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‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Recap: Poenitentia

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"‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Recap: Poenitentia"

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Credit: FX

Credit: FX

This post discusses plot points from the September 24 episode of Sons of Anarchy.

Three episodes into this season, Sons of Anarchy‘s demonstrating precisely the problem I worried about at the beginning of this season: it’s got so much going on that the best plot of the season’s getting choked out by the need to stay on top of everything.

There are certainly things that are interesting about Tyne Patterson’s (C.C.H. Pounder) decision to tie her fortunes to Lee Toric (Donal Logue), a man of whom she described, in a moment of self-awareness on the part of Sons, as having a record that “reads like a bad detective novel,” recognizing that he can help her make a case that will both put away some extremely bad people and make her own career. But I can’t help but think how much richer Patterson’s character would be if she was operating independently, and had reached the decision to prosecute the Sons–even if she had to bend some ethics along the way–without Toric’s suggestion. I’d simply like more time to get to know her, rather than follow Toric along on his spree of shooting prostitutes and using Biz Lats’ mouths as bottle openers–both ugly incidents of violence that serve only to complicate the plot further and to revel in brutality even as Kurt Sutter tries to mount a critique of gun violence.

And it would be extremely interesting for Sons, a show that’s often trafficked in extremely broad portrayals of non-white characters and organizations of non-white characters, to have Patterson team up with Eli Roosevelt, a character with actual roots in Charming that Toric doesn’t possess. Making the audience genuinely invested in the moral state of two major black characters, devoting real time to their decision-making and the incentives that affect their choices, would both be a corrective to Sons‘ past unsubtleties, and using these particular characters would have provided the show a significantly streamlined sixth season.

I really wish that sixth season was happening, because it’s fascinating to watch Pounder, who is one of the quietly defining actresses of the anti-hero age, take the stage at a press conference and deliver a monologue that nails the politics of law enforcement officials. There’s the salacious element to her speech, the tease that “The boy’s journal that was found at the crime scene has been analyzed by several psychiatric experts. I can’t go into details about the contents except that they were violent and very disturbing.” There’s a suggestion of parental blame, Patterson’s explanation that “We know the diocese made a recommendation over a year ago that the boy seek outside counseling.” There’s the focus on the gun, always a totemic symbol in this sort of crime, however uninterested everyone becomes later on in changing gun laws: “We’ve identified it as an older, pre-1982 KG-9 submachine gun, modified to be fully automatic…Because of the modification an the lack of serial numbers, we know that the gun had to be acquired illegally. And there’s the fabulously executed positioning: “It is my highest priority as your district attorney, as a proud resident of this county, and as a mother to find the parties responsible for putting a weapon so deadly into the hands of a child so broken.”

That’s a place that’s worth staying in. And the one additional subplot that worked for me, and didn’t feel like a distraction, was rooted in existing character conflicts, and in the central theme of gun control. It’s been nice to see that the rapport between Gemma and Wendy, part of Gemma’s conviction that she can and will be forgiven for everything even as she mocks Nero for believing that his priest “sprinkles his magic Jesus water and everyone pretends the bad shit never happened,” has had a plot point. It’s not yet clear what game Wendy’s playing, since at least the bruise on her neck, if not her whole story about getting attacked at a Narcotics Anonymous, is a lie. But it is designed to elicit an offer of a gun from Gemma. “‘Til we shut this guy down, you’ve got to protect yourself,” Gemma tells Wendy. “It’s probably just noise. You show him that, chances are you’ll never see him again.”
“Unless he pulls his own out and blows my head off,” Wendy reminds her, working a different angle on the gun conversation into Sons. But it would be most interesting if the detonation here is metaphorical, if Wendy’s revenge on the family who’s done so many terrible things to her is to participate in the legal efforts to put them away.

Everything else here feels like clutter, much of it actively detracting from the spine of the season. Tara’s pregnancy is another thing to tie her to Charming and to Jax, long after she should have gotten out of Dodge. Toric’s accidental shooting of the prostitute from Diosa is a visual rehash of the first season, and another way to muddy his pursuit of SAMCRO, making it harder for the show to pull off the morality tale it seems to want to tell half the time. And the ongoing torture pornographers storyline mostly feels like an excuse for Jax to say things like “You had them caged and raped, you filthy Arab” and for Peter Weller, a frequent director on Sons to act like a throat-slitting badass. I’m relieved that some plot details seem to be rolled up, including Jax handing Tig over, resolving both the problem of who killed the pornographer and how to settle his debt to Augustus, and Clay earning his way out of an execution, though the shiv in his cell suggests he’ll have to keep murdering people to buy his keep. I think bringing home the consequences of the gun business that corrupted SAMCRO’s vision in the first place is a great idea. I just wish this season of Sons of Anarchy could clear out space to focus on it.

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