Review: ‘Sons of Anarchy’ – ‘Laying Pipe’

Senior Television Writer
09.26.12 101 Comments

I’m out of the weekly “Sons of Anarchy” reviewing game, and you can read Geoff Berkshire’s longer, thoughtful take on last night’s episode right here. But I did say I would check in from time to time, and one event in last night’s episode made this one of those times. A few very spoiler-y thoughts coming up just as soon as I bring in a specialist from out of town…

Rest in peace, Opie. Damn.

I have very mixed feelings about Opie’s death. Given everything I wrote last season about Kurt Sutter refusing to kill off anyone the audience was the least bit invested in, I really can’t object when he bumps off a fan favorite like Opie. But I really hope that what’s gained by this event, and what it means for Jax as a character and the arc of the rest of the series, is worth more than what the show just gave up in both Opie as a character and Ryan Hurst, who for my money consistently gave the best performance on the series for four-plus seasons.

Part of the problem with Clay’s continued existence on the show is that it was becoming harder and harder to accept that Opie wouldn’t simply shove every one of the old man’s protectors aside and put another bullet in him, curb stomp him, or find some other way to end the man responsible for killing his wife and father. So if Clay’s not going,(*) then I suppose Opie had to. Beyond that, as I I think I wrote last season, Opie’s story had become so much more compelling to me than Jax’s that Hurst was threatening to take over the show. And much as I love Opie, this isn’t Opie’s story; it’s Jax’s. Everyone else on the show is a tool being used to advance the story of this one man at the center of the quagmire that is SAMCRO. And it may well be that the most useful thing Opie could do at this stage of the story was to make Jax colder, and harder, and more committed to the dark path that he trapped himself on when he didn’t let the RICO case go forward. (Or, conversely, that watching his best friend get beat to death over club business might finally make Jax recognize how incredibly stupid he was to not let the club die when he had the opportunity.)

(*) I should also note that the big difference between the survival of Clay and Juice versus Opie’s death is that the show spent many episodes last season building up to the idea of one or both of those guys dying, whereas this is plot that was introduced within the confines of this episode.

“Laying Pipe” is structured in a way that, once Pope makes his demands to Jax, it’s pretty clear that Opie will be the one to die. You don’t have Jax and Opie spend the middle of the episode talking in a cell together and then suddenly bump off Chibs. That’s not dramatically interesting. And I can see how Opie, after hearing about all the nonsense that happened last season involving his dad, Clay and Jax, and realizing the place the club is stuck in, might have welcomed an escape from it all. He told Lyla last week that he’s not sure he’s been able to love anyone since Donna died. He’s disconnected in his personal life, and betrayed by a club that doesn’t remotely resemble the one he grew up in, and is only getting worse. Better a pipe to the head than a numb, guilt-ridden existence in which he’s expected to avenge Chibs on top of his other murdered loved ones.

But there’s no underselling this loss. Hurst has been fantastic, and now he’s gone. Will the aftermath be enough to compensate for that loss? We’ll find out.

As for the rest of the episode, I feel like Gemma is putting herself into that kind of Clay position from last year: she’s so out of control and brazen in her manipulations that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to have anything to do with her by season’s end. (And not just because she beat the snot out of Phineas and Ferb’s big sister.) I hope wherever that story is going has a more interesting resolution than what happened with Clay in season 4.

What did everybody else think? Do you admire Sutter for actually going through with the death of a major character, or are you too upset that it was Opie?

Around The Web