All Hail Queen Tara: What We Learned From This Week’s Cunning, Fantastic ‘Sons Of Anarchy’

Before the sixth season of Sons of Anarchy began, the biggest draw for a series where we know most everyone will die in the end was in the satisfaction of seeing these increasingly terrible people die. The central character of the show, Jax Teller, had become just like his predecessor: Egomaniacal, power-hungry, and despicable. It almost felt like Kurt Sutter was trying to out anti-hero Breaking Bad by making his characters more and more unlikable. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of why we liked the characters in the first place. Jax was terrible. Bobby — the heart and soul of the series — was off in a separate land. Tig, who Jax had still planned to give up to August Marks, wasn’t helping himself by killing another guy and pissing on him. Chibbs was angry and upset with the way Jax was running the MC. Clay was — and still is — in prison, and Juice was killing a drug addict on Jax’s behalf. It was still an entertaining show, but we had lost sympathy for the characters.

Then Toric died.

The fact that Donal Logue had to abruptly bail on the show due to scheduling conflicts, and Kurt Sutter had to reformulate the season was basically the best thing to happen to Sons of Anarchy. Sutter changed it up. He actually went back to the roots of the series (instead of just paying lip service to it). Jax began to put the club ahead of himself. The characters began to have fun. Bobby came back. Tig started making jokes. Suddenly, instead of waiting to see how these characters die, I’m actually a little sad that Sons of Anarchy is coming to an end after next season. I’m not ready for it, and I don’t want to lose any more of the main cast. I like them again. I like them a lot. (I just wish Opie were still around for it). Last night’s episode not only built on the resurrected spirit of Sons of Anarchy in last week’s installment, it improved on it. Nobody’s watching Sons of Anarchy out of a sense of obligation anymore, or to see how it ends. We’re watching it because it’s must-see TV again.

For Ratboy Is a Jolly Good Fellow — After another opening musical montage, which set the tone of the episode and saw the MC moving into an abandoned downtown ice-cream shop owned by Jacob Hale (a soon-to-be defeated mayor who has lost ALL his bluster), SAMCRO got right down to the business of swearing in the three new guys that Bobby brought in (minus Steve Howey’s Hopper, unfortunately), and then patched in the prospect, Ratboy, who completely deserves it. Even better, they f*cked with him first, just like the old days. LOOK AT TIG SMILE.

The D.A. Hoods Up — District Attorney Patterson wasn’t kidding around about “hooding up,” and more importantly, CCH Pounder’s character finally got rid of that terrible helmet wig. With the evidence implicating Toric in the murder of the prostitute still in the lab (ever-so-conveniently), Patterson attempted to leverage Nero’s release for information connecting SAMCRO to the gun involved in the school shooting (a school shooting that now seems like ages ago, in a completely different season). Patterson gave Nero twenty-four hours to make a decision. Nero won’t turn on the club now, obviously, because of Gemma. However, with what happened to Gemma later in the episode, Nero might not feel as obligated to SAMCRO. On the other hand, the way that SAMCRO helped Van Dam out might further obligate Nero. In either respect, hopefully Eli will tip Nero off to the fact that they’ve got Toric dead to rights on the prostitute’s murder, and it won’t even come to that.

A Little Irish Business — The beef with the IRA was mostly put on the backburner this week, except to cut Connor Malone loose, let him know that Jax is not about “blood for blood” anymore, and have him pass along a message to the Irish elders the fact that August Marks is still willing to take run guns for the Irish if the deal with Clay falls through, and if the Irish can get over their sh*tty racism. Related: Because of the death of Pope, the transition in leadership is holding up Jacob Hale’s new development, which is holding up SAMCRO’s maintenance contracts, which is keeping SAMCRO in the poor house.

Tig and Van Dam: CUTEST. COUPLE. EVER — The really “fun” part of the episode was the side diversion with Van Dam, which makes me wish that Sons of Anarchy took a lot more side diversions. Van Dam, it turns out, has a wicked evil Mom who made Van Dam the star of her child porn ring (and also liked to f*ck him, because ewww). Turns out that Van Dam also fathered a kid back in the day when he was still a confused mess.

That kid fell into Alice’s lap, who was drugging him and using him in her child porn business. Jax and the gang, as a favor to Nero, and because Jax can’t say no to a pretty face, took the case. After a fun goose chase, SAMCRO tracked Alice down at her studio. There, Jax showed more humanity that he’s shown in four seasons by letting his temper get the best of him and blowing Alice’s brains out for sh*t-talking Van Dam.

Don’t tell me that wasn’t IMMENSELY satisfying. I give it TEN F*CK YEAHS!

Even still, it wasn’t as adorable as this:

These two need their own romantic comedy. Will we see Venus Van Dam again? According to Walton Goggins in EW:

I’m not at liberty to say. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see her again before this show is done. I’ll just say that. (Laughs) She’s like a drug for me. And I think she’s like a drug for Kurt. Kurt and his writing staff did such a good job of creating this woman who is as strong as they come and now simultaneously as vulnerable as they come. I just… I miss her. I missed her the day that we wrapped, and I miss her now. (Laughs) I hope to be six inches taller than some of the members of the gang on Sons of Anarchy again, but we’ll see.

THE RISE OF TARA KNOWLES — There have been a lot of brilliant schemes over the course of six seasons of Sons of Anarchy, but few have been as deliciously malicious as the one that Tara pulled over on Gemma. WOW. JUST WOW. The master plan she put into place in the beginning of season finally played out, and I don’t think anyone predicted how cunning and manipulative it would be. She used Wendy to provoke Gemma into going off on Tara in front of a lot of witnesses, then Tara lured Gemma into a closed-door room, threw herself onto a table — where she had a packet of her own blood explode all over her stomach — and then accused Gemma of kicking a pregnant woman in her babymaker.

Gemma was dead. to. f*cking. rights.

It was a masterful stroke of genius. Gemma was arrested, and Tara turned Jax against his own Mom, got a restraining order put against her, and Tara even sneaked a document that Jax signed giving up custody rights of the children to Wendy. GENIUS.

Unfortunately, when Jax finds out, Tara is so dead, which is too bad, because I’ve never liked Tara more than I did last night. Gemma got what she deserved, y’all. She finally got her comeuppance for nearly killing Abel in that car accident last season, and for plotting for so long against Tara. Meanwhile, Tara finally, finally got to be the kick-ass bitch that put Gemma in her place. CHECK and MATE.