SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear following a new episode of “Sons of Anarchy.” It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects of the show up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.
Two weeks ago, I said, “Violence and adrenaline are as big a draw for [the Sons] as the brotherhood, motorcycles, and ‘easy’ money. You don’t live this kind of life, or at least continue to, without a taste for cheap thrills.” Back then I was referring to Jax, Tig, Chibs, and Happy escaping an ambush by going off-roading in a station wagon as bullets flied in every direction. After confirming that they were all alive, the guys laughed and screamed with excitement. Happy spoke for the group when he exclaimed “I am rapturous!”
That was a long winded way of saying these guys are adrenaline junkies. They are addicted to the lives of danger, risk, and crime they lead. Turn to Clay’s actions at the beginning of this season for further proof. Upon realizing that “the life” might be taken away from him, he did everything in his power to prevent it-like a caged lion claws and scratches in an attempt to find freedom or, say, Bob Hughes hustles to get a fix. Ironically enough, the SAMCRO clubhouse has a “No Junkies” sign, right by the doorway leading out to the picnic tables.
Regardless of what substance, lifestyle, or what have you an addict is dependent on, if he truly wants to quit, he quits. Right there on the spot. If he really means it, there is no last hurrah, no one last fix or drink, he won’t give himself another month of using, he won’t say Christmas day will be his last. Because when an addict gives himself that time, it's not just time to use, but to reconsider whether he really wants to quit, and, more often than not, rationalize why it’s just not the right time yet.
You may see where I’m going with this. Jax and Tara were never going to get out and live safe, peaceful lives with their boys. They sentenced themselves to life in Charming the second they started making excuses and delaying. Jax was being just as dishonest (with everyone, including himself) when he said he’d get out once he'd “protected the club” as a junkie who promises to quit if he can use for just one more month, day, or hour. It’s always “just one more.” Likewise, if the Teller family really wanted to get out of Charming, they would have done so, right the fuck then, the same way an addict or alcoholic who’s quitting needs to really and truly commit right there on the spot. Otherwise, by the time you actually mean it, it’ll be too late. And for Jax and Tara, boy is it too late.
The episode title, "J'ai Obtenu Cette," means "I got this" in French (perhaps as a nod to Chucky's new language of choice). It's a phrase Jax could have spoken in reference to just about every task he set out to accomplish this season. He now has everything he ever wanted, but it doesn't feel right. There's a reason for that (aside from his wife getting arrested): as we've discussed so often, he had to transform into Clay to get it. The scary thing, both for us as fans of the idealistic Jax of the past and the people around him, is that he's way better at being Clay than Clay ever was. Because while his willingness to do anything is reminiscent of Clay, his intelligence and ability to ensure his own hands appear clean is more in the vein of one Damon Pope. When Marks, Pope's now-elevated number two, implies that the reason the chips fell where they did was because Jax engineered it, Jax responds, “You think I planned this whole thing? Come on, man, you’re giving me way too much credit. I ain’t Pope. I’m just a mechanic looking out for my family.” Yeah, whatever.
Last week, I said that if Jax took Pope's advice about getting revenge indirectly, going behind the club's back despite a vote to let Clay be, purely for his own purposes, it would be a trademark Clay move. Pope said Jax needed to "step back from the need to feel it" because "it’s not about the process, it’s about the result.” Well he did all that and more, and it cements his transformation into a hybrid monstrosity. Half Clay and half Pope might as well be equal parts Godzilla and King Kong for all the destruction it's going to cause. The incredible thing about Jax's plan is that he's likely to get exactly what he wants, but guaranteed to get at least some satisfaction. The best case scenario (for Jax) is one of Marks’s guys will off Clay before he's behind bars. The worst case scenario is they don't, and Clay will still be behind bars.
Bobby knows what Jax did and calls him out on it. Jax suavely brushes off all guilt on a technicality, he didn't lay a hand on Clay. Bobby responds to the quip, and Jax's attitude, by saying, "It wasn't about being smart enough to hurt him, it was about being smart enough not to hurt him. You had a chance to be different." Jax's response is "Maybe I'm not so different." I'll say. Jax has forgotten why he wanted to be president in the first place. It wasn't so he could get revenge on Clay and do what he pleased without consequence. It was so he could fulfill he and his father's lofty ambitions for both himself and the club, it was for his sons (small "s"). Jax is the perfect leader for Clay's Sons of Anarchy, but he wanted to be that leader for his father's. As a result, part of the ending montage was Bobby slicing off his VP patch. But he won't be leaving the club. Given that this is a show about transformations, and more often than not, transformations from one character into another, my prediction is that Bobby will be for Jax what Piney was for Clay. That is, the (relatively) old member, an artifact of another time, powerless to stop Jax's treachery but still constantly yammering in his ear about it.
So Jax got what he wanted, but contrary to what Pope said, the realities of the process make you wonder whether the result was worth it. That's just how things go in this show. For example, Roosevelt got some measure of vengeance on the man whose plotting led to his wife's death. The sheriff didn't have any proof that Clay was responsible for the break-ins, even though Eli knew he was responsible. Contrarily, he knew Clay wasn't responsible for Pope's murder, but that's the crime he had evidence for.
The best example (outside of Jax), however, is Gemma. Despite everything that Clay's done to her, and done in general, the cold manner in which his arrest went down made it feel somehow wrong. That's partly because Clay has been getting slightly sympathetic of late, but more because his downfall was sealed by his wife and Juice, the two people he trusted most. But back to Gemma. She finally gets Nero, but at this point neither of them is the one the other fell in love with. Nero used to be an actual junkie, but as an OG he was addicted to the same lifestyle as Jax and company. The Nero Gemma’s getting has relapsed, he's back to being a gangster. And Jax poked him with the metaphorical needle, just like he poked Wendy with a real one-completely out of self-interest.
Last of all, there's Tara. I was really blown away by her arrest, it's just a road I never saw the show taking. It's possible that Toric got angry when Otto, you know, bit off his own tongue and tried to get some satisfaction another way, evidence be damned. But the evidence strongly suggests that Gemma is behind it (although Clay's arrest is proof that in Charming, evidence doesn't mean shit), and I'm not just talking about the fact that she threatened to dime. Tara's talk about leaving likely made Gemma panic, then overhearing Jax and Nero talking about getting out was the last straw. Plus, she has a history of lying to law enforcement to get to her grandchildren in this very episode. Showing up to comfort Jax right at the moment of his wife’s arrest is a bold move, like an arsonist returning to watch the fire she started. And, of course, they ended with another play on "the shot," where the resident old lady puts her arm around the president. Gemma and JT turned into Tara and Jax turned into Gemma and Jax.
A few more things:
-Now that I know Joel McHale won’t be coming back, his appearance sort of seems like a waste. It could be argued that it (potentially) distracted from the show ("Oooo, that's Joel Mchale, wait what were they saying?") more than his acting talents added over the average guy they'd get from an audition
-Stuff like Tig and the dog reminds us why we love these guys, who’d be villains in literally any other show.
-Can Juice stay loyal to a plan for either side just once? Right before Roosevelt shows up at Clay’s place, Juice tells him to take his bike and run. He’s lucky that didn’t happen, as it would’ve meant a best case scenario of Jax bringing his snitching to the table and a worst case of Jax having him killed.
-It doesn’t seem like Jax forcing Wendy to get high has messed with her recovery (so far), which is lucky considering how painfully obvious it is that a sober Wendy is the best parent Abel and Thomas can possibly hope to have. Although just because we haven’t seen her using doesn’t mean she isn’t. Even if she’s still clean, if that shot was going to bring her back to her old ways, it wouldn’t necessarily be instantly. Just having that experience in the back of her mind could be a trigger and bring on another relapse in time, this one voluntary.
-I can’t not gloat about calling the way things would go down with Tig/Pope.
-Sometimes, Chekhov’s gun refers to an actual gun.
That's it for the fifth season. "Sons of Anarchy" will be back to make both its audience and characters miserable next year. To make the time go faster we'll have "Justified," the next show I'll be analyzing, premiering on 1/8/13. Be sure to check back then and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @NateKreichman.