‘Sons of Anarchy’ – ‘June Wedding’: Oh so Charming

Senior Television Writer
11.23.10 91 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Sons of Anarchy” coming up just as soon as I build you a swing set…

“You and I need to finish what we started here, Jax.” -Stahl

With “June Wedding,” the series returns to America (and returns to its traditional theme song), but there’s definitely a kind of crisis fatigue that I think has set in, for both the characters in Charming and me at home.

Having recovered his son, Jax can’t spend much time with him(*) due to the crisis with Tara, yet Charlie Hunnam spends much of the hour seeming only mildly put out by the danger his old lady is in. Whether Jax is supposed to be tired from the flight, or feels that Salazar is a walk in the park compared to all the craziness of Belfast or whatever, there was definitely less of a sense of urgency to “June Wedding” than there was to the Belfast episodes – as if the story of the season ended last week and now we’re getting a prolonged epilogue.

(*) That, ultimately, may have been the biggest miscalculation of the Abel abduction story: because of the storytelling demands of the series, we have spent and will continue to spend very little time on Jax just spending time with his kid. There’s no doubt that Jax loves Abel, nor that a father in general wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth to get his son back, but it’s still an abstract emotion for the show. As a baby on a show that is decidedly not about the minutiae of parenting, Abel isn’t a character; he’s a prop.

And I have no problem with epilogues, particularly at the end of a season that’s had to focus more on plot than character. The parts of “June Wedding” that are just about the characters reconnecting with each other in Charming are terrific, whether it’s Opie taking Lyla up onto the clubhouse roof to discuss marriage, or Wayne and Gemma using a marijuana joint as an unofficial peace pipe, or Tara and Gemma sharing a tight embrace.

But there’s a weird laid-back quality to it all, considering how much story Kurt Sutter obviously still wants to tell in these last two. He has to dispatch with Salazar and reunite Jax and Tara, and the finale still has to deal with Jimmy O., whether the club gets deeper in bed with the IRA, Jacob Hale, the federal gun charges and of course, Stahl. And many of these stories have been deep background for so long that the characters walk through many of the scenes about them with a look of, “Oh, right… That.” on their faces.

And then there’s crazy June Stahl. Where to begin with Stahl?

There was a time when she was an interesting antagonist for SAMCRO – a sane counterpoint to Agent Kohn, someone who developed a grudge against the club over time and who did shady things, but someone who was still a recognizably human, flawed character. Now she’s both insane and a walking, bug-eyed plot device – a complete sociopath who will do anything to protect her career and keep the plot spinning. She’ll kill her lover and pin the mess in the safe house on her(**), and she’ll no doubt screw over Jax too if that helps her out and sets wheels in motion for season four.

(**) And I still don’t understand exactly how that lie is supposed to work. The ATF knew that Stahl was alone in the house with Edmond, and presumably Agent Tyler’s whereabouts were accounted for elsewhere, unless her role on that particular operation was to eat alone in her apartment, watch TV and go to bed early. And at what point does someone in the ATF notice that Stahl keeps winding up in situations where agents and/or assets are killed in weird circumstances where Stahl is the only witness?

There’s an attempt to put Jax and Stahl on an equal plane with their actions regarding Salazar and Tyler – in both cases murdering someone in cold blood and then faking the evidence for the cover story they’ll immediately tell law-enforcement – but it doesn’t work. Jax breaks the law, and screws over Unser, but he’s getting revenge on the guy who threatened the life of Jax’s lover and unborn baby, and who’s been responsible, directly and indirectly, for a bunch of murders of innocent people. From the show’s point of view, it’s a defensible action (and yet another sign that, for now, he’s done being a peacenik). Stahl, on the other hand, murders her own partner (in every sense) simply to cover her own behind. The show is interesting when the Sons are facing an opponent who exists in the same moral gray area they’re supposed to, and far less so when they’re dealing with a crazy and/or evil black hat.

Again, the quieter moments of the episode were really good. But I’ve been ready for a while to move on to whatever Sutter has planned for next season, and for the first time this year, it felt like the show itself was losing patience with this year’s plots.

Some other thoughts:

• The Opie/Lyla rooftop scene was nice, and before that we got Katey Sagal’s wonderful deadpan delivery of the line,  “But she earns her living catching cum in her
mouth, and I’m sensing that’s a problem.”

• Unser seemed to irrevocably cut the cord with SAMCRO before they left for Belfast, but a lot’s happened to both sides in between, and it was nice to see them all getting along again. As for Unser’s promise to retirement, I’ll believe that when I believe Brett Favre’s really done as an NFL gunslinger. I’ve heard that particular song a few too many times before.

• I liked the change in tone of the Tig/Kozik relationship. The grudge is still too deep – and the female behind it turns out to be a dog – for Tig to ever vote the guy into the charter, but they’ve had to work too closely over the last few episodes to remain at each other’s throats. I think Kenny Johnson’s been a really nice addition to the show, though, and it’d be nice to see him come back from time to time in the future.

• Juice has had very little to do this year, other than his designated role as the SAMCRO member most likely to be beaten up, but I laughed out loud at him explaining why he can’t translate the woman’s Spanish: “I’m a Puerto Rican from Queens! I speak better Yiddish!”

• The thing with Jax and Ima got swept under the rug pretty quick, didn’t it? Life-and-death situations can have that effect, I suppose.

What did everybody else think?

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