Well, Tig’s alive. It seemed obvious it he’d live to see another episode when last week ended with him facing off against August Marks and his men; generally speaking, if a character is in a life or death situation and the sentence is held back for another week, they’re going to make it through okay. (There are definite exceptions to this, but it would’ve been odd for Tiggy to die off-screen.) The explanation for why he survived is dubious. It makes more sense that August let him go than, say, some crazed last minute shootout, but it makes the cliffhanger and Jax’s decision to finally give up a fellow club member look cheap in retrospect. Whatever line Jax decided to cross has been uncrossed, and while this means August has some dirt to hold over our protagonist’s head, the whole thing is pretty much the definition of a fake out. This was a loyalty test? It’s one hell of a slow-burning test, considering how long Jax held back before he passed. The whole thing is one big old anti-climax, which is starting to be a habit for the show. Set up big moments, and then back down from them; push characters into situations where they really ought to finally die, and then let them slip free one more time.
Tig’s survival wasn’t the biggest misstep (if that’s even the right word) of the season so far, but it did set a certain tone for “Wolfsangel”; which makes it all the more impressive how much the rest of the episode works to go in a completely different direction. Where the cold open establishes a world in which consequences are endlessly delayed in favor of more suspicious looks and vague intrigue, the remainder of the hour sets to work blowing up the status quo, and breaking with the obvious assumptions about where all of this is going. By the final montage, there are a lot of corpses on the ground, including, but not limited to, Lee Toric, the prospective Big Bad himself. It’s a messy hour of TV, crammed full of big shocks and reversals, and while the whole thing doesn’t add up to much more than the sum of its parts, those are some pretty interesting parts; more, this leaves us with an unstable playing field in which anything could happen. Which means that we’ll have to wait and see what does happen before understanding how any of this fits together. For now, though, it’s enough to know that the clumsiness of last week wasn’t necessarily reason to give up all hope.
And hey, even before Tig comes back, we get some skinhead violence in, so that’s got to be a good sign, right? Continuing his reign as Saddest Sad Bastard in Charming, Unser wakes up one morning to get dragged out of his trailer by a bunch of thugs. They beat him, carve a swastika in his chest, and leave him hanging from some chains in the garage. This raises the question as to where the hell everybody else is, but given everything that’s gone down with the club in the past few years, I guess membership in SAMCRO ain’t what it used to be. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. While tracking down the assholes who went after Unser (it was a retaliation play for what Clay did in prison, which means that even locked away, he’s still finding ways to hurt his former friends), Jax also gets the bad news that the Sons charter he’d been hoping to shift the IRA gun deal onto has passed on the offer. (Robert Patrick and another guy show up to deliver the bad news.) Jax decides he wants out of the deal with the Irish anyway, but the Irish don’t take too kindly to this; the result is two dead Sons, hacked up to bits at the warehouse, and a couple of crates of KG9s, i.e. the gun used in the school shooting that isn’t really an issue at all anymore apart from creating some pissed off law enforcement.
The IRA revenge is a nasty bit of business, a break between the two groups that’s been a long time in coming; without Clay to mitigate the damage (unless, and please god may this not happen, Clay somehow gets out of jail and comes to the rescue), it’s hard to imagine this ending well. But it had to be done, and to finally, finally have a split after all this time talking about it—well, it doesn’t feel good yet, because it’s hard for anything to feel good when it includes sawed up corpses of friends, but at least its some forward progress. Less forward, but still satisfying, is the assault on the compound of evil skinheads. From a plot perspective, this is largely unnecessary. There’s always a chance it could lead to something down the line, as shooting a bunch of guys and then calling it a day rarely ends any problem for good, but the whole thread lifts cleanly out of the episode without any repercussions. Unser gets assaulted; they visit Darby (who is doing quite well now), find out about a nearby compound that serves as a headquarters for the crew that went after Unser; Tig and another Son do a pointless father/son routine; the con falls apart, and then everybody comes together for a big shoot-out. The whole thing is pretty obligatory, like somebody finished a script and realized there wasn’t enough gunplay in it; but as Jax said, the club needed a win, and it’s not like its hard to root for shooting evil skinheads.
Thankfully, our allegiances were tested elsewhere. After Wendy’s baffling re-appearance last week with a turned-out-to-be-fake neck bruise and a bald faced lie of a cover story, we learn the truth: She and Tara have teamed up to keep Gemma out of Tara’s attempts to give Wendy custody of the kids. Well, custody in the event of Tara’s death, I think? I’m a little muddled on the specifics at this point; I thought this was a conversation that started last season when Tara was worried about her and Jax’s safety and wanted to make sure the children would be taken care of, but given the amount of effort and planning that’s gone into making this happen, is this more of a definite resolution than it appears? As far as I know, Tara doesn’t have a death curse on her—although I suppose the threat of a jail sentence might be enough to make all of this matter. If Jax is declared unfit, then he can’t very well watch the boys if Tara is behind bars. Regardless of the specifics, once again, Tara is trying to work against Gemma, but at least this time, she’s planned ahead. And interestingly enough, Unser might end up on her side; even he’s starting to wonder if keeping the boys around the clubhouse is a safe bet, whatever Gemma says.
But the best of the episode comes last: the bloody, much-deserved death of idiot Lee. In his on-going attempts to manipulate Otto and Clay, Lee slips up, letting Clay slip Otto a shiv, which Otto then uses in pretty much the way you’d expect him to use. (Oh, and Otto’s dead too.) As character deaths go, this feels like a relief. Lee was a plot device, and a badly used one at that; offing him so abruptly, when it seemed like the whole season was going to be built around his machinations, isn’t really emotionally engaging because it was hard to have an emotional connection to the guy one way or the other. He was just a cloud of bad vibes looking for a place to land. But it’s exciting in terms of ridding the show of a potential albatross, and opening up the field for the remainder of the season. There are potential threats all over, but without any big, obvious lightning rod, there’s no tired sense of waiting for the obvious to happen. Maybe all those doubts and fears were wrong. Maybe Lee was just a smoke-screen, and now that he’s gone, a real reckoning can occur; maybe the school shooting, and the horrific atmosphere of violence that made the shooting possible, will wind up as the focus. Or maybe it will be a huge, baffling mess. Either way, we no longer have to trudge through the continuing adventures of the world’s most profoundly fucked up ex-marshall, and I have to see that as a blessing.
- It looks like Nero might be okay too, as Roosevelt seems to be onto the frame up job right from the start. This is a bit of stretch, deduction-wise, and it might still blow up in everyone’s face after Lee’s death, but it would be nice not to have one of the show’s few remaining decent guys get screwed over.
- Jax: “We’re gonna find who did this.” Unser: “And then what?” Go Unser!
- Gemma: “Dead hooker.” Wendy: “Hate that.” Ugh. (Wendy is undercover, but still. Considering that the show seems to consider the dead woman as a prop, it's hard to take this without wincing.)
- Otto’s final (written) words: “Your sister’s blood tasted as good as her pussy.” A gentleman to the end.