‘Sons of Anarchy’ – ‘Kiss’: Crazy stupid love

Senior Television Writer
11.01.11 105 Comments


My review of tonight’s “Sons of Anarchy” coming up just as soon as it’s a little late for Legos…

“Clay cannot be saved.” -Unser

Watching “Kiss,” I was reminded of a line from, of all things, Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs,” in which Darth Helmet explains that “evil will always triumph because good is dumb.” In the course of this episode, a lot of characters – Gemma, Unser and Juice, primarily – either make or are on the verge of making incredibly dumb or naive decisions that will enormously benefit Clay or Lincoln Potter. Roger Ebert likes to talk about The Idiot Plot, where the story only works if every character in it is an idiot, and there are times this season where it’s felt like the antagonists’ plans only keep working because the (relative) good guys are being idiots.

But is it stupidity, or is it something deeper? That’s the question we have to ask, in terms of why people make the decisions they make and also whether we believe they would do that.

Wayne, for instance isn’t stupid. He knows exactly what he’s doing by helping perpetrate Clay’s lie about who killed Piney and why. He knows he’s putting Tara, the club, and lots of other people he cares about in danger. He’s blind to none of this. But he loves Gemma – has always loved Gemma, as we’ve been reminded time and again in a series of marvelous small moments between Dayton Callie and Katey Sagal – and even though he knows she’s playing him with that kiss, he’s powerless to resist her.

Juice is definitely not dumb. He sees the wall of Potter’s command center and instantly recognizes what’s going on here and how Roosevelt lied to him about the club not being the target of the investigation. (It’s maybe the best scene in the episode, so visceral and so well played by Theo Rossi; for a moment, Juice isn’t a cog in a writer’s machine but a righteously pissed-off human being.) He’s damned no matter what, and he seems to recognize that the smartest play at this point is to opt out of future snitching. But Potter – whom we know much better than Juice at this point – lays out a convincing argument for why the club is just as damned as Juice, and how Juice might be able to help save the club, if not all of its members, by playing along a bit more. For a man who’s been in a deep dark hole ever since Roosevelt first approached him, it’s a tiny sliver of light, and you can see him wanting to go for it.

So I buy, on some level, why those two do what they do (or, in Juice’s case, prepares to do whatever it is Potter’s going to tell him to do), even as I recognize the contrivances being used to keep these two stories going. (As I said last week, I’m tired of all the mechanics in place to keep Clay on his supervillain throne.) And on a character level, I probably even buy that Gemma would be so blind to who and what Clay is. She’s given her whole life to him, leaped into his arms after her son died, stayed with him after her husband died (whether she knew Clay killed him or not) and has constructed her entire identity around a belief in SAMCRO and its leader. It’s hard for her to shake free of that, and she’s likely to do some stupid things – up to and including endangering not only the mother of her grandson but her two grandsons themselves – before she has that come-to-Jesus revelation. But I’ve come to find her willful ignorance and hypocrisy in service of the plans of both her husbands – the one on the show and the one writing the show – really unpleasant to watch. Gemma’s a fool, and she’s wrong, but she’s so loudly, aggressively wrong and meddlesome that in a way I’ve come to dislike her even more than Clay. Clay’s no hypocrite. He might act the part of someone he isn’t, but deep down he knows he’s all about self-preservation. I suppose with Gemma, the idea is that this is a tragic flaw: she wants so badly to believe in something that we know isn’t true. But the way she carries on about believing it is really grating, endangers characters I like more, and keeps her eeeevil husband in command.

Outside of the Juice/Roosevelt confrontation, the strongest parts of “Kiss” for me revolved around Jax, who had his brainlock moment earlier in the season when he decided to go in with Clay on the cartel deal, but is at least trying to get out from under it. Jax demonstrating better, longer-thinking leadership than Clay in the mess with the Niners was a great moment for the character, and Charlie Hunnam was fantastic in the later scene where Jax responded appropriately to Clay’s line about “Doctor Pussy” clouding his judgment.

I’d like to believe that by the end of this season, Jax will have wised up enough to realize that he has to carry out that threat about Clay’s hands – and that perhaps Gemma and Unser will be pinning down Clay’s wrists while Jax does it – but I fear that between the cartel and Potter, there will be enough external pressure on the club for the two to have to keep working together for many more seasons to come.

Some other thoughts:

• More potential stupidity: Juice and Chibs have that very random (at least from Chibs’ perspective) conversation about the rule against blacks, Chibs has been eyeing Juice with suspicion virtually ever since, Juice kills Miles under circumstances no one else was witness to and then Juice tries to hang himself, and the only math that Chibs can do in that situation is to realize that the club won’t keep a suicidal member? Not too bright, Mr. Telford is. (Also, kicking Juice out of the club would have been the best thing for him, not that Jax or Chibs realize this.)

• Big Otto, on the other hand, turns out to be smart enough to recognize that Potter’s not who he claims to be. And in this situation, Potter is right: Otto has suffered absurdly on behalf of the club. He’s the Job of SAMCRO, and his faith finally seems broken.

• Am I the only one wondering if Romeo’s plan in terms of meeting with the Irish Kings is to cut out the middleman and get the Kings to sell the guns directly to them, without SAMCRO getting its cut?

Of course the hitman Luis links Clay up with is one of those “once you call him in, he can’t be stopped” kind of bad guys. Even money odds on Clay having buyer’s remorse and rushing to stop the guy at the 11th hour?

What did everybody else think?

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