This review contains spoilers.
7.9 What A Piece Of Work Is Man
Well, at least something happened.
About halfway through this episode, right around the time Bobby was shot through the head, I muttered to myself ‘finally’. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted Bobby to die (I don’t know why they had to drag out the inevitable so long), but something needed to shift in a big way, something needed to remind us that we are in the final hours of this show and anything can happen, and the best way to do that was probably via the brutal removal of a character who has been a part of the show from the beginning. And it was definitely an effective scene; the fact that the gun was hidden on Bobby and his broken jaw was less an arbitrary act of violence and more to ensure he didn’t give Marks away was a surprisingly clever and plausible set up. There was even a moment of irrational heart-in-mouth tension where I wondered if Kurt Sutter was going to throw us the ultimate curveball and have Marks kill Jax (although in retrospect I am aware that this would have made no sense from a storytelling perspective). The fact that I could plausibly believe this show would be capable of that kind of thing is a good sign, overall.
There were some effective moments elsewhere in the episode as well. Having Unser and Jarry realise that Gemma and Juice were lying was actually a really strong development, and, in the context of Gemma’s poorly-thought-out framing of Lin’s man, it made quite a lot of sense. A sloppy cover up deserves this kind of simple exposure. It was enough of a move forward to make me think ‘hey, this episode actually has some importance in the overall plot’, which is far more than I can say for the rest of this season. For about twenty five minutes, I was relieved and comfortable to sit back and enjoy myself.
But therein lies the problem; Kurt Sutter had clearly decided to step on the accelerator this episode, and for half the running time it really pays off, until Bobby hits the ground and suddenly the writers realise that they’ve burnt through a couple of major developments in a really short period of time. So, within minutes of losing a major, well-liked character, we get to enjoy such classic scenes as Chibs and Jarry having public sex in front of that vaguely threatening looking club member whose name I haven’t bothered to learn. As far as I can tell, the only reason for this happening was to stop Jarry from telling Chibs that the man they killed for Tara’s murder was actually innocent and therefore to avoid forcing the series to address Gemma’s culpability head on before the finale. After all, the moment Jax learns that Dun was innocent, the only logical culprit immediately becomes his mother, the source of the lie. And for a second there it really looked like, in a fit of rage, Jarry would call Chibs to task and inadvertently expose the secret that has been hanging over this season. But instead of satisfying payoff and a killer cliffhanger, we got Jarry demanding that Chibs prove his love by sleeping with her there and then. Aside from the obvious delaying tactic, exactly what was the point of this? It wasn’t funny or titillating; it was just supremely uncomfortable to watch, and honestly, kind of ruined an otherwise strong instalment for me.
While it may have been the worst part of this episode, it wasn’t the only terrible aspect. Does anyone on the planet care about Ratboy and the babysitter? Anyone at all? And I almost had to laugh when the show returned to the oddly specific well of Abel overhearing Gemma’s incriminating confessions. We get that the kid knows grandma is crazy, now can this plot please go somewhere? And as far as August Marks being arrested goes, it just plays like an anticlimactic repeat of what happened with Lin earlier in the season. For the first time in this show the law has suddenly become a convenient deus-ex-machina, and if Juice ever gets out of solitary it looks like he’ll have someone else to kill in prison. That ought to make for more utterly compelling viewing, provided we don’t get another three episodes of him brooding in a cell, contemplating a shiv as if to tell us that he’s losing it and can’t be trusted.
Look, by and large this was a solid episode that was let down by some poor choices in its back half. It’s nice to finally see some forward momentum and have Jax suffer some consequences for his reckless behaviour, but we’re still a way off this feeling like the conclusion of the pulp epic we know and love. That said, compared to where we were this time last week, things are looking up.
Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, A Separation Of Crows, here.
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