‘Sons of Anarchy’ recap: ‘Darthy’

I’m kinda glad there’s only one more episode of “Sons of Anarchy” left this season because I need a break. Not a break from the show, necessarily, but definitely a break from Jax Teller.

I’ve had enough of his smug self-serving schemes, spoiled child-like tantrums, and stubborn refusal to do anything about the constant threat that hangs over the head of everyone he supposedly loves as long as he remains in SAMCRO.

There’s no need to like or sympathize with characters to find them interesting. Almost all quality cable dramas are built around anti-heroes who often behave in reprehensible ways. But no matter what vile acts Vic Mackey, Tony Soprano, Walter White, et al. may commit, they’re never less than compelling figures at the center of dynamic, nuanced shows. That’s not the case with “Sons,” and I think more than anything else that’s what holds the show back from joining the ranks of TV’s best dramas.

In this episode alone, Jax gave Clay a beating after a unanimous vote to kick him out of the club (but spare his life, thanks to Bobby’s single “no” vote on that issue), watched helplessly as the “cartel” instigated a gunfight with the IRA, continued to reassure Damon Pope he’d turn over Tig, flipped out that his ex Wendy was spending time with their son Abel, continued to browbeat his mother, accepted Nero’s escape plan money to pay Wendy’s ransom after she was kidnapped by the IRA and practically strangled Wendy to death while threatening her life if she didn’t back off and leave his family alone.

That I didn’t sympathize with any of his actions isn’t the problem. The problem is I just don’t care any more who Jax is angry at or why he feels so wronged or what sort of violent act he’s engaging in to protect the sanctity of his club or his family or whatever else he feels allegiance to at that particular time and place. The whims of Jax Teller are nearly as exhausting as the writers’ ongoing efforts to make them semi-believable.

After five seasons it’s become nothing but a sad joke that Jax won’t do anything to change his life. During his heart-to-hear with Nero, Jax is shocked that Nero is willing to part with his money so easily. What will happen to his retirement plans? Turns out Nero could’ve bailed on pimp life long ago, but a zebra can’t change his stripes and all that…

“Now it’s too late,” Jax concludes. “But you knew that was gonna happen.”

“You can’t stay in the uniform and not play the game,” Nero answers.

It’s a sad development for Nero but one that holds significant potential for the show (if Nero survives next week’s finale). Jimmy Smits has been excellent all season long, and there’s every reason to believe he can sell the hell out of playing a soulful badass — someone caught up in circumstances that he loves and hates in equal measure.

Charlie Hunnam has proven plenty capable of selling that same conflict in the past, but we’ve seen too much of what Jax is willing to put up with to buy into the dilemma anymore. Jax doesn’t want to leave, period. He needs to man up and just say it.

Maybe that was part of what motivated his loathsome attack on Wendy. After the IRA told her what happened to Abel (isn’t she lucky she didn’t have to sit through Season 3 like the rest of us?), she understandably unloaded on Jax and Tara for staying in Charming and standing by SAMCRO after a baby was kidnapped, carted off to freakin’ Ireland and nearly killed several times over. Seriously, what does it take?

Deep down, Jax may understand she has a point. But, as usual, he blames everybody but himself.

Odds and ends:

– We got our confirmation that Donal Logue’s character is the brother of the late Nurse Toric. His name is Lee Toric, he’s a retired U.S. Marshal, and he makes it clear to Tara that he’s going to avenge his sister’s death. Line of the night: “You can hold on to that card. It’s obsolete. I’m still looking for a new job.”

– Clay’s current escape plan: Hitch a ride with the IRA back to Belfast, and he wants Gemma to come with him. She tells him she’ll “think about it” but the last thing we see her do is make out with Nero. Has she already told Jax where Clay is heading? Will she?

– Jax asks Unser to find out everything he can about Toric, which sounds like the beginning of an incredible spinoff about a hilariously mismatched pair of retired law enforcement officers.

– Hey, remember when Sheriff Roosevelt was on this show? Just checking.