‘Sons of Anarchy’ recap: ‘Poenitentia’

The problem with trying to keep a show like “Sons of Anarchy” interesting after six seasons is that viewers start to feel like they’ve seen it all before. A crooked cop who’s no better than the MC? A mother who’ll do anything to get her kid(s) back? A member of the MC facing almost certain death right before the credits roll? We’ve been down these roads before.

And yet “Poenitentia” was still the most intriguing episode of this “Sons” season so far, simply because most of the drama came out of the characters and their actions rather than being randomly thrust upon them (like the school shooting).

That doesn’t mean it all worked. It’s disappointing (and frustrating, and annoying) that Lee Toric is going full-on Agent Stahl this quickly. After accidentally shooting (and then intentionally murdering) the prostitute in his hotel room, he’s decided to turn lemons into lemonade and frame Nero for her death. Maybe he’ll get away with it (poor Nero), maybe he won’t. Too bad it’s suddenly a lot less interesting to watch him try.

Toric has always bordered on cartoonish, but the murder turns him into a flat out psychopath and that’s boring. My hope is that he’ll go down in flames relatively quickly, while D.A. Patterson picks up the torch in pursuing the MC. Her combination of political savvy and righteous self-interest is reminiscent of David Aceveda early on in “The Shield” and that’s the kind of foil “Sons” could use (instead of another garden variety nut-job).

Part of the reason Toric has to frame Nero is because he won’t be getting any help from Clay. Ron Perlman had some solid material to work with this week as Clay made his version of amends with Jax and accepted his fate outside of protective custody. Much to his surprise, the inmates Clay expected to avenge Pope’s death had another plan in mind: He has to do their dirty work, starting with instigating a skirmish in the yard and stabbing a fellow prisoner in the neck. Clay’s got more lives than a cat, but since it never seemed likely he would rat on SAMCRO, moving away from that angle and toward exploring how he’ll fare in prison qualifies as an improvement.

Meanwhile, the lies are piling up around Gemma. Tara tells her she’s pregnant (which seems like a play) and Wendy comes to her in distress after nearly being raped. I guess we’re supposed to believe the mention of rape brings out compassion in Gemma (even though just last season she angrily hoped Tara would be raped in jail) because she feels sisterly enough to offer Wendy a gun for protection. But it turns out Wendy’s ugly bruises aren’t real, they’re just makeup, and she’s making her own play on Gemma. (Or — maybe more likely — Tara put her up to it. It’s looking like Tara’s playing a long con this season to protect her kids.)

Jax still thinks he can trust Tara, but he can’t say the same for Tig. After watching Tig lie to his face about what happened to the Persian torture porn producer, Jax can no longer hold off on turning Tig over to August Marks. But whether or not this means the end of Tig — or the show contrives a reason to he stays alive (a la Clay) — is something we’ll have to wait to see next week. And for the first time this season, I think I actually care — at least a little.

Odds and ends:

– It’s about time we get a “Sons of Anarchy” season six episode running less than 90 minutes. “Poenitentia” feels leaner and meaner than the season’s previous two episodes, and makes you wonder how much better the show might play if it was forced back to the standard 60 minutes. We all know Kurt Sutter thinks he’s telling a sprawling epic here, but the best pulp fiction leaves you wanting more, not waiting for it to end, and Sutter has a better chance of delivering that with tighter cuts.

– Speaking of leaving the audience wanting more, it’s worth noting that this episode airs between the almost universally reviled series finale of “Dexter” (a show which drastically overstayed its welcome) and the much anticipated series finale of “Breaking Bad.” The lesson in contrasts is useful for “Sons,” since it treads the same anti-hero territory as both shows but has been trending perilously closer to “Dexter” for a few seasons now. I’d still like to believe Sutter can turn it around enough that the final season of “Sons” doesn’t go down as one of its worst.

– Hey there, Sherrif Roosevelt! Nice to see you again.

– Peter Weller’s face when Jax spies on Barosky having sex with Colette is going to haunt my dreams. Thanks for that. (Ick.)

– Bobby Elvis has his nomads: Harper (Steve Howey), Quinn (Rusty Coones), Montez (Jacob Vargas) and West (Douglas Bennett). Now what?