As I've mentioned here a few times, I love television. A lot. More than most. And since I love TV, and love writing and talking about TV, I thought maybe I'd start an occasional feature here on ye olde blog wherein I do some light analysis and review of what I'm watching. The trouble with this plan is just that I very rarely watch anything when it's actually on--I usually wait for the DVD, or at the very least catch up at my leisure via DVR. That's not as much fun, or as interesting to read, as the up-to-the-minute stuff. So, I'm going to try to watch a few more shows live. One show that I will always watch live, however, because I can't wait a second more than I have to for it, is my very beloved Sons of Anarchy.
For those who aren't already on the SOA train, you can catch up, and you should. Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD, they are only 13 episodes each, and they are absolutely worth your time. Last night was the season premiere of season 4. Be forewarned--I'm going to have spoilers in my thoughts. I don't see the point in trying to talk around what I actually want to say, so if you aren't caught up and want to be surprised, you should probably stop reading. I probably also won't go into all the season 1-3 back story, so if you haven't seen the show, it might be a bit confusing.
All that said, let's get down to last night's episode.
In the pre-season ramp-up to the show, Kurt Sutter had quite a few interviews and stuff where he talked about how season 4 is going to be all about Charming and the internal stuff that is happening to the Club. The premiere dug right in with that, showing the incarcerated members of SOA (Clay, Jax, Tig, Happy, Bobby, and Juice) getting out of Stockton after 14 months inside and coming home. I very much liked the first scene montage, and the song it was set to, Joshua's James "Coal War", was as perfect as any piece of music on the show has ever been, which is really saying something. Wonderful. I had goosebumps by the time they showed the opening credits.
From there, it was mostly good and often great. There was a little scene early on between Gemma and Tara, wherein Gemma tells Tara how well she handled Jax's being in prison and Tara tells Gemma she couldn't have done it without her, which I found exceptionally interesting. Since Tara found the letters Maureen Ashby meant for Jax, she knows that John Teller was suspicious and afraid of Gemma and Clay (a la Hamlet). Yet her fondness for/appreciation of Gemma in the scene seemed sincere. This leads to one of two conclusions: either Tara is torn in her feelings about Gemma, or she's manipulating her. I'm torn as to which I think it is.
Which brings me, actually, to my major gripe about the episode. Jax and Tara have an extended post-coital conversation about how Jax is going to leave the Club and their little family is going to escape and have a normal life. I don't buy this for a whole bunch of reasons. The biggest issue I had was the cavalier way Jax wrote off his mother, with "she's just an Old Lady." Yeah, she is, but she's also his mother, and unless I have majorly misread their relationship through three seasons, he loves her. Even if she'd allow it, which she won't, leaving her wouldn't be that easy. Beyond that, though, I am just sick of Jax's lack of real introspection, given his constant navel-gazing. He spent 14 months in prison thinking about leaving the Club? Did he give any thought to what his life would be like without it? Without the Club, Tara and his sons are ALL he has--no other family, no other friends, no job skills (which he did mention), and most importantly, no identity. Sons of Anarchy is who Jax is. Him trying to change it from within is one thing, and, for me, believable, but leaving? Yeah, right.
Also? Jax and Tara have the chemistry of flat paint. Really. I like both actors, a lot, but they just don't have any sexual heat at all.
My other, more minor gripe, was just that I wanted to see more of the minor characters in the episode. One of my favorite parts was the little scene where Tig, Happy, Chibs, Juice, and Kozik discuss what they're getting Opie as a wedding present. It's a tiny scene, but very funny (particularly the part about Happy being so cheap he reuses condoms). Scenes like that make the show for me--each character is so interesting, and each actor is able to do so much with so little time and so few words. SOA has a pretty stellar cast of actors, and I love it when they're able to play off one another.
Another major strength of the episode was the Unser element, and the scenes between him and both Gemma and Clay. I liked each scene on its own merits, but I really liked them in juxtaposition. Gemma is concerned about Unser, for his own sake. He's in her circle now, someone she cares about, and she's treating him as such. Clay is concerned, but only as far as Unser is useful to him. I go back and forth on the relative ruthlessness of Clay and Gemma, but those two scenes really painted Clay as the worst of the two, and I think he ultimately he is. I am also really hopeful about the story arc for Unser himself. He didn't do time, but the events in season 3 ended up hurting him worse than anybody else (well, except Otto).
And Otto! I so hope Sutter continues to suck it up and be in his own show more than he really wants to, because I love Otto. The more beaten and brutal he gets, the more I like him. There is no bullshit with Otto--he's straight up thug. I think the show needs that.
Finally, I thought the end of the episode, with the parallel of some of the Sons' most violent and behavior ever and the tacky sweetness of Ope and Lyla's wedding, was perfect. I was stunned and absolutely impressed with the cruel efficiency with which the Sons committed multiple homicide, and the reactions of each individual member (or lack of reaction in many cases) struck me as absolutely right. I'll definitely be watching Juice. Doing the equivalent of leaving heads on stakes at the end of the episode, just in case anybody was wondering who really runs Charming? It was the icing on the cake. Beautifully written, Sutter.