To be…part 2
Sons of Anarchy Season 4 Episode 14 recap
How many of us thought that this episode was gonna be called “…or not to be”?
The previouslies remind us of all the things that are in play. That is, beyond Clay’s life, Opie’s actions, Gemma’s machinations, Tara telling Jax how to kill Clay, etc, we also have:
Juice and Bobby in custody
Otto as a mole
The cartel assuring Jax all is fine
The Irish coming to town for a meeting
And…in case you forgot….Charming Heights is a go. Because when you’re most worried about life and death situations, a subdivision is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m not even joking about that.
We begin on a completely self-aggrandizing police talk by Lincoln about how they’re going to take down not one but three criminal organizations. Guess who’s not so down? That’s right, Roosevelt. I always knew he was…
Holy sh-t! Our Mexican guys are actually the CIA, and Lincoln’s out of a gig! Wow! I didn’t actually think this was going to happen. So now the target’s on the Sons and the Irish…
Juice’s ‘coloured past’, what kind of dirty double-entendre…? But Lincoln cleaned up his record because he doesn’t want the bad guys to win any more than they already have – and then in the only moment of levity I suspect we’re going to get, Roosevelt tells Lincoln “You’re a really odd dude. You know that’s hard to get past, right?”
Okay, so now the CIA (!) tell Jax they need to implicate RICO to uphold their end of the bargain. Theres a lot of discussion of who will or won’t be in trouble but what you need to know is that they need Jax to do the deal the Irish just vetoed (because they’ll only work with Clay) and that they don’t care about ‘what the club wants’ because Jax is going to take the head of it. Whether he likes it or not. They even go so far as to tell him they were going to brief Tara, not kill her, and that Jax needs to keep Clay alive, or everyone’s heading to jail.
At JT’s grave, Jax takes John Thomas’ rings and puts them on. Taking over the family business. Gee, I wonder what Tara’s going to think?
All you need to know about the scene where Roosevelt turns Juice loose is that they’re both trying not to cry as they go back to status quo.
Lincoln decides to set the Charming Heights scheme on fire via bringing armloads of sex toys into a courtroom where the ruling on the grounds is about to be made. What clinches his argument – that the money is coming from nefarious sources – is a doll from the “Some Young Boy” line, for, as Lincoln puts it, “the discerning pedophile”. If you’re keeping track, this is the 20 minute mark and also about the 9th time this episode someone has asked ‘why are you doing this?’
Jax calls church at 8, then kicks Tig out of Clay’s hospital room. Jax pulls out the syringe Tara gave him, trembling all the while. And, of course, before he can actually pull the trigger (pun intended or not, as you prefer), Clay wakes up. And calls him ‘son’. And Jax puts the syringe away.
And pulls out a knife.
So he holds it to Clay’s neck, and tells him how it’s going to be. Clay’s going to do the deal, and Jax is going to be president. Clay needs to stay out of his way. If he doesn’t, Jax’ll tell the club. I mean, shouldn’t he, anyway? It’s worth noting that he does cut Clay’s neck, before ripping the patch off his cuts and spitting in his face.
Seconds later, Gemma, in the hallway, starts in with the ‘you can’t leave me’. Jax says he won’t, and she won’t, and takes off. And Gemma, with her bruised face, looks in on him. And Katey Sagal is so pretty, and did we really not know that for so many years?
Meanwhile, as Roosevelt and his wife catch up on the events of this crazy town, Season 5 gets put into place, as we hear that the girl who took a full-body window to the body was the daughter of the most dangerous gangster in town.
Jax and Opie. Jax tells Opie he was right about everything, but they still have to hold tight to everything they know about until he takes the reins of the club and it’s the ‘right time’ to tell the truth. Opie accurately points out that this is, essentially, lying.
Hey, speaking of which, Tara! Finally! Let’s watch how not-pleased she’s going to be at this whole awful godforsaken story he’s going to lay on her. He chooses to lead with the CIA stuff. Which, I guess, isn’t the worst place in the story.
But then he tells her it’s his club and he can’t leave it. Is this a SURPRISE to anyone? He’s all ‘leave town, I’ll send you money’. And it’s worth noting that Jax is crying but Tara isn’t – at least not until Jax leaves the room. Then the hot tears of shame are because she should have known better. Because she knew, fourteen episodes ago, that he would never leave. She knew. And she let herself talk them both into a life that was never, ever going to happen. And it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her or that she doesn’t love him – but they have these limitations that they’ll never, ever be able to get over.
Over “The House Of The Rising S(o)n”, Bobby plays guitar, in lockup.
Gemma burns the letters in the playground by the clubhouse.
Juice rips up the file but keeps the picture of his father.
Jax rides, pensive.
Unser smokes, pensive.
Jax, watched by Gemma, hides a file and then, in front of the Sons, strides to the head of the table in church and, with all the heavy significance it imparts, he sits down. And surveys his kingdom.
He lays the president’s patch in front of him as Tig comes in. But Jax stops him – instead asking Chibs to sit at his right hand. Juice gets to sit down, too, once he assures Jax his sh-t is all cleaned up. And just as Jax bangs his gavel for his skeleton crew, Tara walks in. Opens the door, in fact. And tells Jax, in a whisper, that she isn’t going anywhere. OH GOD. Then, she stands behind Jax, hand on his chest, as Gemma comes in, in that pose we saw Gemma and John Teller in, back in the day.
And Gemma sees the writing on the wall and knows she’s not all that long for this world.
So there you have it. Clay lives, Opie seethes (but not in church), Jax takes up the mantle of his father before him.
A few weeks ago, Lainey asked whether I was enjoying the show and it’s a complicated question. I said it was hard to. This is the danger of coming in late. Once upon a time, these people were fresh and different, but at this point I kind of feel that there’s nobody to root for. Jax is a straw man. Tara is, no matter what she pretends to be, a woman in waiting. Gemma may have been Lady Macbeth at one point but it was mostly gone by this year – all she did was tell Tara to keep her nose clean – which had the unexpected effect of turning Tara into an awesome-style crazy person of her own.
But honestly, the only people who were likable were Juice and Roosevelt. And to me, it wasn’t because they were ‘good’ or less evil or anything. It was because they were trying things. To be boring for a second, you need your characters to want stuff and to do stuff. And Clay wanted to remain on top, of course he did, but he never seemed to struggle with the evil things he did. He didn’t blink as he shot his friends and beat his woman. So it’s hard to sympathize with him, too.
Now Jax and Tara have made new, big choices. Right or wrong, who cares. It’s fun to watch characters make wrong choices. But at least they’re doing something. Jax and Tara twiddled their thumbs this whole season and now, seemingly on a dime, they’ve adopted a new life for themselves. Great! I’m into it! What’s it like to be a surgeon-turned- Old Lady? What’s it like to run a club if you have a heart? Will kids continue to be Jax’s weakness? Who’s gonna off Clay?
It’s a bit weak of me to say that while I didn’t like the season, that it turned itself around in the last ten minutes, and generally, the key isn’t to have 10 minutes of edge-of-your-seat, but fourteen hours, still, I can see that if this was a ‘rebuilding’ year, that I’d be more interested for next year. But if we see seasons as discrete units, the only thing that’s different here from last year is that, well, Jax is the head of the table. And those damn letters followed us around all year long. Thank God they got burned.
I’m on the fence. I don’t know who I’ll root for next time. And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be the good guys. Juice was rootable because he was doing something – even if that was trying to get his ass out of hot water. I want to see Gemma claw to keep her place. I want to see Tara set new rules. I want to see Jax try and fail at everything he does.
Just as long as he tries.
Thank you all for your notes, emails, and comments all season long. I did, in truth, have a blast.
Next up: the return of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.