Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sons of Anarchy 2.13 'Na Triobloidi'

‘Na Triobloidi’ the Sons of Anarchy season 2 finale was a gripping ride for its entire feature length running time. But even with that extension there was so much going on and for you to take in that it still felt like there was stuff they had to leave out and/or cut down.

All season long, and in fact all series long, Kurt Sutter and the team behind the show have done a first-rate job of slowly building towards a visceral crescendos.

That said, as a stand-alone season finale ‘Na Triobloidi’ wasn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen; but when you take it as the climax to everything we’ve seen go before it, this was a superb way to end the season and you were left with emotions running wild.

There is so much to recap I really don’t know where to begin, so let’s start right at the beginning.

This was only creator Kurt Sutter’s second proper directorial gig after last season’s finale ‘The Revelator’ (he also directed The Shield prequel ‘Wins and Losses’ prior to season 6) hard to believe when you consider some of the great shots he gave us in ‘Na Triobloidi’.

That opening image of the three rats eating the bird on the highway is so soaked in symbolism I don’t even want to start dissecting it, and then SAMCRO ride along the highway with their headlights shining like stars in the night sky – it really was a beautiful opening.

Other stand-outs from Sutter: the Main Street stand-off between SAMCRO and the Mayans and that great scene in the clubhouse after Jax returns from killing Weston and everyone raises a glass to “Sons” – how telling that toast would prove come the final scene.

Before I get into the actual on screen happenings in depth I just wanted to sing the praises of the music from the show once again.

After the brilliant Hands in the Sky (Big Shot) by Straylight Run being used as SAMCRO headed to the brawl with LOAN in last week’s ‘The Culling’, this week we got a great cover of the Stones’ Gimme Shelter from Paul Brady over the climatic scenes (another brilliant Sutter montage).

This is the 2nd time that Sons has used a Stones cover to brilliant effect after Katey Sagal’s own haunting version of Ruby Tuesday back in ‘Small Tears’.

So let’s get in to the meat of the finale, and first things first, season regular ‘Half-Sack’ was killed off in heroic, but pretty low key circumstances towards the end of this ninety minute rollercoaster.

It’s sad to see Johnny Lewis leave the show, I’ve always enjoyed his work, ever since I saw him in the dire Andy Richter sitcom Quintuplets, and I remember writing in my first gushing review of Sons about how great he was on the show.

According to Sutter, Lewis decided that creatively he’d had enough and wanted out of the show, so rather than keeping an unhappy actor on board they allowed ‘Sack’ to go out in a blaze (sort of) of glory.

It’s a shame for the character really, after the talk in ‘The Culling’ of letting him patch in early it was almost heartbreaking not to see him get that moment because you know it would have meant so much to him.

I get why Lewis wanted out though, last season he had some decent arcs to get stuck in to – the boxing, the whole Cherry thing – but in season 2 he was left pretty much on the periphery, his only real moment to shine coming in the episode when he and Tig took the magic mushrooms: “it’s cwarm”.

Still, Sack went out a hero trying to save baby Abel from the crazed Cameron and hopefully he’ll get a good send-off at some point next season.

Other major plot points coming out of the finale came from unlikely sources. With SAMCRO spending much of the season battling Zobelle and Weston you would have thought they would be the ones responsible for causing the trauma in the finale. Yet both of them were almost blameless for all the big moments we ended on, that responsibility falling to the increasingly dangerous Stahl and the now almost delusional with grief Cameron.

First Stahl shoots and kills Edmond at the safe house then frames Gemma for the deed after the SAMCRO matriarch shoots Polly at the same safe house, which then leads to Cameron blaming Gemma for the death of his boy and takes his revenge out on Jax’s son Abel: “a son for a son”.

So, much like season 1, Stahl is responsible for all the strife befalling SAMCRO. As a character Stahl’s actions have become that over-the-top and almost unbelievable that she’s in danger of becoming a caricature, but Ally Walker somehow manages to make her likeable in a love-to-hate kind of way.

One thing is for certain with the ATF agent: when she does eventually get her comeuppance it’s going to be one of the most satisfying moments of the series.

Having much of the finale hinge around the actions of the Irish was kind of odd in that they hadn’t exactly been major players in the season’s developments, more a b-thread of the far-reaching landscape of the show.

When you discover though that ‘Na Triobloidi’ translates to ‘The Troubles’ in Gaelic and refers to the troubles in Northern Ireland, the fact the Irish were so pivotal to the finale’s developments doesn’t seem as out of left field.

Obviously when this episode aired in the States there wasn’t even a guarantee that Sons would be back for a third season, but we now know that not only will the show be back but a large portion of it will explore the mythology behind SAMCRO’s Northern Irish connections.

With that in mind then the threads left dangling here and how the Irish came to be such huge players seem more palatable.

The battle with Weston, Zobelle and LOAN had virtually reached its peak last week so the fact that they weren’t at the heart of SAMCRO’s troubles here wasn’t too much of a surprise I suppose. Part of ‘Na Triobloidi’ was about setting up where SAMCRO will be going next season and that is a nice thing to see on a TV show, so many times it feels like shows write the finale and then worry about how they resolve the issues next season. Kurt Sutter obviously has a map for Sons of Anarchy and with this brilliant, talented writer at the helm I feel very reassured about what the future holds.

Part of Sons’ appeal to me has always laid in how gritty and ‘real’ it is and that was typified by the finale and in how Zobelle and Weston got what was coming to them.

Zobelle lived and got away, fleeing back to his native Budapest – albeit without his beloved daughter – but it was refreshing to see a villain as horrible as Zobelle not go down in a hail of bullets and perhaps live to fight another day.

Weston on the other hand wasn’t as lucky. It would take a pretty vile man to be more loathsome than Ethan Zobelle, but AJ Weston managed that in spades.

His death scene though was about the most brilliantly written and shot scene of its ilk that I’ve seen in a long time, I almost felt a twinge of sympathy for the bigoted, psychopathic rapist.

The way he accepted his fate and simply sat there for Jax to pump him full of bullets in a toilet stall while his kid waited outside was almost sad, but it’s hard to feel too much sadness about the death of a man who had ‘I Kill Niggers’ tattooed across his chest.

All the deaths in the episode: Weston, Edmond, Polly, ‘Sack’ were so low-key and unspectacular it really fit the show’s tone and didn’t glorify death in any way.

Sutter’s appearance in the episode as the ill-fated, incarcerated Big Otto was another moment of brilliance from the show. Otto is a character who has pretty much been shat on all season, so for him to finally get some form of vengeance was particularly satisfying, especially against the Nazi who took his good eye earlier in the season.

It was a shocking scene as the virtually blind Otto shivved his assailant in the neck in the prison library, killing him in a truly brutal fashion, the fact he did so whilst an audio book that cited the words “Sons of Anarchy’ played in the background made the moment, no matter how brutal, somewhat poignant.

The other major issue to address is Gemma who is now a fugitive, I know Stahl did what she did to cover her own ass but the fact that she let Gemma go rather than killing her too makes me feel that maybe the twisted ATF agent has a begrudging respect for the leather clad Lady Macbeth.

Gemma in her hour of need called the one person she knew would drop everything and do exactly as she said: Unser.

That scene as they passed the Charming city limits together in Unser’s police cruiser was a lovely moment for one of the show’s best supporting players. The cancer-ridden chief loves Gemma and although there is no chance of them being together just to be able to help her seemed to be enough to fill him with a joy that had long left his life.

The almost unashamed happiness on Unser’s face over a pretty grave situation was such a great piece of television and the aptness of those two lines of dialogue they shared can’t be understated:

Unser: “Any idea where we're headed?"
Gemma: "No."

This pretty perfectly sums up how almost every major character on the show must be feeling as we head into season 3; Gemma on the run, Tara inconsolable over what this life means for her and Jax distraught (Charlie Hunnam was awesome as usual) over the kidnapping of his son.

Other Thoughts:

- Still no word on whether Darby survived the fire at the porn studio – I guess that’s one for next season.

- They tried their best to make Edmond and Polly’s relationship seem more developed than it had actually been on screen but it still felt pretty tenuous that so many of the finale’s plot points hinged on Polly’s need to say goodbye to Edmond – a very minor gripe though.

- I liked it how Chibs was the one who reacted to Sack’s corpse the most, he had always been the one who seemed to treat the prospect more like an equal, and to me it was a nice touch.

- Hale’s slow transformation into Unser continued as he left Zobelle at the mercy of SAMCRO after his phone call for help. We’ve already seen Hale provide Clay with information, keep Gemma’s secret and team up with Jax this season, last season this would have been almost unthinkable but Hale is slowly coming to realise the reach of SAMCRO and I fully expect more coercion next season.

- I don’t quite understand why Clay let Alvarez go but hopefully the Mayan kingpin will be back next season as I enjoy Emilio Rivera’s work on the show

As much as I enjoyed ‘Na Triobloidi’ when those final credits rolled I was left filled with disappointment – another, inevitable nine months to wait before we get season 3 in the UK…

If you watched it what did you think of the Sons of Anarchy season 2 finale?


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