[This is a review of Sons of Anarchy season 7, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
After the last two episodes spent a great deal of time depicting drawn-out exchanges and despicable actions, resulting in piles of dead bodies, Sons of Anarchy seems ready to create a more personal sense of urgency. The only trouble is, it happens in the closing moments of 'Greensleeves,' which means nearly 90 minutes go by before August Marks' head of security delivers a package containing: Bobby's patches, a tablet device with a video of Bobby having his eye cut out, and a Tupperware containing his eye. But hey, free tablet, right?
There's no doubt that's an incredibly disturbing way to end the episode. And by positioning Marks as the next obstacle in Jax's never-ending cycle of violence, it even manages to deliver some tension that's been largely absent from this season. But it does very little to justify the various inconsequential things that fill the time between the "previously on" segment and the moment Bobby is seen growling on camera.
Perhaps what happens to Bobby is not only intended to be payback from one of Jax's enemies for all the nasty stuff he's been up to this season; maybe it's supposed to make the audience think twice about rooting for a guy whose actions have resulted in so much pain and death. What makes it worse is that, right now, all of Jax's actions are the result of a lie (and the unfortunate fact that SAMCRO doesn't have the funding for a proper fact-checking department). When (and if) he figures out the truth, there's going to be some dire consequences and one undoubtedly intense moment between mother and son. Until then, the concern is that the threat of August Marks may be bloody and it may be brutal, but it's going to be pretty much the same filler as everything else.
That also goes for whatever inexplicably complicated thing Juice is asked to do. This time around, after letting Gemma go (for no reason that the audience is ever made explicitly aware of), then spending the day robbing a gas station and trying to sell club secrets to the Mayans in exchange for passage to Mexico, he's seemingly let go by Jax. Clearly the scene is supposed to be a little shocking and somewhat confusing, but since this series has made every effort possible to obfuscate Jax's plans in favor of a big reveal, the twist being that Juice willingly allows himself to be arrested, so he can kill Lin, doesn't hold much in terms of dramatic weight.
So what's really at stake? Chibs mentions that the only thing Juice wants is to be a part of the club again. Does this mean Jax made a promise to let him back in, provided he disposes of Lin and survives his time in jail? Probably. But what makes Juice think anyone in SAMCRO is going to keep their word, or hold Jax to his, for that matter? If Juice is basically on a suicide mission and he knows he'll get the honor of dying as a Son, then at least there's a compelling endgame for the character that would would also make for a nice thematic statement regarding SAMCRO. If not, and Juice were to somehow get out of jail after completing his task, what's to stop Gemma from doing whatever it takes to keep her secret?
There are plenty of questions about Juice, but none of them come close to answering why he's still holding on to what he knows about the Tara/Roosevelt murders. Certainly, he's an integral part of the puzzle that will (potentially) play a key role in the big moment the series has been leading up to, but right now the character's arc just feels like its treading water.
The same goes for the detour Jax takes to kill a smarmy pimp who goes by the name Greensleeves – which is relevant only because Katey Sagal sings the song 'Greensleeves' over the obligatory montage sequence at the end. This manages to keep SAMCRO busy for the better part of 90-minutes, but what does throwing a pimp through a window tell us about Jax that we don't already know? He's always been prone to violent outbursts, and although his actions this season are fueled primarily by his need for vengeance, there's nothing here to distinguish this act of aggression from any other. If Jax is supposed to be unraveling, that could be interesting. Right now, though, it just feels like killing for the sake of killing.
In a way, the same can be said for Gemma, whose struggle with guilt and the need to keep her family together doesn't seem to differ much from how she's been depicted before. At least here, the fear that Jax knows comes through by her breaking down and confessing everything to a child whose whole world consists of a playpen and a cracker. Naturally, Abel overhears, which means there are now three children who know Gemma murdered Tara.
With the episode closing on Abel lying awake in his bed, the question, then, becomes: Is the story of Sons of Anarchy really going to hinge on who will tattle on grandma/Gemma first?
Sons of Anarchy will continue next Tuesday with 'The Separation of Crows' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Prashant Gupta/FX