Zack’s away this week, and is letting me fill in, which’ll give me a chance to weigh in on this episode, this season, and Sons in general. Let me knock out the latter two first, and quickly, so we can move on to “Turas.” Frankly, I’m of two minds about Sons Of Anarchy’s third season. I’ve been a big Sons fan since about midway through Season One, when the show started to find its righteous tone: halfway between a serious look into the long shadow of family legacies and a batshit pulp drama full of amped-up violence and macho posturing. I especially loved Season Two, which followed the Shield plan of having a half-dozen storylines simultaneously a-bubble, then having them boil over all at once. This season though? Well, it’s been a little too somber for my taste, and too single-minded. I’ve been enjoying the show on the whole, but Abelquest 2010 has occupied so much of the characters’ time that it’s kept Sons from exploring the world of Charming and its many fertile subplots as much as I’d like. Worse, the worldwide search has just about all of SAMCRO pointed in the same direction, which to me hasn’t been as exciting as the internal dissension that complicated Season Two so beautifully.
All of that said though, I think Season Three’s going to play a lot better when it’s complete and on DVD. I watched the first two episodes of this season back-to-back on a screener before the official premiere, and then I watched the most recent two back-to-back off my DVR last week. It’s remarkable how much stronger everything plays without the week off between chapters. I’m not tabling my criticisms of this season, mind you. This is a TV show, not a movie, and I firmly believe that TV writers shouldn’t ignore the episodic pleasures of their medium. But there’s a definite narrative momentum to Season Three that’s slow-and-steady and thus harder to discern after six days away from the story.
This week’s episode didn’t exactly twist the accelerator on the season’s main plot—and in fact it left last week’s Abel-adoption cliffhanger largely unaddressed—but it did spread the action around a little better than previous weeks.
In Belfast, Jax comes back to SAMCRO and relays Father Kellan’s proposition: that Jax kill Jimmy O’Phelan in order to expedite the process of retrieving Abel from where he’s been hidden away. Gemma’s all for it—she’s ready for somebody to shoot somebody, at any rate—but Jax isn’t so sure. “Everything they say is smoky truth,” he says about the Belfast contingent. His idea is to nab O’Phelan when SAMBEL goes on their next gun-run and then use Jimmy as leverage to get some answers.
A few complications, though: Keith McGee invites Jax and Clay and company to go on the run, but only in hopes that the Americans will get nabbed by the authorities as they’re motoring through the checkpoint. When that doesn’t happen, SAMCRO and several members of SAMBEL get ambushed at the drop when some IRA thugs lock them in a barn with a truck full of explosives, possibly under orders from SAMBEL’s sergeant-at-arms Liam O’Neill. And while all this is going on, Jimmy O’Phelan arrives at the doorstep of Chibs’ wife Fiona to reclaim her and her daughter. Gemma grabs a gun and wants to kill him, but Fiona has her own gun and calls Gemma off, later telling her that killing Jimmy would bring even more trouble down on their heads.
Meanwhile, back in Charming, Hector’s attempt to stir up shit between the Sons and the Mayans fails when the club quickly sniffs out that they’re being set up (though a few of the Sons still don’t entirely trust Álvarez, saying that he could well scrap the truce just “because it’s in his nature”). Chief Wayne and Elliot Oswald, too, are beginning to question the motives of Jacob Hale, who hired Hector in the first place. Even Ernest Darby seems willing to give Hale up when the Sons confront him in the hospital chapel.
It was nice to see so much coming together this week in the story of Charming’s backroom politics, which should be in a very fragile state by the time Jax and Clay return from Ireland and have to deal with Hale’s efforts to expel their club. And it was nice to see the Irish start to show their hands a little, so that SAMCRO begins to get a sense of where they stand with SAMBEL, the Ashby clan, and the True IRA. (Plus that scene where the truck exploded was kind of awesome, right?)
In the abstract, I admire the hell out of what creator Kurt Sutter is doing here. Last season’s bloody squabbles between Jax and Clay were rooted in a disagreement over what the Sons are all about, and while Jax tried to position himself as the last remaining idealist, a la John Teller, he came scrambling back to Clay and criminality once Abel was snatched. That’s how quickly and easily ideals get corrupted. Now transfer those compromises and conflicts to Ireland, an entire country governed by old grudges and different visions of which immoral acts actually transcend morality. Sutter’s holding the divisions within the IRA up as a mirror on the divisions within SAMCRO, extending the series’ reflection on how we balance our long-term loyalties with our situational desires. I just wish this third season were as dedicated to the visceral side of its storytelling as it is to the intellectual side.
To that end, I was most excited this week by the end of “Turas,” in which Margaret Murphy drives Tara to the abortion clinic and they get hijacked and kidnapped by Hector and his girl. First off, it’s a great cliffhanger. Second off, the growing bond between Tara and Margaret is a perfect example of how rivals become surprise allies on this show, when the need arises. But most importantly, I loved Hector and his girl lifting Margaret’s shirt to “check her ink” and finding a big tattoo across her back. That’s just so Sons. The marks these characters bear: so old, so deep, so permanent.
- Nice scene of Gemma and the other women saying goodbye to SAMCRO and SAMBEL as they go out gun-runnin’. Belfast or Charming, the old ladies are always left behind to fret.
- The Belfast part of the episode ends with Jax’s arms around Trinity, his half-sister, and Gemma watching nervously from the shadows. Does she try to warn him? That’s another nifty metaphor for the themes of this show: secrets and lies potentially leading to regrettable dalliances.
- Wayne takes a look at Hale’s list of investors and doesn’t like what he sees. Looks like Zack’s prediction last week that Zobelle is involved in Hale’s various real estate and political campaigns may be correct.
- When Hale complains that Hector is blackmailing him with his cell phone recording, Hector quips, “Yeah. I got an app for that, homes.” Funny line, and also a subtle plug for the Sons Of Anarchy iPhone/iPad app which was released this week. I downloaded it, and found it very helpful for untangling who’s-who and what’s-what and why’s-why of SAMBEL. It costs a buck, but it has content that will continue to be updated throughout the season, and it looks gorgeous. SoA fans with iDevices should give it a look.