‘Sons of Anarchy’ – ‘To Be, Act 1’: Tell me you love me

Senior Television Writer
11.29.11 217 Comments


A quick review of tonight’s “Sons of Anarchy” coming up just as soon as I get you a bigger bowl…

Because “To Be” was originally designed as a single 90-minute episode before being expanded into two one-hour episodes, I want to reserve judgment on it until I’ve seen the whole thing. (FX sent both parts out for review, but I have deliberately held off on watching “Act 2” until I finished writing this, so my commentary won’t be colored by what you haven’t seen yet. I can’t always do that, but this time, I can, so I am.) Instead, I’m just going to offer thoughts on a few specific points:

The unsinkable Clay Morrow: Not exactly the Doc Brown resolution, but he ain’t dead, because Opie turns out to be a really terrible shot at close range(*). Now, we seem to be heading down a road where Jax can kill Clay in the finale, but even if that happens, it won’t make the end of last week’s episode any more of a cheat.

(*) Jax, on the other hand? Such an amazing freaking pistol shot that he’s able to put a bullet in the head of one of the Niner drivers while firing backwards from a moving motorcycle. I’m not sure even Bullseye from Marvel Comics could pull that one off.

It’s like I said last week: Opie’s not the hero of this story, Jax is, and you can’t have the hero’s best friend solve the biggest moral dilemma in his life for him. But from any viewpoint other than one predicated on the structure of “Sons of Anarchy,” Opie was a perfectly acceptable, deserving person to be given that job, and given recent events, it seemed not only logical to have him do it, but almost improbable to have him not do it. Had Jax actually carried out his threat to shoot Opie before Opie shot Clay, that might have seemed fair narratively, even if I would have been frustrated that Clay managed to once again survive because other characters have been kept in the dark about what he’s up to. Doing it this way, on top of Juice preparing to lynch himself, only to be saved by a broken tree branch, feels like the show trying to have its cake and eat it, too. It wants to build to these big moments and make you feel the emotional weight of them, but it doesn’t want to actually deal with the implications of it. If Juice successfully hangs himself, not only is he off the show, but the Potter story dead ends. If Opie kills Clay, then Tara and Gemma can’t have their little battle for Jax’s soul.

It’s possible that what Jax does in “Act 2” will be good enough to justify all the contrivances to get us to this spot. But I spent a lot of the Clay-related scenes in “Act 1” sighing at Opie’s bad aim, at Tig immediately falling back into Clay’s corner, etc.

I learned it from watching you!: If there was one part of “Act 1” that felt sort of like a story in and of itself – and an extremely effective one, at that – it was Tara and Gemma each trying to manipulate Jax to their own ends: both wanting Clay dead, but one wanting that action to be the end of his life with SAMCRO, the other wanting it to be the thing that cements his position within the club. In the end, the student appears to become the teacher, as Tara applies all the lessons Gemma taught her and reminds her that, all other things being equal, a man will choose his old lady over his older mother.

It was a great hour for Maggie Siff, who over the past four years has had to play a character whose motivations and emotions vary wildly depending on the needs of the plot. I don’t know that the Tara this week exactly tracks with various other Taras we’ve seen over the years, but I believe that this would be the end result of all the recent events in her life. She wants out, immediately, and if she has to go full Lady Macbeth to remove Gemma’s claws from Jax, then she’ll do it.

I do wonder where the show can go with Gemma now, though. I mean, Jax will probably wind up staying in Charming – or else split town at the end of this season and return for some reason next – but her power and prominence on the show rested on her being the trusted wife of Clay and revered mother of Jax. If Clay winds up dead, or in exile, or back in power but remembering how Gemma treated him before he got shot, what does she have? She’s spent this entire season scrambling around to keep her two men in line and in town, always insisting to Wayne that she has a brilliant plan, and all of her plans have been fairly idiotic and ineffectual. Would Sutter make a show where Gemma is marginalized? I would tend to doubt it, but, like Clay, she seems to have outlived her usefulness. 

Who is Linc Potter, anyway? He’s a strange dude. He rides a motorcycle, dresses like a character from a 1973 crime film, always seems to magically know what the Sons and/or cartel members are up to from his unseen sources, and he’s building what seems to be an inescapable trap for SAMCRO. And yet we got that scene where Romeo goes on and on and on about how his sources within law-enforcement are widespread, connected and reliable enough to tell him if a task force like the one Potter has is gunning for him – and they’re telling him no one is. Is this just a case of Potter’s obsession with secrecy – offices hidden behind multiple secured doors, everyone on the task force signing non-disclosure agreements, etc. – somehow masking his movements from the people the cartel pays off? Or are we going to find out next week that Potter isn’t really who he says he is, and that’s how the Sons will get out of their latest trap? Or is the funny business coming entirely from Romeo’s end of things? Do he and Luis know more than they’re telling Jax? 

We’ll find out answers to that and more – including how the club moves forward if Chibs and Happy(**) are the only members still alive, free, and lacking an agenda in this whole Clay/Jax/Opie mess – next week. I’m going to watch “Act 2” now, and I should have a review of that posted right after it finishes airing a week from tonight. I asked about interviewing Sutter for a season 4 post-mortem, but he declined.

(**) Line of the night to Happy for, “He needs to die – like, a lot.” 

What did everybody else think?

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