[This is a review of Sons of Anarchy season 7, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS]
You can always count on Sons of Anarchy to express the seriousness of a situation through the inherent expendability of its supporting cast.
In that sense, the massacre that takes place (mercifully) off screen in the closing moments of the episode is meant to carry as much propulsive energy as the gruesome, graphic, and unexpected murder of a Deputy Sheriff Cane (LaMonica Garrett) when he and his partner stumble upon Jax and the MC delivering a package of drugs to a bunch of Aryans with itchy trigger fingers.
The Aryans manage to shoot the other cop, too, but mistakenly leave her for dead. That probably spells more trouble for SAMCRO than it does the well-armed members of Tully's crew who are in and out of the episode so fast you're left to wonder whether they were really ever there at all.
The violent episode is even punctuated by a third explosive incident wherein a grenade is thrown through the front window of the MC's ironic downtown clubhouse. Because the only people in the ice cream parlor at the time are prominent members of SAMCRO and Althea Jarry – and they enforce the Hollywood law that no explosion shall kill a person, so long as he or she is diving through the air at the precise moment said detonation occurs – the grenade attack is the only violent encounter that doesn't leave a body count.
To that end, 'Poor Little Lambs' could be characterized by its rapid succession of events, leaving characters off balance to such a degree that any response (or more likely, revenge) will have to be meted out in the next episode.
But really, the episode's most defining characteristic is the way it exudes a certain dreamlike quality. Not the sort of dreamlike state that is defined by a sense of eerie vagueness or that there has somehow been a break from reality. Instead, it's defined by the way the proceedings feel so fragmented, like the fitful sleep of someone whose already full plate is now overflowing with seemingly insurmountable problems.
If last week's 'Playing With Monsters' was busy, then 'Poor Little Lambs' is the television equivalent of a 20-car pileup at rush hour. It can be interesting to watch a show that is intent on making its characters keep as many plates spinning as possible, but when the juggling results in long stretches of dialogue where, let's say, Jax and Tyler explain the plot to one another and reestablish who the sex-crazed reverend is and why he was important, you get the feeling that all the plates are hitting the ground at the same time.
Sure, Jax and Tyler don't have the benefit of watching the "previously on" segment before the episode, but that just means the audience shouldn't have to watch as those two make sure they're talking about the same August Marks, the same housing development, and the same fetishistic reverend who, like Tig, seems to enjoy the company of Walton Goggins' Venus Van Dam.
But thank goodness for Goggins, since it's through the Venus-Tig dynamic that the episode finds its strongest character moment, as Tig's seemingly fluid sexuality is addressed in a manner that is more straightforward and concrete than his ongoing, brotherly-yet-oddly-sexual harassment of Rat Boy.
Now that Tig's involvement with Venus has moved past any alleged off-screen encounters the two may or may not have already shared, or an oblique look at Tig's personal proclivities, it will be interesting to see if the series follows up on the relationship in a way that examines how Tig is perceived by the group.
Jax has already made some faces and surface-level inquiries into what is going on between Tig and Venus, so the question now is: Will it be addressed again in a meaningful way or will it remain a solitary encounter meant to elicit a specific response from the audience, during an episode that occasionally felt like it was all over the place?
Perhaps 'Poor Little Lambs' was deliberately disjointed, as a way to convey to the viewers how the characters themselves were reeling from the rapid-fire events that left so much destruction in their wake. If that's the case, then the slaughter of everyone in Diosa International – especially Kim Dickens' Madame-with-a-heart-of-gold, Colette Jane – is a sterling example of just how confused and misguided the players in this particular death match are, and how every new body that results from it is more blood that Gemma will have to try and wash from her hands.
Sons of Anarchy continues next Tuesday with 'Some Strange Eruption' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX