Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sons of Anarchy 3.1 'So'

“Every time I think maybe I’m heading in the right direction, I end up in a place I never even knew could feel this bad…” - Jax

After what seems like an eternity, the great Sons of Anarchy returned to UK screens last night for its third season, and things are as complicated as ever in the world of SAMCRO.

If you were coming in to season 3 as a newcomer, ‘So’ was probably a bit of a tough watch – the slow, methodical pacing of the episode didn’t make for an instantly gripping episode. But for long-term fans of the show it immediately felt like the Sons had never been away, and as an audience we too felt what the characters tortured by recent events were going through.

There was a darkness cast over Charming by the events of the season 2 finale and this meant that this premiere was an emotional powder keg just waiting to ignite, and ignite it did in those final few moments, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

'So' began with a lengthy recap of the season 2 events that culminated in Jax’s baby son Abel being kidnapped and club prospect ‘Half-Sack’ lying murdered on Jax’s kitchen floor. Watching this back it reminded me just how culpable for it all Stahl was, I’d forgot how her actions had triggered the whole domino effect of that finale, and so for the second season running the terrible events that befell SAMCRO were thanks to the twisted ATF bitch.

The opening montage was a good way of transitioning from that recap in to all the major characters’ reactions to events, the most vivid image being poor Tara sat alone in the kitchen with Sack’s blood still staining the floor.

Before the opening credits even roll then we have the new order of the upcoming season pretty much established: Gemma on the lam and unaware of her grandson’s abduction, Jax a broken man unable to seemingly feel anything other than numbness and Clay and Tara isolated from their respective partners, one literally and one figuratively.

With Jax apparently having been in a daze since the abduction, it took some sort of lead on Abel’s whereabouts to get him up, dressed and back out in to the world that still exists for him even without his son.

Finally having him lucid allowed Tara the opportunity to try and converse with her live-in lover but he only used the moment to try and drive her away. Jax wasn’t acting out of callousness though, he clearly still loves Tara like he always has, but he is now almost passionate in his attempts to keep her away from the life he has and has no choice but to keep enduring. Whilst Jax may not have the opportunity to walk away, he believes Tara can do just that, and in his own twisted way is trying to save her, as well as no doubt punishing himself for Abel’s plight.

The fact is though that Tara is deeper in to the club now than ever before and just like Jax it’s going to be nigh-on impossible for her to just get out.

I thought it was a nice touch that after their little talk that it was the rev of the bike engine that set Tara off in to her little freak-out when she smashed up the nursery, how much easier would all their lives be if that sound didn’t exist?

Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff were exemplary as always in this episode, and they really brought rawness to the visceral nature of their situation. Hunnam in particular looked suitably worn out throughout the episode and managed to convey more than a thousand words could with a simple broken look.

Case in point would be the way Jax diffused the stand-off with the gang with just a few words explaining what he was going through, within a second of him speaking the gang leader ordered weapons lowered; obviously sensing this is a man enduring the sort of primal trauma no man should be subjected to.

The shot of Jax sat at his Father’s grave was about the most poignant of the episode, and there were a few contenders for that title, with the ‘SO’ part (the episode’s title) of his Sons rings set atop the grave. Jax seemingly torn between the club and his family, as exemplified metaphorically by that dividing of the rings and then verbally in his exchange with Piney just after.

Whilst Clay does undoubtedly want his step-grandson back and feels Jax’s pain, the SAMCRO president is clearly using events to manipulate Jax and mould him in to the man he has always pushed him to be, at the same time quashing any lingering remnants of the beef that ran through most of season 2. If Gemma’s revelation of her rape put a temporary stop to things last season, Abel’s kidnapping has now seemingly erased it from history completely.

The look on Piney’s face at the wake as his eyes met Jax’s seemed to indicate that he could see what Clay was doing. More and more it seems like Clay and Piney are the devil and angel on Jax’s shoulders, with Piney pushing Jax to embrace everything his old man did and be more like his Father and Clay trying to make sure that John Teller or a version of him never comes back to change SAMCRO.

Whether Jax is too blinded by the loss of his son to see through Clay’s machinations or whether he was releasing all the stored up rage over Abel’s kidnapping, Clay’s words at the wake coupled with the sight of the young boy bleeding to death after catching a bullet in the drive-by (obviously striking a chord with him) pushed Jax over the edge as he beat the only shooter caught during the attack half to death in front of most of Charming.

Speaking of that episode-closing drive-by it was the last we will see of Deputy Hale as he was brutally run down and killed as the shooters made their getaway. It was a bit of an unceremonious ending for a character that’s been on the show from day one and somewhat of a surprising one given that he has always been a thorn in SAMCRO’s side and was just about to finally get in to a position to step up his dogged pursuit.

I suppose though with Stahl now the major law enforcement antagonist to the club and with another Hale also gunning for SAMCRO, David was sort of lost in the shuffle.

Speaking of the elder Hale brother, Jacob’s run for Mayor against club-friendly Oswald will no doubt be a long-running thread for the season. Jacob will surely now blame SAMCRO for David’s death and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run on a campaign of ridding Charming of this sort of violence. So even though one Hale is now gone, another is sure to continue to cause problems for SAMCRO.

All the above is of course occurring in the absence of club matriarch Gemma as she hides out in Tig’s protection, still wanted for the murders of Edmond and Polly.

In spite of how dumb it is for her to be at her Dad’s – surely if she was that high on the wanted fugitive list her family would be the first place those hunting her looked – this storyline will at least give the brilliant Katey Sagal something to work with rather than simply sitting in a dingy motel room.

Although that said, she did make the most of the motel-based scenes. Of course we all know Gemma would be able to hot-wire a car but it was still pretty cool to see her doing it, she has to be one of the strongest female characters on television.

And then she stabbed the car owner in the leg with her knife when he caught her; at first I thought she’d just punched him the balls, but no she’d, as Tig so eloquently put it, “almost cut his joint off” to which Gemma hilariously replied that it was “just a flesh wound”.

I don’t know how much mileage will be in the Gemma plot threads until they start to be no more than an annoying detour from club business and the hunt for Abel, but Sagal and the great Hal Holbrook, as long as he sticks around, together can produce nothing but gold right?

‘So’ was a strong premiere by all accounts, the aftermath of season 2 was dealt with and how that would shape season 3 was established as well as setting up several ongoing arcs for the rest of the season. To do all this of course meant that the episode had a methodical feel to it but it was no less compelling for it and was punctuated by a fantastic closing few minutes that really amplified everything that had preceded them.

A Hail of Bullets:

– Okay, so I know they’ve just seen their soon to be boss run over and dragged along the pavement, mashing his head up and killing him, but how useless as the Charming PD!?

They had guns trained on the shooter that fell from the van, yet did nothing as Jax brushed them aside and beat the guy’s head against the ground repeatedly. They’re stood right next to him yet it took the rest of the club to finally pull Jax away.

Maybe this was a commentary on the kind of apathy Unser’s control of the force has bred and how Hale’s death now means this will continue, either way though you still think they’d have at least tried to stop Jax trying to kill their only suspect.

- I enjoyed a couple of the references to Half-Sack as he was remembered at his wake – Kozik, who it would seem will be returning to Charming to pad out SAMCRO’s thinning ranks, commenting that he “liked that little guy” and then Clay commenting that Sack had “made it through Iraqi minefields only to get taken out in a god damn kitchen.”

- Another great line from Clay, who had a bunch last night, including his “thanks Mr. Magoo”, was when his threat to Stahl: “I’m gonna shove a gun barrel up that bony ass of yours and I’m gonna blow your black heart out”.

Speaking of Stahl, she certainly is despicable, Tara had that right. It’s almost like she’s now started to believe her own lies about Gemma; as Tara also rightly questioned, how she still has a badge after all her fuck-ups I have no earthly idea.

- I thought it was a nice call-back to last season to have that lingering shot of Zobelle’s cigar store all boarded up as SAMCRO rode past on the way to Jax’s house.

- Great musical choices throughout by Kurt Sutter again as always, especially the closing ‘Dad’s Gonna Kill Me’ by Richard Thompson. A song so dripping with symbolism in relation to this show it’d take me a month to pick through it all.

- I loved Half-Sack’s SAMCRO coffin. I wonder who they got to make that up for them – do SAMCRO have a coffin-maker on the pay roll?

Sons of Anarchy Season 3 continues in the UK Wednesday @ 10pm on FIVE USA


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