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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sons Of Anarchy: "Culling"

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"Culling," the penultimate episode of this season of Sons, opens with the members of SAMCRO circling the wagons and getting ready for the rain. It's an exciting sequence, not so much because of any tension from what we actually see—everything goes smoothly, and nobody freaks out or goes missing—but because of the inherent promise of the event. We've finally reached the point where our heroes can start dishing out some long delayed payback, and the fact that they start their plans by making sure their home base is protected first means the days of doing things stupid are gone. That's sensible from a dramatic perspective, justifiable story-wise, and oh so satisfying.

Not that all of Clay and Jax's plans work out as they want them to; it wouldn't make a lot of sense if they did. Sons is a good show because it's smartly plotted and well-acted, but it's a great show because it never sacrifices character for plot. So Clay and the rest, as much as we root for them, as much as we glory in watching them kick some righteous ass, we can't ever completely forget that there's a level of uncontrollable violence in the choices they make. These guys can be lovable (anybody else happy to hear that Half-Sack should be getting patched soon?) but they aren't heroes. They're the good guys partly because everybody else is so much worse, and if Sons ever starts pretending otherwise, it'll be a much weaker series.

There are two perfect examples of this rage in "Culling"; Clay and Zobelle, and Tara's assault on her supervisor. The thing between Clay and Zobelle is understandable and easy to sympathize with. Zobelle is responsible for Gemma's gang rape, and he's an evil, opportunistic bastard to boot. But I liked how fast Unser's illusion of—well, not control, exactly, because nobody would ever say he's in control of the Sons, but his assessment of the situation, his comfortable idea of how things were going to go down, collapsed. It's impossible to know if Clay would've shot Zobelle right there in the store, an action that would've been next to impossible to cover up, but there's every reason to believe he would've, whatever Unser said, and Jax sure as hell wasn't going to stop him. SAMCRO makes a lot of really sharp plays here, from finally getting Stahl off their backs yet again, getting guns from the Irish, and pitting Weston and Zobelle at each other's throats, but they're still not smart enough to plan for Hale trying to stop them. Him breaking up the fight at Timberland is one thing, but his fast response time at the Cigar Shop was inevitable and yet seemed to take the crew by surprise. It's not exactly a huge hole in their strategy I'm pointing to, so much as this basic inability to plan more than a couple moves at a time. Because of their nature, they play things loose even when they do think ahead, and while their energy and force gives them strength, it also makes them vulnerable.

All of which is a way of saying that the scene with Tara beating the shit out of her boss has me concerned. (In a good way.) Tara's deepening commitment to Jax has never completely silenced her own goals, and the danger that Jax's lifestyle (a lifestyle that she has no choice but to become a part of if she wants to be with him) puts those goals in. So as cool as it's been to see her and Jax becoming more of a team, and watching her and Gemma bond, there's always been this nagging fear as to what, exactly, she's turning into. Is the old lady life really one that she can be happy living? Seeing her bust out doesn't really answer the question, although it does remind us that Tara's always had a nasty side to her, despite looking like the more "civilized" member of the SAMCRO family. Margaret, the boss, is infuriating—her first two lines of the scene had me wanting to strangle her—but when Tara finally snaps and does just that, I don't think we're supposed to be cheering. This is not a positive act, and it's short-sighted, just as Gemma threatening the woman earlier had been. Tara's supposed to be smarter than this, and there's something vicious and unsettling in what she does that wouldn't seem quite as bad coming from Gemma. And I can't imagine it being over, no matter what she threatened at the end.

But I'm imagining anybody who watched "Culling" is wondering what the hell I'm on about right now, because generally speaking, this was all about seeing our boys doing what they do best. Weston turning on Zobelle is something we've all been expecting ever since we realized Zobelle wasn't a true believer, so it's good to have that finally out of the way. The fight at Timberland, from Weston's pathetic attempt at a double-cross to Tig biting off some dude's ear, was short but sweet, and the final cliffhanger, with Weston and Zobelle both safely locked behind bars, gives us more than enough reason to come back next week. As if we needed any.

Stray Observations:

  • Clay's welcoming speech was a good reminder of what's at stake here. And the "I love you all" was an excellent touch.
  • Jax has Weston's kids taken away. When Weston objects, Jax tells him, "At least I didn't gang rape them."
  • "No. This is assault."
  • When Sons comes back next year, I hope we get some development on Hale. He's been more interesting this season, but I still feel like he's just there as an obstacle.