Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sons Of Anarchy: "Falx Cerebri"

Illustration for article titled Sons Of Anarchy: "Falx Cerebri"

Waaaay back on the first recap for this show, I compared Sons of Anarchy unfavorably to The Sopranos, labeling it as another in a line of anti-hero focused crime dramas with the same narrative arc of ever worsening moral decay. Obviously, I was wrong; the show has deepened and evolved considerably since that opening episode, and what we have here isn't an amoral leading man surrounded by various flavors of sociopath. Instead, Sons has kept the ethical ambiguity on the back-burner, and seriously ramped up the plotting and stakes with each new week. "Falx Cerebri" may not have had any deep lessons to teach us (although who knows?), but it's hard to care about that when you're sitting so far off the edge of your seat you're in danger of biting your knees.

Zobelle's endgame notched into place tonight, but before we get to that, there's a seemingly minor scene I'd like to mention that, for me, points to how neatly Sons deals with both the undeniable bad-ass-itude of its heroes and the questions their impulsive actions often raise. Tara and Gemma are continuing their slow bonding dance, and while the boys are off trying to get some vengeance for Chib's injuries (he's okay, although still in critical condition by the episode's end), Gemma takes her honorary daughter-in-law out for some target shooting. It goes well, and then, since the two of them are parked outside Luann's studio, the porn star who'd been hitting on Jax shows up, and Tara threatens her with the gun. She's been having doubts about the current direction of her life, but underneath her supposedly civilized exterior beats the heart of a woman who likes fucking her boyfriend in public restrooms and shooting up the cars of anyone who throws a glance Jax's way. So that's what she and Gemma do (the latter, not the bathroom sex thing) (you nut).

It's a funny, weirdly touching scene; Gemma and Tara have been at each other's throats since the show began, and the fact that they've got a lot more in common than they'd like to admit has made Gemma's struggles over her own shame and guilt much easier to take. But at the same time, well, this isn't really good guy behavior, is it? Sure, the woman was annoying and insulting towards Tara, but wrecking her car in broad daylight isn't exactly a smart move. It's an exciting mood, and it's gotta feel pretty great, but while I'm sure this will be just fine in the long run, too much of this stuff is what gets the club in trouble; too much of this "pulling the trigger 'cause it feels good" craziness, and you aren't really good guys anymore. You're bullies and morons who can't think beyond whatever electrical impulses hit the brain stem first. That Sons can both give you the thrill of being a sonofabitch—and really, Charming is basically just Disneyland for ass-kicking—but to also keep the edge of unease without falling into dull moralizing, that's impressive.

But really, that's mostly background noise. The big excitement in "Falx" was the aftermath of the van bomb that put Chib in the hospital. Clay wants immediate retaliation, and there's no way a club vote is going to stop him. So Jax tries to run interference by talking with Hale behind Clay's back, wanting to get to Zobelle first to let things cool down before the situation spirals completely out of control. Most of the episode is spent with both groups working to hunt the big bad white man down, and neither having any luck until the end. There are some reveals along the way (whoa, the Irish are with Zobelle? That can't be good), and in the end, even Jax gets played. Everybody walks into the trap you sort of figured had to be waiting there all along, and Clay, Jax, and most of the rest of the crew get arrested, with video evidence of them shooting up a family church meeting.

The whole thing was, unsurprisingly, really well paced. The few scenes we spent away from the main focus never let the tension ebb, and watching character relationships that've been fraying for a month now unravel made it all the more gripping. Jax and Opie came very close to blows, it seems like, and even if physical violence wasn't on the table, their stiff, awkward conversations weren't a whole lot easier to take. Opie keeps on preaching Clay's way, and you know it's gotta be driving Jax nuts not to flat out tell him the truth. But since that would probably end up driving Opie even further around the bend, he keeps his mouth shut. Early on in the episode, Hale asks him, "Where you going?" and Jax says, "To lose my best friend." It's the literal truth, but it isn't hard to see these two being on the outs for good, if things keep going down this road.

Hale was stepping up though, wasn't he? Polly may have lied in the end, but the scene in Zobelle's cigar shop where he threatens to cut himself and then arrest her for assault was as hardcore as we've ever seen him. Of all the big characters on the show, Hale's always been a little indistinct; he started off as a necessary counterpoint to the Sons' lawlessness, but as the series progresses, that counterpoint becomes less and less interesting. Having him briefly consider working with Zobelle seemed more a necessity of plot than anything organic, and I'm much more interested in him as we see him now, not completely giving into the club's demands but still finding a way to work with Jax. In a way, he's joining up with Unser like Tara is with Gemma, and while I don't think Hale will ever compromise himself quite as thoroughly as his boss, he's becoming less a principle and more a human being.

Finally we have proof that Zobelle knew where this was going all along, even if Gemma didn't act according to plan—and how ugly was it that a comment from Tara had her guilty about keeping quiet on the rape? The club needs to be at its strongest now if it's going to survive, and Gemma's falling apart, Clay isn't thinking ahead, and Jax is still fence-sitting, trying to keep everybody happy and not doing a very good job of it. Zobelle couldn't have time his power trip better if he'd planned. And while Gemma tells Tara everything will calm down soon, that sounds like wishful thinking. This is going to get a lot worse. And then maybe it'll go ahead and get even worse than that.

Stray Observations:

-Awww, Zobelle left his own Boy From Brazil to guard the house. Maybe he'll get the stupid beat out of him in juvie.
-The saga of Juice and Unser trying to stop CSU from getting anything out of van bomb was the one bright spot of funny in the ep. "I'm sorry, I have OCD and the mess was, like, freaking me out."