Even though there’s a whisper going around that nobody’s watching the fall TV premieres and oh God, what does that mean, it’s actually early in the season and most shows haven’t got off the ground just yet.  The ones that had early-September launches then need to make some big moves so they can still have your interest when the newer shows start.  Let’s check in with a couple of our favourites that both decided to drop significant bombs right around Episode 3.  Spoilers, natch.

For Parenthood this is not the predicted (and, I have to say, hoped-for) plotline exploring what happens when Julia and Joel adopt a child 8 years older than they had anticipated.  Instead, Victor seems to be a part of the household, giggling along with the others in the back of Zeek’s car.

I understand why they didn’t go deep with that storyline to lead off -  it’s mostly about emotions and because these are the Bravermans, nothing that dramatic is going to happen.  They’re probably not going to give Victor back.  So we’ll find out about his changing relationship with the family later in the season, I hope.  God, do I hope, because Julia and Joel are the best thing about this show. 

Instead, we have the Kristina breast cancer storyline, and it is certainly timely and relevant and one of those things that’s awful to go through (and was I the only one who suspected they were going to tell us that Dr. had Asperger’s, too?) but – this is TV, we know Kristina’s not going to die, especially if they’re making such a point of doing the lumpectomy so soon. In a more dramatic show, I might be nervous about deploying the cancer now rather than in 6 episodes – too much time for it to twist and come back in a surprising way in episode 13 – but here, I’m not sure I’m worried about that (although rumour has it Haddie will stop back in at home when she hears they need her, so maybe it’s not all going to go as well as I think). I am, of course, worried about Max the brat becoming ever more the tyrant whose behavior issues are being ignored, but maybe we’ll get there sometime soon.  

The problem with the ensemble show, of course, is that it’s hard to give everyone the support they need to have storylines; I just wish it didn’t fall to the Adam Bravermans to be the “anchor” family all the time.  Like, what if Sarah had breast cancer instead?  Wouldn’t that have been more curious?  Of course, she probably would have wound up dating her doctor, but you see where I’m going here.

Then on the other hand Sons of Anarchy has decided to send things into overdrive.  After still-fair criticisms that last season was the draggiest of slow drags where not much happened,  the Sons have been incarcerated, identified, and, by the end of this episode (don’t say I didn’t warn you) decimated: the end of Opie happens in full technicolour, with no relief or music swell to take some of the sting out of it.

The horror and shock I’m reading about on various sites is good. Of course people had an emotional connection to the character and the way he went out was heartbreaking but I can’t say I necessarily understand the outrage.    

Opie’s death was a logical conclusion to so many things that had been laid out for us:     he was never going to be able to forgive Clay for shooting Piney – so would he ever have been able to forgive Jax from stopping him from killing Clay? Would the resentment over the truth, the full extent of which he’s just getting now,  have turned him even more hollow than he said he was? Remember, he wasn’t sure he could love anyone or anything – how much can change in a year.

But more importantly, no matter how much you loved Opie or thought he was good to have around or that he still had story left (of which I am skeptical), he was in the way of the show’s goal – making Jax as hard as he needs to be.  Negotiating with the Pope – including what he said about Tig, in the end – couldn’t have been done as effectively if Jax still had that soft spot of his best boy, his brother, right there beside him. Jax is getting tougher and stronger every day – so the question is, on the rise to the top, to be the kind of leader he wants to be, does he have to become as ruthless as Clay?  Or, as we were told, is he smart enough to find another way?

Killing Opie so early on gives the show so many places to go.  I’m not saying you won’t miss him, I’m saying that it does something for the forward momentum of the characters you like, rather than just having them grieve until the finale (since most shows would have done this second-to-last).   I’m betting by the end of the season you’ll barely recognize the men you thought you knew.

Have they done enough?   Are these early shows moving fast enough to keep your interest when they have to compete with Homeland, Nashville, and all the other hours coming your way?