Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sons of Anarchy 3.13 'Ns'

“…There’s no trust… something will go wrong… somebody will get hurt… I promise you, it’ll end badly.” - Gemma

Where do you start with what can only be described as a near perfect episode of television?

Sons of Anarchy’s third season may have been the show’s most divisive yet, but even the show’s harshest critics surely had to acknowledge that ‘Ns’ was just superb from start to finish.

Book-ending the season perfectly with the premiere ‘So’ (‘So’‘Ns’), ‘Ns’ felt like a natural ending, not just to the season but also to this chapter in the show and its history and mythology.

The only reason I’m not giving this episode my first ever five star rating is because of the fact that the big twist didn’t catch me by surprise.

It may be unfair of me to try and blame that on the writing and the acting because given how far behind we are in the UK compared to the US, the ending of season three had already been sort of spoiled for me.

I know that Jax is still with the club in season four, so not for one minute did I believe that the club were going to want him dead for making a deal with Stahl.

I actually really loved the ‘long-con’ aspect of the Jax-Stahl machinations, but even had I not known the outcome in advance, I still don’t think I’d have fallen for the rest of the club’s poor acting when Stahl proudly announced she’d been getting intel from Jax.

Had the club really been surprised by that revelation the reaction would have been far more vehement and possibly violent than it was, and it’s kind of hard to believe that Stahl, knowing all we do about her would have bought it either.

You could argue she was blinded by her success in finally being the one to bag Jimmy-O and that she was so pleased with her self for sticking it to the club and Jax that she let her guard down. Given how paranoid she’s been and the extent to which she’s covered her own ass to this point though it just seemed she was duped a little too easily here. As I said though, it’s easy for me to say that knowing what I knew going in to the episode.

Given how many of the club were privy to this whole scheme it does seem odd that they would keep Gemma and Tara in the dark, the former especially. She’s not been well anyway and has also suffered the trauma of her grandson being kidnapped and putting her father in a home.

She was so concerned for Jax’s well-being that she was willing to go to some pretty extreme lengths, so I can’t believe it didn’t get to a stage where they felt they needed to bring her in to the loop, at least when you consider that less prominent members of the club such as Happy and Juice seemed to be in on it.

With my one criticism of ‘Ns’ out of the way I can now wax lyrical about the myriad of greatness that was on display throughout the rest of this delicious televisual feast.

We all know that Kurt Sutter and Sons of Anarchy love a good montage, and although I’ve never quite been able to look at a montage the same since Team America’s song of the same name, Sutter is a maestro at doing both touching and dramatic ones that are equally emotive and visceral.

Virtually everything in those last ten minutes of ‘Ns’ was brilliant, I particularly loved the voiceovers from Jax and John in the two letters and the merging of the two, showing the difference between these two Teller men now, the next shot as Jax and Clay’s eyes met in the police van seemingly indicating that Jax had now fully embraced Clay’s rule and abandoned his father’s ideals.

All these wide-ranging emotions and ideas were presented with little to no actual properly spoken dialogue and it’s a huge credit to Sutter and his crew that they were able to do so much with so little.

Of course there is a very large elephant in the room now though to possibly disrupt Clay and Jax’s new found harmony because John’s letters are now in Tara’s possession and they seem to hint very strongly that Clay, and possibly Gemma, were complicit in his death in some way.

Whether it was always the intention or whether the writing just ended up setting it up that way, it was kind of poetic which members of SAMCRO ended up not going to jail.

If anyone was ever going to kill Jimmy it had to be Chibs and the same goes for Stahl and Opie.

Both Tommy Flanagan and Ryan Hurst haven’t had much to do this season but in one scene the two of them gave us enough emotion and catharsis to last a season.

First as a brief aside, how awesome was Chibs drinking a juice box on the school bus on the way to intercept Stahl and Jimmy!? There was something so very wrong, but so very right about that shot.

Chibs returning the favour and slashing Jimmy’s face before he killed him was brutal but there was a brief moment between the two men when Jimmy told Chibs to take care of their girls that felt begrudgingly respectful.

Jimmy seemed resigned to his fate from the moment he was handed over by the Russians and at least took his death like a man, going out with a quiet dignity.

It must have been emotional for Tommy Flanagan to do that scene given what he has been through himself receiving similar injuries and he sure as hell sold the shit out of it.

If Jimmy went out true to character: calm and collected even when staring death in the face, then so did Stahl – begging, pleading and desperately trying to survive.

Ryan Hurst was very prominent in both season one and two but sadly has been reduced to the background for quite a lot of season three, however with just a few lines of dialogue he delivered one of the most memorable moments of the show so far.

Making Stahl sit in the driver’s seat of the car and shooting her in the back of the head with a machine gun to make her feel “what she felt” was so tragic yet satisfying and Stahl’s reference to him having had mercy before was a nice call-back to Opie’s “the outlaw had mercy” from a while back. Opie’s response “now I don’t” was one of those wow moments you so rarely get from TV and Ryan Hurst cemented himself as one of my favourite actors in the world in that moment.

Opie may now been engaged again but Donna’s death and Stahl’s role in that are undoubtedly going to haunt him forever, finally seeing Stahl brought to the ultimate justice has to go someway to helping him get a degree of closure though.

‘Ns’ was a nice showcase for so many of the show’s characters – Chucky, Otto, the prospects (more on most of those later) and Unser in particular got a chance to shine a little.

Unser’s relationship with the club has always been quite sweet really, almost like he would have rather gone down that route than that of law enforcement. He has obviously seen Stahl’s dark side first hand, so blatantly had no quibbles helping them finally take her out, and doing so without his badge and gun seemed to signify that his reign as chief has now finally come to an end.

With the majority of the club off to jail for a reduced fourteen months and big changes afoot in Charming, the Sons of Anarchy we’ll return to for season four will be taking place across a very different landscape.

As long as the show remains at this kind of level though we will be in for another season of some of the best drama on television.

The Irish stuff this season might not have worked entirely but with these last two episodes Sons of Anarchy has reminded all of the doubters just why our expectations for the show were so high in the first place.

If it’s possible for a finale to make a season then ‘Ns’ might have done just that.

A Hail of Bullets:

- Who didn’t get a kick out of seeing poor Chucky finally getting to be a hero!? Why he hadn’t spoken up sooner I don’t know, but that was a nice moment as Tig celebrated with him offering to lend him his hand and Chucky got to trot out his trademark “I accept that” catchphrase.

- It’s always great to see Otto (Kurt Sutter) in an episode and for once he wasn’t getting dumped on from a great height. His comment about being on death row soon though seemed to indicate he may not be around much longer.

- As always there were some really fantastic shots in this episode, the camera whipping round Jax & Stahl as they talked after the Jimmy exchange was really nice and the ‘ns’ ring on John’s grave next to Jax’s ‘so’ one – a call back to the pilot – was a great mirror not only of the two titles but also of that same scene in the premiere.

- Again as always great music throughout, with both montages soundtracked by very fitting songs - Battleme's cover of Neil Young's “Hey Hey My My” hauntingly brilliant over the closing scenes and the more upbeat “This Charming Life” by Joan Armatrading over that opening ‘happy’ montage to name just two.

- One last thing, Sons has always struck me as quite a gritty and ‘real’ show but that first post-recap shot of Jax in bed with Tara showed them sleeping mere centimetres from each other. That’s about the most unrealistic thing I’ve ever seen – no one sleeps that close together in real life!


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