The pace of the generally compelling hour was excellent and though there were developments in quite a few story threads, they all had room to breathe. It was exe cutive producer Paris Barclay's last time in the director's chair this season, and you could tell that his steady hand was on the tiller.
Still, I'm betting all you want to talk about is what happened in the gripping closing seconds of the hour. I know I have a lot to say on the matter, in the post below and in this week's 'Sons of Anarchy' podcast (which you can find here and here).
So Opie shot Clay, and I'm betting we all thought the president of Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club had it coming.
I can't overpraise Ryan Hurst's work in this episode, which was a continuation of his fine performance last week (and all season). Opie is the poster child for the fallout from the club's activities -- he's a walking reminder that being a member of SAMCRO takes away as much as it gives, if not much more. What has happened to him reveals what's really at the core of the club. It's not about brotherhood and solidarity anymore (if it ever was): It's about greed, expediency and selfishness. The club was supposed to be a refuge from the hypocrisy and compromises of the straight world, but the Sons of Anarchy have hurt Opie and his family more than the Man ever could.
Hurst is wonderful at conveying Opie's pain in not only what he says, but also in how he carries himself. Wisely, the writers know not to give him too much dialogue, not because the actor can't handle it, but because Opie's presence speaks so eloquently and his eyes and face are so expressive. Hurst's performance made it clear that Opie's pain was about more than his old man: His father, his wife, his friendship with Jax are gone or hopelessly compromised. His family might be intact and relatively content had Jax not made sure Opie stayed in the club. He's a man with nothing left to lose, and killing Clay might not bring him peace, but it was hard not to feel that he deserved that moment of vengeance.
His former best friend Jax is certainly a different man this season, and that's been my favorite aspect of the overall story. The final scene -- which I'll talk about more below -- was certainly very important, but one of the most crucial moments was Jax telling Gemma to step off. So much of this show has depicted characters not telling the truth to each other out of what they think is love or loyalty or a desire to protect the club.
Jax has finally realized how much of that his hogwash. Sure, yes, there are times when its better to hold your counsel and keep your powder dry, but he's realized that the secrets and lies he's been drawn into have usually been about others trying to control him. In her mind, Gemma has been all about helping her son, but the truth is, she's a control freak, and the more Jax and Tara reject her machinations and secretiveness, the more it drives her nuts.
But that's what I like about Jax and Tara, and why their story still interests me: They don't want to be Gemma and Clay. Jax and Tara tell each other the truth, at least to the extent that doing so is sane and possible. They're trying to become what Gemma and Clay are not (and can never be): A couple that prizes clarity and truthfulness over repression and iron-fisted control. She may have shown up at exactly the wrong time, but Wendy did speak the truth: Children are ruined by lies. And Jax knows that extracting his own kids from that world is the only way to give them a real future. But he and Tara are keeping a few secrets of their own, and getting away from what the previous generation created will be even harder now.
Will they be successful? At the very least, they'll probably pay a heavy price for what they're attempting. There's no doubt Clay's lies and his attempts to control the people around him have backfired in a huge way, and that will ultimately blow back on Jax. Clay's arrogance has turned into a kind of disease: How can he think that the murder of a fellow club member's wife is "old business"? It's a credit to Ron Perlman's charisma, presence and skill that I'm still interested in what happens to Clay, even though, as Clay said those words to Opie, I hated the guy. How dare he be so cavalier with everyone else's lives, just so he can make enough