This review contains spoilers.
It is absurdly poignant that this episode opens up with Jax examining the wreckage of the clubhouse with an instrumental version of John The Revelator being played. This song was used in the montage sequence of the season one finale. It was at that moment that Jax fully realized that his father ‘John’ was trying to warn him from beyond the grave that the club was heading down the wrong path. Additionally, it was Piney who handed Jax the manuscript and told him that it was time for a change. What a perfect way to start off this instalment after the attack by the IRA, setting up the fact that the club is once again in need of a serious change. We also have Jax finally accepting some personal responsibility and realizing that he needs his brothers.
Arguably, what he have here is Jax realizing that a dictatorship is not the way to successfully run any type of organization and him hopefully accepting the fact that through democracy the club can survive. This idea is made all the more apparent when we get to the Irish King’s explanation about the attempted murder of the Redwood charter. Galen, who seems to be getting almost all of the best lines lately says “I don’t give a shit about your democracy.” This is important coming from Galen because not only is he part of an organization that is undemocratic he is also connected to to the idea of European Aristocracy. I would also argue that it is possible that the IRA angle this season is at the forefront to help us begin to think about how a democracy can survive when confronted by external pressures from outside forces that it has never dealt with before. It is worth mentioning that in America after the horrific and tragic events of September 11th many Americans began to feel a sense of fear that they did not exactly know how to articulate. As such, many Americans wondered how our democracy could withstand such a catastrophic event. To me Kurt Sutter is at least able to capture part of the American psyche and portray these fears on screen in a very meaningful and impactful way that few other shows – The Walking Dead, which has such themes are at the forefront, excepted – have been able to do.
Over the course of the show, Jax has consistently believed that he can pull himself and his club out of any situation that they are confronted with. Moreover, Jax continues to buy into the myth that the club is some sort of larger-than-life entity that can literally withstand any attack whether it be internal or external. Now it seems that the biggest threat to SAMCRO may be an internal one as Tara has a chance to sell out Jax. With the abundant number of biblical references this season, it is not surprising that a Judas character was gong to emerge. Thankfully Bobby has been cleared of that role, and Tara may now be filling it, though the clip from next week’s episode makes it seem like Nero is going to ponder that idea. This would at the very least set up the showdown I am confident is coming between him and Jax. Then again, should anyone really ever let their guard down around Clay? This theme of internal betrayal would work well because Jax continues to miss the very simple fact that SAMCRO taints the lives of everyone around them. As such, Jax’s hubris and naive belief in the club is not allowing him to see the internal enemies that are conspiring against him.
On that note, Tara seems to be one of the only characters on the show who realizes just how dangerous an association with the club can be. She reminds me of one of the most fascinating aspects of the show, the conflict between the perceived ‘coolness’ of the biker lifestyle with the utter turmoil and destruction that SAMCRO causes on an almost daily basis. These men have chosen to participate in a violent life and Kurt Sutter has done a brilliant job of constantly reminding us that in the world of Sons of Anarchy, violence is everywhere. (It was interesting that the popular early nineties video game Lethal Enforcers was captured on camera this week, perhaps to once again remind us that the school shooting is still on everybody’s minds as well as the fact that perhaps a violent culture can breed violent behaviour.)
Tara has undergone the most dramatic character transformation thus far in season six because she is able to realize that there is no way out of this violent cycle. She is also smart enough to realize that selling out Jax to the District Attorney would not be an easy choice to make and although she may accept some sort of a deal it will not be one that she will make easily. She also has a great line in this week’s episode in which she questions whether the violence is getting worse or if her ability to take it in stride is getting better. When violence becomes commonplace what does that say about us? To make our weekly connection to Hamlet, it seems that Gemma may be descending into madness quicker then Queen Gertrude and Ophelia combined. Consider that last week alone she was forced to have sex with Clay, in front of two exceptionally disturbing prison guards, then has Nero ripped away from her and is then sent back into the prison by Jax to meet with Clay again. Even for Gemma that is a lot to deal with and one can only assume that when it is all said and done Gemma’s tough exterior will melt away into nothing.
This week also had the return of the southern belle who does not tell. At first this character’s appearance was meant to signal some comic relief however, after we find out that Venus was beaten, we get a back story about how Nero was the one person who was always willing to help. So we are once again reminded that Nero does have a strong, if at times misguided, sense of morality.
The most important moment of this episode for me was the extended monologue that Jax gives to his fellow brothers that is supposed to act as a wake up call for the club to move out of guns and to go back on the path that JT had originally laid out for them. Jax brings up how hurt he was by Opie’s death and how the club is at a crossroads. However, the seeming triumph of this scene to me is underpinned by Jax’s inability to see the irony in the idea of outlaws becoming “legitimate.” Whenever gangsters use the term “legitimate” in the world of fictional Hollywood cinema they are usually doomed and in American based television shows this trend also seems to be true more often then not. Like Michael Corleone tried and failed to do in The Godfather series, and like the great Stringer Bell tried to do in HBO’s utterly brilliant The Wire, successful gangsters who try to turn their operations into “legitimate” enterprises either fail or lose everything that they wanted to maintain in the first place. These gangsters seem to have a fascination with becoming legitimate business men and fail to realize that they will never be a part of that world no matter what they do. This move to “legitimacy” winds up destroying them, and ends up as the real fantasy.
To sum up this week’s episode, I feel that this was the calm before the storm. If we’ve learned anything from watching Sons of Anarchy it is that when things seem to be working out and everything seems to be calming down, there is usually trouble ahead.
Incidentally, this episode also featured a brand new Pearl Jam song called Mind Your Manners from their album Lightning Bolt, released this week, which is worth mentioning because Pearl Jam is usually a band who don’t become involved in cross-promotional antics like this and clearly Sons of Anarchy is becoming a great outlet for musicians to sell their music because the show does a great job of incorporating songs into the show’s overall structure.
Read Matthew’s review of the previous episode, The Mad King, here.
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