge individual episodes. The "A-"s I've been handing out a lot this season are because I feel like this storytelling is working, but as always, the write-ups are the important part. Let me throw it out to y'all: what're you thinking of this season so far? And is there anything you'd like more of in these reviews?