[This is a review of Sons of Anarchy season 7, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
There are two important moments nestled among the cycle of violence, vengeance, and blowback that permeates this episode of Sons of Anarchy. Neither moment has much to do directly with Charming's "worst massacre ever," which took place at the end of last week's 'Poor Little Lambs.' Instead that incident, and the show's interest in the gravity of a dozen people (mostly women) being murdered is underlined early on with gratuitous shots of Colette's face as police and members of SAMCRO walk past her dead body.
The result, then, is that these two key moments are intended to show the jet-black morality of the show's characters; one spells it out and one uses it to push the plot forward.
The moments in question are, of course, Althea Jarry's explanation to Chibs as to why she's a dirty cop (but totally not really dirty, because it's all in the pursuit of justice, right?) and the other is Gemma's impromptu plan to kill the reactionary nitwit known as Juice, which somehow blows up in her face and leaves her completely at his mercy. Both sequences are basically moments of bad people justifying the bad things they do, because they ultimately serve something much larger than themselves.
But whether it's the well-being of an entire town like Charming or a motorcycle club like the Sons on the line, both Jarry and Gemma seem to have, in this instance, done what comes naturally to them in terms of the needs of the situation. The kicker is that both find themselves surprised by variables that were otherwise plain as day.
Whatever connection Althea has developed with Chibs, it should at least come with her understanding his brother-first tendencies, thereby negating any need to spell out why she'll take a bribe and still refuse to look the other way. All in all, though, the brief rough patch in the Althea-Chibs dynamic seems pretty understandable.
Gemma's handling of Juice, on the other hand, is slightly more baffling. If she was comfortable with killing him after he'd foolishly murdered a motel manager in cold blood, then why go to such lengths to keep him alive and safe from Jax at all? The point being: Juice was never not a liability – especially as her culpability in Tara's death is concerned – so the idea that Gemma would go out of her way to protect someone she could just as easily kill and further protect herself in the process – which is exactly what she planned to do here – rings a little false.
But beyond Gemma's sticky situation with Juice and her overall deception of everyone she loves, there are storm clouds on the horizon hinting at bloodier, divisive action between the club, its allies, and its many enemies. Because of that, 'Some Strange Eruption' has to first generate a reaffirmation of the familial bonds keeping all theses people together before questions of loyalty and allegiance can even be asked.
As far the matter at hand is concerned, the massacre at Diosa means it's time for the bi-weekly SAMCRO Circling of the Wagons Event. And while that gives everyone a chance to have a good platonic hug and therapeutic cry, it also gives Jax an opportunity to speak with Abel about why everyone is reacting the way that they are, which brings the episode to a screeching halt.
While there are benefits to seeing Jax interact with his child, they are ultimately offset by how emotionally unsuccessful much of the father-son interplay feels. Despite their intended weight, the Abel-centric scenes come across a little sparse on the emotional side of things, a problem that is in no way helped when the young actor (through no fault of his own) is tasked with wielding a hammer while reciting dialogue.
Thankfully, much of the episode is more concerned with Jax's potentially fatal confrontation with Lin, which also pulls Nero into the fray and suggests his tenuous bond with the MC may be in trouble. As with Jax's reaction to the Diosa massacre, the showdown with Lin isn't about assessing the value of the lives that were (or could be) lost, but about immediately enacting revenge through another twisty plot device that leaves Jax's antagonists looking like fools.
On the bright side, Lin's pummeling and subsequent arrest reads like a comment on the nature of greed and how it corrupts people to the point that they can no longer think straight, and as such become bumbling morons who are easily cowed into believing the enemy in front of them is their friend (or at least a temporary asset).
But at the end of the day, this is the same kind of stuff that the show has presented over and over again. This cycle of violence and retribution, long cons and eleventh-hour saves has been done so often that by the time the line "tired of the fight" is uttered,it means as much for the audience as it does the characters.
Still, 'Some Strange Eruption' makes up for its sense of familiarity by pushing the Juice-Gemma situation to an actual confrontation. Structurally speaking, this moment was set in stone when Juice killed Roosevelt last season, effectively sealing his fate by tying it to Gemma. In that same structural sense, however, at episode 5 of thirteen, Juice's hands are ostensibly tied.
But if it manages to connect Jax's storyline to Gemma's in a more meaningful way, then it will all be worth it.
Sons of Anarchy will continue next Tuesday with 'Smoke 'em If You Got 'em' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Michael Becker & Prashant Gupta/FX