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

Sons Of Anarchy: “Toad’s Wild Ride”

Illustration for article titled Sons Of Anarchy: “Toad’s Wild Ride”

There are lots of different ways to jolt life into a story—kill off a major character, introduce a complication that raises the stakes, bring in Walton Goggins wearing huge boobs—but one of my favorite is to jump over audience expectations. Last week, we saw Unser have suspicions about Clay’s involvement in the home invasions, and then got confirmation that Clay and the three Nomads were responsible. Given Unser’s age and his loner status, this could’ve gone a lot of ways. Unser could’ve died, could’ve been killed, could’ve, I dunno, started up a meth lab. (He does have cancer, after all.) At the very least, I didn’t think Jax would find out that his sort of step-dad was behind all of it.

Technically speaking, Jax still doesn’t have proof that Clay is involved, but he has some very strong suspicions, and in a situation like this, it’s hard to imagine those suspicions being disproved. The confrontation between the two men near the end of the episode is in many ways the confrontation they’ve been having for at least a season now: Jax, convinced he knows Clay is up to something, Clay trying his damnedest to lie his way out of an impossible scene. The difference is Jax isn’t going to be talked down. Presumably, something will happen in the weeks ahead to pull this along a bit longer. I can’t imagine Clay getting taken down before the finale (really, I have a hard time imagining him getting taken down at all), so someone else will get to Frankie first. Or else the black guy Jax shoots at the end of this episode will confuse the situation. But it’s still fun to watch two out of the three Nomads get gunned down in Unser’s trailer as Clay tries to once more cover his tracks. There’s no need to wallow in any more home invasion misery; now, everything is up in the air again.

Besides, it’s not like there’s a shortage of misery on the show, as Gemma’s storyline once again briefly flirts with hope before turning the screw. Her hookup with Joel McHale from last week (his name is Warren) leads to an embarrassing morning after, when Warren runs off with Gemma’s wallet and her SUV. So, Jax is pissed and lectures her about being a grown-up and Nero tells him to lay off. The Warren plotline is fairly pointless; unless the character shows up later on, he mostly serves to give the episode an excuse for a car chase around the midpoint, and then to indicate that Nero hasn’t quite given up his feelings for Gemma, when he later tracks Warren down (in the middle of another old-lady con) and beats the shit out of him. That’s moderately important, but this is still a big chunk of time to be given up to something that doesn’t really have much to do with anything. It’s especially odd given McHale’s presence. If this is all the character does in the season, McHale is a big enough name to be distracting without adding a lot to the role; not because he’s bad (he isn’t), but because there isn’t really anything there. Walton Goggins only had the one subplot, but I can’t imagine that sequence being even remotely tolerable without him in the role. (I wasn’t a fan, but it would have been so much worse without him.) Here, McHale’s playing someone any decent-looking guy could’ve played. It’s not a catastrophe, but it is odd, and it gives the Warren story more weight than it really deserves.

Apart from Jax realizing what’s going on with the home invasions, and Unser taking a stand, and of course the last five minutes, this was mostly just people glaring at each other about stuff they can’t quite doing anything about yet. We learn that Clay had promised the Nomads a cut of his profits if they got him back in the president’s seat, which failed to work out for anyone. Clay tries to, I dunno, psych Tara out or something, which mostly just serves to clue Jax in on the fact that Clay is up to some bad shit. Really, I feel worst for Juice at this point. After everything he went through last season, he’s now working for a Judas, and he doesn’t even know it.

Jax and Gemma do get a good scene together, one where they actually talk instead of just yell at each other. The big problem for Gemma this season (and, really, most of the run of the show) is her inability to accept the depth of her mistakes. She’ll apologize, cry a bit, get miserable, and then turn to drugs or screwing with people to get her out of her misery. It’s an admittedly realistic model that nonetheless makes for some increasing tedious television, so it’s good to see her coming clean a bit about her overwhelming Jax, and the two of them getting a moment together. But hey, that also leads to Jax urging Tara to let Gemma watch the boys for the night, which leads to Gemma driving while stoned, which leads to her going off the road and crashing into the tree, which leads to some kind of (presumably serious) injury for Abel. Maybe he’s dead, although that would take the whole season in such a substantially different direction that I’d be surprised. Regardless, Gemma is going to be in a world of hurt next week in all kinds of ways, and it’s hard not to dread the fallout. Maybe the attack on Jax and Chibs by a pair of masked men—one gets away, the other is the black dude mentioned above—will distract Jax’s wrath. Regardless, in Charming, the clearer the picture seems to get, the greater the odds it’ll soon be covered in blood.

Stray observations:

  • Unser is basically my favorite character now. I want a spin-off with him. He could move to some other town, and open up a PI business.
  • Clay’s never-ending attempts to maneuver himself into a better position appear to have hit a brick wall. Sure, he kills one of the Nomads and convinces Unser to get off his case, but his practice of completely agreeing with people who hate him, while cutting down on the fights, is probably not going to make him friends in the long run.
  • “Too many people feeling shit.” -Gemma.