Wow. Just...wow. I liked the season opener last week, but last night's Sons of Anarchy was simply fantastic television. The show was perfectly paced, balancing dramatic conversational scenes, moments of levity, and action. It gave the viewer a strong sense of where every single one of the characters landed in terms of the events that are underway without ever seeming overly expository. It had beautiful scene juxtapositions--particularly the beginning sequence wherein Clay & Gemma; Jax & Tara; and Opie & Lyla talk about what happened to the Russians. It was shot well, the dialog was tight, and everything in it happened for a reason. Once in a while, a show hits an episode just right, so that it's apparent that the creator, writers, directors, actors, and everyone else involved know exactly what they're doing. SOA 4.02 was one of those episodes.
In terms of what it said about where the show is going this year, the episode left me with more questions than answers. I'm wondering how seriously I am supposed to take Clay and Jax when they worry about money. Nothing in the previous three seasons has led me to believe that either of them is in dire financial straits, and Clay and Gemma, in fact, struck me as fairly well-off. I get that being outlaw doesn't come with a retirement plan, but they own the garage, right? Shouldn't that provide some sort of income? I wonder if the concerns about money are, in both Clay's and Jax's case, a patsy for a more basic fear of leaving the Club and never being somebody again. With SOA, neither of them are anything special, and neither of them have any idea what else to do.
Then, of course, there is the ongoing mystery of what happened to John Teller, and now what Unser has to do with it. Did he commit suicide and Unser and Gemma covered it up? Did Clay get him killed? Was Gemma involved? Did Unser cover that up? None of these ideas seem quite right to me, so it will be interesting to see that progress. I'm also curious about how Tara is justifying not having shown Jax the letters Maureen sent, or told him about them. Is she protecting him? Herself? Does Tara really want to get away from the Club, or is the Old Lady thing starting to appeal to her?
The most interesting bit of intrigue, though, at least for now, is how the Club will decide on, and, I assume reconcile itself to, running drugs. The scene between Jax and Clay early on, when they reach their agreement regarding the drug mule deal, and the ones with Bobby and Clay and then Bobby and Tig discussing it later, were extremely well done. Bobby seems set to play a bigger role this season, being, in some way, the voice of reason for the Club. I'm happy to see that, as I think the character has been a bit underutilized in the past.
Another underutilized character who is getting increased screen time and tearing it up is Opie. I LOVED Opie in this episode, especially as he played off Jax. It's been a while since we've see the alternate love and tension between the two of them, and it's a great dynamic. Opie also shows an amazing level of self-awareness, both in his comments to Jax about the potential drug running, and in his assessment of Lyla ("I love her, but she's not Donna."). I wonder about this stability, though, and how long it can last.
I have only two complaints about last night's episode, and neither is very serious. First, I think Gemma is going off the rails a little bit more than seems justified about the letters. I mean, obviously there is something she's hiding, but her level of paranoia seems strange. Secondly, Chibs is almost non-existent. There had to have been some serious aftermath of the Irish situation for him personally, and I'd like to see that.
Once again, I'm awed with what Kurt Sutter and his team have put together. Can't wait until next week.