It's time for another fun*-filled episode of "Sons of Anarchy," where the stakes are exactly the same as last week, because the stakes have been pinned on "11" since before Clay died, so it's all of EXTREME UTMOST IMPORTANCE. Which of course means that nothing is important, because everything's at the same level of EVERYTHING MEANS EVERYTHING all the time and it's exhausting or boring, depending on the scene.
The good news is that there is a legitimately shining ray of light in this episode. Spoilers I guess, but it's also the banner photo you see above. We'll get to that in due time. But first, the awfulness.
* not fun
Ridiculousness for the sake of ridiculousness:
- Apparently the Nazi gang leader in jail from the first episode of the season really WAS Marilyn Manson. He and Jax talk in code about dogs and dog food and whatnot, but when Marilyn drops the pretext, Jax was like "why are we talking in code, then?" Marilyn, summoning all the pathos he can muster, replies, "I miss my dogs." This was a real "think of the punchline and work backwards" scene, AKA "Dig up, stupid."
- Nero's brothel, Diosa, has taken aboard an extremely dumb ex-porn star, who is a running gag in the episode and gets lines like: "Do i have to, like, use math and stuff for these percentages?" I get that everyone is tired from writing so many 75- to 325-minute episodes but ... well, just go to the next bullet point, because--
- For at least the third time in the first four episodes (maybe all four; I don't know), Gemma is seen talking to herself, but really just talking out loud to Tara. This time, she does it while driving alone in the car. It's a really, really bad device to show that Gemma is slowly cracking up and/or feels great remorse for killing Tara. It's bad, bad, bad and is forced and hamfisted even for "Sons of Anarchy." This scene is made even worse by--
- The VERY NEXT SCENE FEATURING JUICE ALSO TALKING TO HIMSELF. So either the show wants us to think
1. All people losing it start having monologues addressing people who aren't there/themseleves
2. The trauma of Gemma and Juice being the only living people who know Gemma killed Tara is causing both of them to start going crazy in THE EXACT SAME WAY
Oh well; at least we got a heaping helping of JUICEBUTT in this scene.
- The most ridiculous SAMCRO fetch quest of them all. That three-way they walked in on and killed four people for no reason a couple episodes back? Whoops! The guy videotaping the thing (that they killed) was a pastor and whoops! August Marks needs his signature for a big government land scam to go through Whoops! Whoooooops! Whoops!
[tumbles down stairs]
[kills entire family]
[ruins criminal machinations]
- The sheriff (LADYSHERIFF (TM)) tells her deputies, "Follow me to the whore club." Uhmmm, unprofessional much?
Oh, wait. The whoreclub was where Voldemort kept pieces of his soul, right?
- CASUAL RACISM OF THE WEEK: Gemma, upon being introduced to Sheriff Jarry, responds: "Althea? Guess your folks were hopin' for a black baby." Gemma remains the worst forever.
- Two cops casually slaughtered by Marilyn Manson's white power dudes, just for being cops in a place. Marilyn Manson officially runs the least chill gang in "Sons of Anarchy" history.
- The Lin Triad throwing grenades through the window of the ice cream shop. With all of SAMCRO and the Sheriff sitting inside and talking. Y'know, just for shits and gigs.
- MASSACRE AT DIOSA. The episode ends with the offscreen murder of everyone in Diosa (sex workers and clients) by the Lin Triad. I get that there needs to be some endgame stuff happening and (presumably) all-out gang warfare descending on Charming, but the 20-30 dead bodies at the end of the episode mean zip. Zero. Nada. Just another random batch of corpses to wade through while Nero and Jax look crushed. Things like this don't mean anything if we (okay, I) don't even know the name of the woman who had a crush on Jax, but is now dead. (Gemma even refers to her as "Blondie" in her penultimate scene. I don't think that was her name!)
Things that don't make any sense:
- Gemma gets honked at while dropping Abel off for school. She walks to the woman's car, leans in and threatens her with, "If you honk at me again, I'll shove that coffee cup so far up your ass, you'll be shitting mochaccino for a month." Isn't ... isn't that what happens to mochaccino anyway? Is it ... is it a question of altitude? Is it so high up there that she'll be shitting the SAME one for a month? This is a bad threat, Gemma. Stop it.
- I had a note here of, "oh good, jax romance," which is what they were setting up for the whole episode with the lady from Diosa, with her and Jax having "moments" and her denying she's into him and Gemma giving her "blessing" for them to be together, saying Jax "Needs more than a friend right now." Yes, Gemma. Everyone whose wife has been murdered could really use a good laying. Gemma, ugh.
- The opening credits happened 12 minutes into the episode. God dammit, "Sons of Anarchy."
- When Tig begins revealing he's been staying in touch with Venus, the other Sons talk about how they're "worried" about him. Given what we (and the Sons) have seen from Tig over the past seven years, this makes absolutely no sense and seems like it's just there to give Tig's big moment of the episode more impact. Which was wholly unnecessary! But we'll get to that in a moment.
Actually good things:
- Walton Goggins as Venus. Walton Goggins makes every show better merely by his presence. This is indisputable. Yes, it is problematic to have non-trans* actors playing trans* characters. But (with the exception of some "origin story" subtext) the show's handling of Venus, to date, has been the most forward-thinking, progressive and thoroughly delightful storyline on all of "Sons of Anarchy." Venus forever.
- Tig's fluid sexuality, as mentioned above, has always (or almost always) been a big part of his character. It's one of the things that makes his character likable and unique. Though it's probably unintentional, the character comes across as a subversion of the swinging-dick machismo that the show puts at the forefront; Tig is SO masculine that sexuality and sexual attraction transcends gender or orientation. But I'm probably being too kind; they probably intend for Tig's relationship with Venus to be "edgy" and "funny." I still choose to believe in love.
[writes 10,000-word Tig/Venus fanfic]
- The SAMCRO members know the names of the cops who were killed. A great little incidental detail that gets across what a small town it is, that Charming is SAMCRO's home and that the lives of individuals matter. Too bad none of that translated to the final bloodbath of the episode. It's a shame when they can get things so right and so wrong in the same show. But that pretty much sums up all of "Sons of Anarchy."