[This is a review of Sons of Anarchy season 7, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
So, Jax has been alerted to the notion that Tara's death was not the result of his feud with Lin and the Chinese, but rather something much, much worse.
As expected, Sons of Anarchy delivers the news via his son, after Jax reveals to the confused child that Wendy is, in fact, his biological mother. This comes after Nero's spur-of-the-moment psychological analysis that Abel was hurting himself and blaming it on Gemma as way to bring Tara back, which means Jax is attempting to fix the issue of his child's grief and anger by replacing that which he is angry and grief-stricken over.
Now, it's understandable that a father would do anything in his power to make his kid stop hurting, and from what we've seen of Jax, this sort of quick-fix strategy is right up his alley. Jax must be thinking, "What kid wouldn't want a new mommy after his was brutally murdered?" Good thing dad has one in his back pocket for such an occasion.
For Jax, this is the emotional, child-friendly version of killing what's hurting his son. Jax doesn’t really do anything other than kill people these days, so why not make Wendy the symbolic bullet he can put into the head of Abel's unpleasant emotions? Father of the Year Award, meet Jackson Teller; the two of you are going to get along great.
On the plus side, this is one of the few times this season that a conversation has resulted in something significant. And despite the moment between father and son feeling overly telegraphed, at least the conversation gets the series headed in the general direction of where it needed to be going since the season premiere. But the sense that Sons of Anarchy has finally found its bearings comes far too late. Moreover, it does nothing to keep 'Faith and Despondency' from being the worst episode of what has already been an incredibly disappointing season.
For starters, 'Faith and Despondency' is much too long, which only exacerbates the already pronounced pacing problems felt in every overstuffed episode that's previously aired. But this installment is roughly ten minutes longer than anything that's come before it, turning this 70-minute showcase of sex and violence into an agonizing journey into misery.
Things get off to an inauspicious start when the sex-filled montage – complete with Gemma and Juice wearing the same dead-eyed expression – culminates with Jax breaking down in post-coital tears with Winsome, the prostitute he and Nero "rescued" from 'Greensleeves.'
The moment is about as hackneyed and laughable as any supposedly sincere moment on this show, since it, too, is delivered without a shred of self-consciousness. And because of that, it becomes ridiculous on any number of the show's absurdly mournful levels. The least of which is the unsuccessful attempt to bring the story back around to Tara's murder, while simultaneously making it appear as though Jax regards his wife's death as anything other than an excuse to kill more people.
The fact that he starts crying after the act, and later resumes his macho persona at the Diosa bar with Nero and Rat, says more about the show's views on masculinity than it does Jax's ability to feel feelings and/or cope with grief. Such an examination of the male ego might have proven interesting, but as with the school shooting in season 6, Sons of Anarchy is so concerned with putting as much death onscreen as possible that it can't be bothered to actually engage in any conversations it starts.
Mostly, though, the episode fails because, despite copious amounts of gunplay and death at its disposal, there's no sense of urgency. Sure, T.O. and Rat wind up in the clutches of Moses and his dreaded grapefruit spoon, but there's really nothing at stake when it comes to either character, much less the preacher's wife and her son. They're not really important outside their role as plot devices. If anything, losing them would only result in never having to hear Jax tell someone to trust him ever again.
Instead, the build up to Moses inflicting more damage on the club is reduced to yet another classic Jackson Teller Double Cross, and yet another repugnant scene of unadulterated violence that winds up being played for laughs. This one just happens to be made even more repulsive by the fact that a bunch of white supremacists play a part in killing a group of black men.
What it all comes down to is the problem that's been plaguing the season from the get-go. With the confrontation between Jax and Gemma being the primary thrust of the narrative, there is barely enough engaging story to comprise a single episode, much less 13 of them. The series could have used that time (and the extra time FX is clearly affording it) to explore its characters lives, but even those moments, like the scenes between Chibs and Althea, or Tig and Venus, lean too heavily on caricature or mawkishness to be emotionally effective.
In the end, after seven seasons worth of stories, it seems no matter what Sons of Anarchy does or what emotion it is aiming for, it winds up feeling pointlessly nihilistic. That might be in keeping with the series' tone, but it doesn't make for very compelling television.
Sons of Anarchy continues next Tuesday with 'Suits of Woe' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX
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