At the end of 'Toad's Wild Ride,' it seemed as though things on Sons of Anarchy were very much up in the air (and that's actually in addition to Gemma (Katey Sagal) driving her Cadillac off the road and into a tree). But really it's in reference to all the scheming that keeps the plots going forward. If nothing else, the show does love some scheming. It has built a solid foundation on the endless plotting of its principles, and as the story turns toward the final five episodes of season 5, the real machinations start to emerge.
As is the case more often than not, there are a few complications, but by and large, 'Ablation' is the season's episode where everything that was up in the air begins to fall into place (at least until a twist ending reveals nothing is as it seems). Last week, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) confronted Clay (Ron Perlman) about his involvement in the Charming home invasions, to which Clay responded in the manner that best suits him. At the time, it was surprising that Jax would be on to Clay at that point in the season, and now, it's even more interesting that he's putting a plan in place to effectively take him out – though leaving it up to a club vote feels a lot like leaving the backdoor open.
To that end, in the sage-like words of one Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits), Jax needs to "accelerate the endgame." Of course, Nero's talking about Jax's big plan to move SAMCRO away from cocaine and guns, but, in a way, it's sort of lighting the fire under Jax that's needed to be lit since season 1 – or at least pointing out Jax's apparent lack of fire.
The main concern for 'Ablation,' however, was how and, if – considering the series' past history with such things – Jax would deal with the situation once the truth that Gemma was driving while stoned came out. However unlikely, the whole event initially plays right into Clay's plan. In being there to guide Gemma through yet another lie – telling Jax that his mother and children were attacked on the same evening he was – he conveniently deflects suspicion away from himself and flings the club's aggression toward Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau). For a brief moment, it also appeared as though Gemma's brush with death would bring her right back into Clay's arms – at least it gave the old man an opening to try and shoo Nero away from his stuff. Clever as Clay is, though, he's been known to coast when victory appears in sight; and as he does, holes immediately begin to appear in Gemma's cover story.
But first, the MC has to deal with the two guys who shot at Jax and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan), and thanks to the hands that were sent to Unser (Dayton Callie) and Pope, the club has a good lead on the identity of the second guy. With little effort, the Sons corner him on a rooftop, coerce a confession out of him that includes the name Frankie Diamonds (Chuck Zito) and an assurance that no one went after Jax's mom and boys. As a thank you, Jax puts a few slugs in they guy's belly and lets him fall from said rooftop for good measure.
It doesn't take the Sons long to get onto Frankie Diamond either – or perhaps that's the other way around. Jax, Chibs and Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) respond to a call from Nero and wind up walking in on Frankie holding him and Lyla (Winter Ave Zoli) hostage and demanding money. Frankie spills all the info on Clay, before Nero, being the nice guy that he is, offers Frankie $130k and few nice watches in exchange for leaving quietly – which seems to do the trick as long as you don't count taking Chibs as a getaway driver and shooting Lyla in the leg as some sort of violation of their agreement. Jax explains to an understandably perturbed Nero this is a club thing (meaning Clay) and he shouldn't worry about it. But Nero points out they're partners now, and this kind of thing always blows back on everyone (meaning him, but more importantly, Tara and the kids).
Armed with the truth from Nero, Jax confronts Gemma about the crash by basically handing the reins over to his wife, which actually seems fair considering everything Tara (Maggie Siff) has suffered on account of her mother-in-law. In a way, this brings the whole storyline of Gemma's downward spiral to a close. She's ostensibly scared straight – at least enough to be doing some knitting at Nero's, instead of getting picked up in a bar by Joel McHale – and given her response, she seems to understand the irrevocability of what her actions have caused. There's a reality to her situation that, in a really frightening way, Jax twists to gain the upper hand in this sordid mess. Gemma's a time bomb, but the only thing keeping her from going off has always been her family. By going to Clay and reminding him that a Gemma without family is a mess no one wants to clean up, he's effectively put himself in the driver's seat.
But there's something so sordid and merciless about Jax's plan that the whole time we thought he'd been picking up ideas from Nero, it feels more like Jax was taking notes on Pope. It's a reveal of a new Jax almost; it's the full manifestation of the fearsome man we saw in 'Small World.' One who gives his mother the choice between a life spent in the company of "hookers and bangers," and one spent with the family that means everything to her. And yet the most spiteful aspect of Jax's plan is that either way, it could be a death sentence for his mother. After all, he's effectively sending Gemma into the lion's den – especially with Clay knowing about the RICO case now.
Somehow, this doesn't seem to be what Nero meant when he suggested accelerating the endgame.
Sons of Anarchy continues next Tuesday with 'Andare Pescare' @10pm on FX.