Another week, another lengthy table-setting episode for Sons of Anarchy this week – though admittedly, it does feel like the show’s finally starting to reflect how close to the end it is, cranking up the misery a notch and doubling up on slow-mo montages as the show heads into its final five episodes. Unfortunately, none of this really adds anything new or exciting to the crumbling world of Charming – like last week’s episode, “The Separation of Crows” is too busy putting pieces into place to execute anything emotional and/or impactful.
I suppose if this week is supposed to represent the beginning of the end, it at least accomplishes that: Gemma’s bed full of dead crows overtly relays the fact that the Sons are ripping each other limb from limb, further represented when Jax puts a bullet through Jury’s head (more on that ridiculous nonsense in a minute), effectively turning non-Charming chapters of the club against their fearless leader. Things at least feel like they’re moving in a direction, if only because people are suddenly paying attention to Abel, and Nero is talking to everyone about his plan to save the innocent ones and move away to a peaceful land. Like the inevitable Gemma/Jax conversation about Tara’s death (this week, Gemma hesitates when Abel asks her if she actually knows what an accident is, a thoroughly contrived bit of dialogue) and Juice’s ultimate fate, a lot of what’s happening between Jax and Augustus (and for the most part, the other characters on the show) is narrative posturing, a lot of stories that have tried to be clever and allusive so many times over (each time the same way) that they’ve lost all effectiveness. We don’t care about Juice until his plan is in action, just like we don’t care about Bobby’s life until Jax and company act like they’re going to do something about it – and by the same token, until August’s reaction finally moves beyond showy torture (how arrogant are those boxes of Bobby parts he keeps sending to Jax) and starts picking off members of Redwoodie’s proprietors.
Until Sons actually gets to the point of this final season (a story that clearly feels like it could’ve been condensed into seven or eight episodes, given how much time we’ve wasted watching people stare and/or urinate in the woods), there’s just a lot of time-wasting, like Chibbs mumbling through a conversation with Jax that reminds us what a spineless #2 Chibbs is, a man who blindly follows Jackie-boy, without any sense of intelligent thought or ability to give advice beyond “Dew whut Jacky-boiah seeeyz!” – which is great for Jax and all, but makes Chibbs a less-than-compelling character to have Jax interact with, much less existing in such an influential position (as we saw when Bobby held the #2 chair, or when Jax himself was second in charge).
Or we get other scenes like the one with Jury and Jax, which boils down to the writers conveniently finding a way to get Jax to kill Jury – turns out, all it took for Jury to pull a gun and try to shoot Jax is a simple push, a stretch given how calm Jury’s been about his son’s murder to this point (after all, he was an absent father for two decades… so his emotional bond to his son must be enormous, right?). But did we honestly expect a different ending to the story? Jax is murdering EVERYBODY at this point (save for most police, like the one playing Scrabble with Unser as she rehabs and “tries” to remember what she saw), so it’s no surprise that he’s lost respect for the sanctity of the jacket – and the script gives him an easy out, by suddenly turning Jury into an aggressive person, admonishing Jax from any kind of real responsibility. The audience saw Jury reach for his weapon; it doesn’t matter that the rest of the Sons didn’t see it. We saw it, which means Sutter and company want us to think on some level, what Jax is doing is still justified – which is going to make the inevitable hammers to fall later this season that much more dissonant with what’s happening now.
It’s a classic case of having cake and eating it, too: Sons doesn’t want to make the Sons stopping looking cool, acting badass, or enjoying their homoerotic, brotherly machisimo – but at the same time, are trying to paint them as short-fused animals, two tones that Sons is neither able to make harmonious or dissonant. It all just feels random and constructed, each situation (Gemma’s out of town! Nero can’t leave! Jax still thinks Lin killed his wife!) conveniently denied resolution simply because there’s five more episodes – which leads to a lot of silly story choices that leave their own characters unintelligent and malleable to each situation. On a show defined by its distinct set of characters, not to mention its complex sense of “politics” (notice I didn’t say complex politics), this kind of double-sided approach to storytelling and character doesn’t quite work: and what it leads to is “The Separation of Crows”, an episode that ultimately tries to rest its symbolism and emotional impact on a pair of characters who literally have no relationship (at least, that we’ve seen) – Jax and his son – and fails miserably, an attempt to delay endings we’ve seen coming for miles away. Unless Sons of Anarchy can remember the difference between “illuminating surprise” and “empty shock”,it’s going to be a long sink to the bottom, one that will continue until the last musical note of the finale (played after what I imagine will be a fourteen-hour running time, given the length of episodes this season).
Image via FX
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