‘Sons of Anarchy’ – ‘Bainne’: Dead man talking

Senior Television Writer
11.16.10 134 Comments

Prashant Gupta / FX

A review of tonight’s “Sons of Anarchy” coming up just as soon as I abuse the power…

“I let him go, Ma.” -Jax

“I’m done listening to dead men.” -Jax

Earlier today, Kurt Sutter declared “Bainne” a “pivitol episode in the arc of the series.” Twitter typos aside (we’ve all been there), I see why he would say that. In deciding to leave Abel with his adoptive parents, Jax comes as close as he ever has to embracing his old man’s disgust with the life he built with the club. And in seeing that decision end in blood – first of the idealized Mr. & Mrs. Petrie, then presumably of Father Ashby – Jax recognizes that blood is his lot in life, and that any attempt to fight that only makes things worse.

The chasm from the first line I quoted above to the second is enormous, and the second one – if Jax carries through with it – is a big moment for the show. If Jax is, indeed, done playing Hamlet and ready to wholeheartedly embrace what the club has become, then that’s a very different character – and potentially a very different show.

But all of that is in the future, and Maureen’s decision to hide John’s love letters in Jax’s bag suggests there’s still some listening to dead men to come. I can’t know the future, including how or if the various dangling threads (Jimmy, Salazar and Tara, Gemma’s freedom, Hale) will be tied up in the next two weeks, much less how Jax will carry himself for the rest of the series. I’m curious to see on the latter, but I don’t know yet. All I can do now is look at how we got to this point – to that moment when Jax finally held Abel in his arms and said, “I’ll never let anyone take you from me again. I love you.” – and ask whether all that led up to it was worth it from a dramatic standpoint.

And I’m still not sure it was, even though “Bainne” was a powerful chapter in what’s been a very flawed season.

Yes, Jax’s journey is a bit of the show having its cake and eating it, too, by letting him make the decision to give up the baby and then having circumstances conspire to give him no choice in the matter. But where that sort of thing’s going to feel contrived if the Tara story follows the predictable arc of having her decide against abortion right before she has a miscarriage, here it had its roots in character. Jax has been fighting his feelings about the club for a long time, and while it would feel frustrating to have spent all this time getting to Belfast and then walking away without the kid, could you blame him for letting Abel go? Just consider all the things he’s seen and done – and the people he’s killed or seen killed – in the year or so timeframe that these three seasons have covered. Whatever Gemma might say about family, this is not the healthiest potential environment in which to raise a baby, and it’s understandable that the Jax Teller we met in season one would actually consider this, and even make the decision that he did. At the same time, the violence the club spreads is so pervasive and unstoppable that it’s not a surprise at all that the decision would backfire. And I was glad to see Father Ashby finally accept responsibility for all the hell he unleashed by refusing to give Abel back straight away, and to face possible execution at Jimmy’s hand as a result.(*) If we had to suffer through all the plot contrivances of the last 11 episodes, then Ashby should have to suffer, as well.

(*) On the other hand, if Jax can tell that Jimmy’s going to kill Ashby, surely the Council can, too, right? And if that’s the case, why let the guy get on the plane in the first place? Ashby’s just traded his life for Abel’s, so just blow up the plane on the runway or somesuch.

And depending on what Jax can do with the Jimmy situation in the next couple of episodes, the Sons might be on the verge of becoming so big and so powerful and so steeped in the gun business that there’s no point in Jax trying to fight the tide.

Again, I don’t think the journey was worth the trouble, but the destination that was the Belfast half of this episode was a damn good showcase for Charlie Hunnam and the creative team, and it really makes me want to see where the rest of the season, and series, takes our suddenly not-so-conflicted hero.

Some other thoughts:

• On the other hand, the Tara/Salazar story? Ugh. Why put Tara in a position to not only have a gun on Salazar, but to have one on him WHILE HIS BACK IS TURNED AND THE GUN IS DOWN and not have her just shoot the guy? In taking out his old lady – and, in previous seasons, in shooting Kohn – Tara has shown she’s not opposed to lethal force in moments of self-defense, and it should have been clear that this was one of them. Giving Margaret the gun and staying was just dumb. Hell, if she’s just concerned about letting Luisa die, then shoot Salazar in the leg or something, get out and call 911. That’s another case of a character doing something stupid because the larger arc needed them to stay in the same place they were for another episode or two.

• To keep the eye-rolling trans-continental, the episode did also provide us with Gemma pointing a gun at both a nun and a baby in the same scene. So there’s that.

• Though the supporting members of the club haven’t had much to do this season, I liked that Opie stayed with Jax for his extra time in the hotel room with the murdered Petries. It’s good to get a reminder that these two are best friends, and that Opie has Jax’s back ahead of the other Sons. On the other hand, the editing of that scene into the next one left the impression that Jax might be sticking around for the cops to punish himself, only for him to be back with the other Sons seconds later. A bit distracting.

• Agent Tyler doesn’t look like she’s congenitally stupid, yet you would think a woman who knows June Stahl in a Biblical sense would have realized by now that she’s a borderline sociopath who will screw over everyone – including the woman she’s screwing – to get what she wants, and that there were about 15,000 holes in her story about secret orders from on high.

• The homeless woman the Petries gave food to wasn’t the phantom/Shakespearean girl from season one in Charming, was she?

• Wondering where Unser lands at the end of this story with Hale, the sheriffs, etc. Assuming he still has a badge by the time the season’s through, I could see him playing a Hale (David, not Jacob) kind of role next year, where he recognizes that the Sons have their uses but is much tougher on them than back in the chummy days. The club needs an adversary who’s not an obvious black hat, and they ain’t forgiving him anytime soon (see Piney ordering him some bottom-shelf liquor), so why not?

• Some viewers keep speculating that Clay and Gemma arranged John’s “accidental” death, and certainly JT’s “And I know that I should be afraid” line in his love letter will only add fuel to that. But the iPad/iPhone app for the show, which has a lot of detail about the show’s backstory, again says that the accident was exactly that. Now, I’m a believer that any important information about a show should be contained within the show itself, and if a crucial piece of intel is left to an app or a mobisode or an in-character blog or whatever, then the storytellers aren’t doing their job properly. But in this case, the show has said that it was an accident, and everything else has been fan speculation, so I think that’s fine. It’s not the storytellers’ job to address and dismiss every fan theory within the show.

What did everybody else think?

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