Sons Of Anarchy season 5 episode 3 review: Laying Pipe

Stu finds Sons Of Anarchy at the top of its game in episode three of its fifth season. Here's his review of Laying Pipe...

This review contains spoilers.

5.3 Laying Pipe

When you’re a career criminal, jail time is an occupational hazard. It isn’t a surprise then, that so many episodes of Sons of Anarchy take place in jail. This week, we spend most of our time behind bars with Jax, Tig, Chibs and Opie. There’s time to check in with everyone else, but the biggest talking point is what took place in the prison.

Firstly, I have to say that I take it all back. Sons of Anarchy hasn’t lost its way at all. Kurt Sutter has given us a fantastic episode that grabbed hold from the first minute and didn’t let go until 46 minutes later.

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In this episode we get to see how far Pope’s reach goes when he manages to set up a meeting with Jax within one of the offices in the prison. He lays down his terms succinctly: in order for the charges to be dropped, Pope wants half of the money coming from the drug muling, and in return for the dead Niner and police officer, he wants a dead Son, and Tig to remain in prison forever. Naturally, Jax doesn’t want to do this but he’s hardly in any position to negotiate, or not at first anyway.

I have to say that I truly didn’t see Opie’s death coming. Opie has been one of my favourite characters since series one. It was the fact that for a behemoth of a man, he had such sad eyes. Nothing ever really seemed to go right for poor Opie, and I had always hoped that he would turn it around. One of the wardens had allowed the Sons to choose between themselves which one of them would die, and after much deliberation Opie kind of chose himself. I say he chose himself, but really he just hit a guard and was thrown into a room and then eventually beaten in the back of the skull with a length of pipe. It is every bit as grim as it sounds, and the excellent direction in this scene really works, particularly with the constant cuts back to Jax pounding on the glass in the adjacent room screaming for Opie. 

Killing off one of the main characters so early in the series was a really brave move by Sutter and co. The fact that writers tend not to like killing off characters mid-series (preferring to leave it for the finale or penultimate episode when far more people are watching) makes a lot of television feel too safe nowadays and it’s good to see that Sutter is making Sons of Anarchy feel dangerous again. It is rather disappointing that Opie died without getting to settle the score with Clay, but then it was Clay’s fault that Opie was in jail to begin with as he had told him that he had best stay close to Jax.

Pope shows a little compassion following Opie’s death, allowing Jax to alter their terms slightly and temporarily release Tig.  However when Jax tells Tig he is free on condition that he never votes against Jax again, he doesn’t mention that the release is temporary. It’s hard to say what Jax’s motives are at the moment, maybe Tig’s latest rampage was his last. It’s difficult to imagine Tig remaining in the show after the end of this series, he has fallen too far and if anyone is killed off at the end it will surely be him.

Believe it or not, there are other things that happen in this episode, but they are definitely overshadowed by Opie’s death.  The dispute between Gemma and Tara continues, with Gemma trying to manipulate Tara by bringing in Jax’s first wife, Wendy (is it just me, or is it really hard to think of her as anyone but Adriana from The Sopranos?). Tara is smart and doesn’t fall for it. We’re back to seeing Tara at her best this series, and she has had some great comebacks to whatever Gemma throws at her.

Elsewhere, Clay manipulates Juice into taking him to Nero’s place of work, so now he knows that Gemma is dating Nero.  Clay also takes some time to “sample” some of Nero’s “wares”, however when Gemma finds him with a prostitute she gives the girl quite a fierce beating. Whether Gemma’s angry because she was with Clay or because Clay found her out, it’s hard to say, but shortly after this happens, the place is raided by the police, which brings us to the end of the episode.

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It was great to see Sons of Anarchy back on form this week with a brilliant turn from Kurt Sutter. I’m sorry I had lost my faith last week, Sons of Anarchy is definitely not short on ideas and I can’t wait to see what happens next week.

Read Stu’s review of the previous episode, Authority Vested, here.

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