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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sons Of Anarchy: "Gilead"

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"There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul."

Not a whole lot of healing going on tonight. In fact, it's safe to say that some old wounds are fresher than ever. Gemma and Oswald talk yearningly of the Charming that was, the Charming they both still want to believe is possible, but that dream is dying before their eyes. The town is the Sons and the Sons are the town, and with pressure from Zobelle and his White Power thugs on one side, and Jax and Clay's rapidly widening rift on the other, there's not a lot of room left for the people in between. If the first season of Sons of Anarchy was about building a world, the second season looks to be about tearing that world down, and while I'm sure the damage won't be as catastrophic as it might be, who's to say? The mark of a great drama isn't that anything can happen; it's that the worst seems more and more possible with each passing scene.

In a way, only few things of actual permanence happen in "Gilead," the best episode we've had this season, and in the running for one of the best in the show's history. (I feel more comfortable saying this knowing there's only been a season and a half.) Clay and Jax find out about their IRA contact hooking up with Zobelle, Juice gets a few new scars, and Opie gets a little closer to Lyla, the porn star with the crush. Oh, and Clay and Jax finally beat the shit out of each other. The club starts the episode in the county lock-up, and manages to make bail by the end. Stahl returns to offer vain temptation. Nothing is actually resolved here. Not even in the fight.

That's what made it so amazingly tense, though. Seeing Clay and the others scramble to find protection behind bars, knowing that the Aryans inside could pick them off one by one, gave "Gilead" a tremendous hook from the beginning, enough so that I almost wish the whole episode had taken place focused on them in jail. Clay makes a deal with an African American gang—if the Sons help take out two snitches, the gang will get their backs. This leads to a hilarious bit where Juice has to pretend to seduce one of the snitches, and it also leads to Opie using Lyla as a drug contact on a plan to get the second snitch into the lock-up. Opie's plan fails, though, and the guys never get the protection they need, but it doesn't matter because Oswald covers their bail and they manage to get loose with only moderate injuries. (The attack on Juice was definitely serious, but at least he'll survive.)

This could've come off as a cheat. A good chunk of the episode is given over to the club working to get to the snitches, and to have that end up as pointless could've made their final release seem too easy. But two major things happen in jail. The Clay/Jax brawl was the most entertaining. It's been a long time coming, clearly, and having them stuck in a cell together can't have made things any smoother. Bobby does his best to patch over the situation, but Bobby doesn't understand what's happening. When Clay and Jax finally have at it, Bobby stops the others from breaking up the fight, saying the two men "need" to get it out of their systems. He's wrong; there's nothing cathartic about the brawl, there's no release, no coming to terms. They're both bloody and bruised by the end, but when the camera cuts away, neither of them are willing to give ground. The split in the club takes another step closer to permanence, and there's no fix in sight.

The other thing that happens is that Jax outsmarts Agent Stahl. Going in to the last interrogation scene, we already knew that the Sons had made bail; since there didn't seem to be any way that Jax would give Stahl what she wanted, it made me wonder where the drama was going to come from. (Jax didn't know he was getting out, but my point is more that it would contradict his character for him to help a government agent. Without the drama of temptation or the threat of Aryans, what was the problem?) And then Jax actually stepped up and proved that he really is ready to head the club, and that there is something more going on in his head than vague thoughts of rebellion and resentment. Bobby's advice about bringing a "healing" to the club didn't help much with Clay (Jax did try and make some kind of peace with the old man, but only right before Clay swung the first punch), but it did let Jax hold his anger long enough to see through the game Stahl was playing, to the fact that she didn't have anything to threaten him with. While SAMCRO's internal problems aren't going to get better soon, at least Jax offers some hope that Zobelle won't wind up on top at the end. He's thinking before he reacts, for once, and that's the first step to bringing the bad man down.

Stray Observations:

  • Didn't really get into the Gemma/Oswald scenes. Gemma's still stressing out, she still isn't telling anyone what happened; you think she'll have to break down before the finale?
  • Opie's polite disapproval of Tara and Gemma's bitchiness towards Lyla was great. I found myself completely on the side of the guy who would've let the drug-using porn star pick up his kids.
  • Always good to see Stahl again. Every time she shows up, you know there'll be violence.
  • Bobby: "The med bills alone… they're gonna bury us." When there's no public option, it's the motorcycle gangs that suffer.