This review contains spoilers.
6.7 Sweet and Vaded
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, SAMCRO is on its way to hopefully rebuilding its clubhouse, its image and its identity. One of the core themes of Sons of Anarchy has always been about the importance of being initiated into a group. This initiation is supposed to give one’s life some sort of meaning and purpose. Ideally, membership in SAMCRO is special because with it comes the expectation that you have earned your place at the table, amongst your family, and in the world. This is the great hope of SAMCRO, and not only is it the ideal that Jax is always trying to get the club to live up to, it is also the ideal that despite everything, makes them at least in some way very admirable.
America is similarly idealised as the land of endless opportunity where, despite class differences, anyone who is willing to work hard can overcome obstacles and become a success. This beautiful ideal is played up so much in Hollywood and US programming that it’s almost accepted as a cultural fact over here. However, class mobility does not occur with anything close to this sort of frequency in America and this noble ideal is more often than not just a myth. In a society that values materialistic goods, what happens to the spiritual soul of its inhabitants? Arguably this is the very reason that a club like SAMCRO exists in the first place. When we combine this idea with the numerous references to Christianity that constantly pop up in the show, perhaps Kurt Sutter and his writers are making a comment about a spiritual emptiness that exists not only in the US but in all societies. Perhaps it is a lack of a meaningful religious or spiritual connections to each other that is the true tragedy of modern times.
The return of Mayor Jacob Hale this week further cements this idea into our minds as viewers. Hale is worn out and his Charming Heights project is still on hold. We see Charming in the midst of an economic decline and the beloved mayor who pretends to be helpless is called out by Bobby, the ultimate soothsayer, who says in regards to the empty storefronts that “This block is half empty because your buying them all out for fifty cents on the dollar. The economic destruction of Charming and the failure of politicians to pull us out from this because they were busy trying to line their own pockets is of course an indictment of the very worst aspects of any political system. This inability to act is also what make us continue to root for SAMCRO, especially under Jax’s leadership, because these men have convictions and will fight for them.
Sons of Anarchy has done an excellent job over the last three weeks of reestablishing our connection with these anti-heroes and like many of the classic heroes of so many western tales, these outlaws live by a moral code (albeit a distorted one) that is at the very least admirable. Furthermore, like the western heroes of yesterday, these men were almost always presented as being part of the very landscape that they were inhabiting and particularly in this week’s episode, our beloved bikers were pictured in the main strip of Charming for the first time in quite a while. This was an interesting connection that to me proves that good, bad or indifferent, SAMCRO will always be a part of Charming.
Additionally, with the biblical references I do not think it’s too much of a stretch to be reminded of The Last Supper this week when Jax was at the head of his new table. Could this again be a subtle clue that Jax is running out of time? Either way, we were given an answer to the question I posed last week as to who will fulfil the role of Judas. Everybody who had their money on Tara, congratulations, because you’ve won the Judas sweepstakes. The fact that Tara betrayed Jax is not the shock, but how she manipulated everybody and got Jax to sign his own restraining order is the stuff of legend. (Even Kay in The Godfather Part II was not this devious when she confronted Michael.)
I must admit that I was ready to cheer when Tara called Gemma “You old whore.” The showdown between Tara and Gemma, which has been brewing since the first episode of the series, has now been set along its final path. Apparently the way to outsmart Gemma is to fake an abortion. So Tara was not pregnant all along and it was all part of an elaborate ruse to make Gemma become the one thing that Jax cannot forgive and that is of course a person who would consciously hurt his children. Talk about knowing how to manipulate someone. In her supposed moment of need, Tara convinces Jax that he is signing a restraining order against Gemma when it is in fact against himself. Wow! Who knew that Tara had it in her to stoop to that level and be able to outsmart everybody with her plan. Give credit to the creative crew here because before this scene, we had just witnessed Jax confronted with the idea that his father abandoned him as well as with the fact that he could be a bad father. We see very clearly that Jax would rather kill someone then allow them to put these ideas into his head. Now how is going to react to his mother killing his unborn daughter? Tara really put together a truly brilliant and exceptionally heinous plan that can only shake Jax’s foundational core beyond a place that he can come back from when he finds out the truth. A descent into madness indeed by Tara, who is putting a new spin on the classic tale of Ophelia’s demise in Hamlet.
Naturally as this is Sons of Anarchy, we experience some truly reprehensible behavior from the family of the most interesting transgender character on television. Venus “The Southern Belle Who Does Not Tell” experienced sexual confusion as a child and as such her mother – played disturbingly well by the underrated and geek-favourite Adrienne Barbeau (Back To School, and the amazing Carnivale) – essentially raped Venus and then profited from these disturbing trysts by selling them to other degenerates. Venus was put into the child pornography business. Tragically, many people like Venus who were abused in their adolescence find their way into prostitution and other questionable business endeavors and this epidemic remains all too present in an otherwise civilized society.
This all ties in very strongly to the idea of the sublime. This is the idea of beauty and pain being linked together, with something horrible lurking underneath something beautiful. A Freudian theme that is usually on display in anything that the great David Lynch touches, the sublime has in some way always been a part of Sons of Anarchy, with SAMCRO representing the criminal underworld of the otherwise aptly named town of “Charming” California. However, rather then being a simple look into the seedy underbelly of American society, every concept or theme in Sons of Anarchy is carefully put there by the writers to connect to the larger story arc. Arguably, Venus’ mother has one of the most important monologues in the entire series because her hatred of her son allows her to release a flurry of awful words about how Venus’ son will hate the lies and the life he was forced into. Before she can finish ripping Venus apart with her awful tongue, we see a teary eyed Jax blow her away. Her last words are “The awful thing that turned out to be his fath…” This, besides being painfully disturbing, brings Jax’s issues with his dad’s abandonment back to the forefront and it also remind sue about his own conflicted relationship with his sons. In many ways Jax has always been searching for a father figure.
Lastly, there is no other show I’ve seen that consistently uses music as a storytelling device as well as Sons of Anarchy does. This week’s ending aided beautifully by Joshua James and his song Crash This Train, added a haunting touch to the shocking conclusion. Its lyrics are about people coming together in the face of a great adversity that the society that they live in places before them and clearly this episode had that theme at its core. The tragedy to me is that if we could work together then a lot of our problems could go away and a better life could await us. Yet betrayal lurks at every corner and the people that we sometimes love and trust the most are the very ones that have the most power to destroy us. Powerful themes, from a powerful show and another episode that proves that there are shows that may be as good as Sons of Anarchy, but none that are better. This was one of my all-time favorite Sons of Anarchy endings. Just exceptionally well done all around.
Read Matthew’s review of the previous episode, Salvage, here.
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