There's a moment in 'Small World' where the characterization of Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) takes a disturbing turn for the worse that's no doubt tied to his state of mind over the loss of Opie (Ryan Hurst). Sons of Anarchy has us questioning whether Jax is basically a good guy compelled to do some really bad things for the sake of who and what he cares about, or someone who's ventured too far down the road to ruin to turn back now. There's the Jax who internalizes the disappointing reminder that choices in his life have him collecting body parts, so a Disney-fied hooker can keep hooking, and then there's the Jax who almost happily shrugs off the cold blooded murder of a bystander as "collateral damage."
And the amount of collateral damage that accumulates in 'Small World' is considerable.
Obviously, Jax was going to have to deal with the guard who helped orchestrate the gladiator-like event that ended Opie's life, but the information that allows him to do so comes from a rather surprising source by the name of Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau). The show is doing its best to make Pope as different from any obstacle the club has ever faced as possible. Unlike other adversaries, Pope is astronomically powerful, and the easiest way to illustrate the breadth of Pope's power is the effortlessness manner in which he wields it. At one point during his conversation with Jax, Pope flat out tells him, "there is no risk" – that's about as alluring a statement one criminal can make to another as possible. And though Pope's offer to have SAMCRO run more drugs for the cartel – in exchange for dropping the club's debt to him, while adding a hefty profit on top – seems like a win, Jax's willingness to get involved is troubling.
It's as disconcerting as the merciless manner in which he beats a man to death with the world's most impressively built snow globe. There's no question the prison guard had to go, but Jax's ferocity in the moment, coupled with his apathy of Tig (Kim Coates) shooting the man's wife. The murders and the business deal could be related to Jax's current disposition – which if it got any bleaker would certainly be an interesting avenue for this series to explore – but chances are, the two events are simply business and pleasure. Especially if you consider the deal with Pope to be a part of Jax's elaborate plan to get the club out of the jam it's been in since the end of season 4.
If Jax is again in the midst of some highly structured manipulation of his enemies, that won't be anything new, but the effect his keeping it a secret (if he even is) will have on his presidency could be the most meaningful bit to come from whatever it is Jax has up his sleeve. As seen in the way the club was divided on the Pope deal, the challenge of internal strife is clearly on the horizon.
Whether or not that's something Clay (Ron Perlman) was counting on by orchestrating the home invasions that have recently plagued Charming is the question, but for now he has to deal with the fact that Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) is personally gunning for the MC. In keeping with the episode's theme of collateral damage, Roosevelt's wife, Rita (Merle Dandridge), dies in the hospital from the injury she sustained when Clay's goon squad stormed her house. Everyone probably saw Clay playing some role in the invasions, as far back as the season premiere, so that's not much of a surprise, but the lengths to which he's gone to throw folks off the trail is. Having been given an almost clean bill of health from his doctor, Clay puts his (now unnecessary) oxygen tank back on and tells Juice (Theo Rossi) things aren't looking too hot for him medically. Whether this is a power play and a way to make things more complicated for Jax, or a means by which Clay intends to keep the heat off when the law eventually catches up with the knuckleheads he has working for him is unclear, but between Roosevelt and Unser (Dayton Callie) sniffing around, Clay's plan might have to come to fruition much sooner.
In that regard, Unser makes it clear to Clay he's more or less put the pieces together, and from the looks of it, may be taking the Piney exit in the next episode. If that goes down, it'd be too bad because the thought of him and Roosevelt teaming up in a buddy cop sort of way, to take down Clay's gang, would make for some amazing spin-off material.
That leads to the episode's two weakest points, which, of course, both involve Gemma (Katey Sagal). On one hand, Unser is scolding her for apparently leading him on and then getting involved with Nero (Jimmy Smits), while on the other hand, Gemma and Nero are briefly held hostage by Carla (Wanda De Jesus), who then kills herself in front of them. We're told that Carla was Nero's half-sister, who was also in love with him, but that information comes after she's already dead, and the shock of her shooting herself has largely passed. Since she was such a nominal character to begin with, it's clear her role will be larger in death than it ever was in life. Considering Clay's quiet underhandedness this season, having him dispose of the body was likely a mistake – especially since it concerns the dude who's currently sleeping with his former old lady. Who wants to take a bet that Carla's body is part of the plan Clay has to get Nero out of the picture with Gemma?
Finally, there's the question of what Tara (Maggie Siff) is going to do with the whole Otto (Kurt Sutter) situation, since it seems he's not exactly eager to recant his testimony regarding the RICO case against the club. There's some tension in her not telling Jax everything about her encounter with Otto, so the question becomes how far is she willing to go to protect her husband and the club from prosecution?
Sons of Anarchy continues next Tuesday with 'Toad's Wild Ride' @10pm on FX. You can check out a preview for the episode below: