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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Televangelist: 'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Ep. 9

Awww, I really hope my wicked step Dad doesnt kill you
  • FX
  • Awww, I really hope my wicked step Dad doesn't kill you

Do you react physically to TV shows? A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with stress-induced shingles, and he quipped, "I'm in the middle of 'Breaking Bad' marathon — coincidence?" I cannot begin to tell you how many Tweets, emails, texts and frantic chat windows I receive (and send!) emoting desperately about television. Whether (to use internet comm speak) "flailing" (out of happiness) or "shaking and crying" (out of sadness or terror), there are so many well-wrought shows out there that, as many of us joked regarding this last season of "Breaking Bad," they all require Xanax for viewing. What has happened is that certain television shows are really taping in to what sports have been giving us for a long time - engaging our basal ganglia and giving us a vicarious rush related to what's happening on screen. And when those include shoot outs and double crosses and fighting for one's life and one's family … it's of little wonder our heart rates are up!

"Sons of Anarchy" has always been an intense show, but this season has taken the squirming-while-watching to a new level. "Kiss" was not, for once, about the shoot outs and club double crossings (in fact, the entire Niners plot's purpose seemed to be to show Jax as an emerging leader), but about Clay's final steps into completely irredeemable territory, and appearing to take Gemma with him.

There are really only two women on the show, let's be honest, and people all seem to have a "story" about their initial reactions to them. I'll go ahead and say that I always liked Tara - I thought she was sensible and rational, and I thought that the way she handled being back around Jax felt very real. Gemma, on the other hand, was not someone I initially warmed up to. As a latecomer to the show, I had already heard friends gushing about how badass and what a great character she was, yet in the first season I mostly found her to be petty and cruel. In the second season she went through some personal trauma that showed not only her true inner strength, but her human vulnerability, and the tables began to turn for me. By the third season I was all aboard the Gemma train, but last night stopped me cold. Not only did Gemma sexually manipulate Unser (let me repeat that. No, in fact, I don't want to), but she, once again, over estimates her power with and over Clay, and basically handed Tara to him on a platter. I, like Unser, had chosen to believe Gemma did not know the truth about JT's death and Clay's involvement in it, but that seems less and less likely. Her frantic pleading with Unser regarding saving Clay ("I love him!" she says, getting choked up. Choked up … did Clay try to choke her a few episodes back? Right, just checking) was awfully sad. It's a terrible relationship those two have, and though we have some respect for how Gemma manages to stay sane (and alive) as the club's de facto matriarch, we must not forget that she fully and willingly inserted herself into this position with a man she knew to be, well, bad.

The more typical reaction is to start the series off as pro-Gemma and anti-Tara. It's not a position I much understand, but like my coming around to Gemma, most viewers have seemed to come around to Tara as well. She's not just some girl, either. Not only is she, y'know, the love of Jax's life, she's also the biological and adopted mother to his two sons. "Kiss" sets up a miserable scene next week where it would be difficult to imagine that the whole Teller-Knowles family escapes it alive. Emotionally, I would deeply question eliminating Tara from the show. She's really the only moral compass, and she is also our "outsider" perspective and initiation into the club. Besides, she's already been kidnapped and nearly killed two or three times already. Narratively it would also be just a hyped-up rehash of the Opie-Donna situation. There are many fans who wonder how Opie is still able to sit at a table with all of this wife's killers, Tig especially for his fatally sloppy work, and simply move on. How could Jax ever do that though? The ties that these men have established with each other though is, essentially, gang-like. They cannot leave, because the club is their life. They have nowhere else to go, and no one else to help them. Even as Jax discusses his attempts to break away with Bobby, to tells him simply "you can't do anything else. Your choices will aways be club choices. You're wired that way," Jax stubbornly insists he will at least try. The problem is I'm sure we'll never see him get that chance.

Jax demonstrated some tough, fair and rather inspiring leadership last night within the club. There's no show without SAMCRO, and there's really no SAMCRO without Jax. And there's only one person who is leading Jax away from the club: Tara. God help her.

Next Week: The Teller-Knowles family head north for a nice little getaway, and get a surprise visit from a bounty hunter.

Musings and Miscellanea:

— I'm sure the Lobos-Gallindo feud will fuel plenty of things coming up, but I was really just happy that Jax has been able to keep peace with both the Niners and Mayans.

— "You duplicitous bitch!" - Tara

— Does anyone deserve to die a more slow and painful death than Clay right now?

— I really thought last week that Chibs "knew" what Juice had done, but he only knows about the suicide. I suppose we see what we want!

— I also didn't expect Juice to go nuts on Eli in the War Room. Linc is becoming so slimy now, I really hate it. And damn … poor, poor Otto.

— Gemma did have a great scene when she discovered Piney. Her grief seemed very real.

— Juice, if you believe that Linc will let SAMCRO out of RICO, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

— "You're the only truth I have" - Gemma to Clay. Then you are in trouble, Gem.

— Clearly what the episode lacked most was more Tig! Though I'm glad Bobby Elvis is getting more to do than just sit around.

— Poll: ok, so who should get to kill Clay? Opie, Jax, Gemma, Tara, or, just for laughs, Abel?

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