Episode Title: "To Be… Part 2"
Writers: Kurt Sutter & Chris Collins
Director: Kurt Sutter
Previously on "Sons of Anarchy":
It's D-Day for the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle club. With Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) still in the hospital for his gunshot wounds, his stepson, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) plans to meet with the Irish Kings and the Galindos cartel to forge a gun deal that will solidify the future of SAMCRO. And close by, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) has assembled a massive task force for his RICO operation, even if Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) doesn't seem all that impressed. Lincoln rallies his troops and he has footage of Jax and the Sons with the guns. Why, the only thing that could ruin this investigation… just pulled up.
Lincoln and company are confronted by Romeo (Danny Trejo) and his number 2, Luis Torres (Benito Martinez) as well as a government agent who orders the RICO investigation to be shut down immediately as a matter of national security. Lincoln realizes that this means that the CIA is backing the Galindos cartel in Mexico, and they want all of his files and contacts. Meanwhile, Jax goes through with the meeting, but True IRA member Galen (Timothy V. Murphy) is skeptical about Clay's absence and he refuses to deal with the Galindos or Jax until Clay returns.
In private with Romeo and Luis, Jax tries to use this as an excuse to free SAMCRO from their Galindos ties, but they flash him their CIA issued badges and tell him that they need this deal with the Irish to go down or else the RICO investigation will be reinstated and used to destroy SAMCRO. Romeo also admits that Clay set up the hit on Tara through them, but they only tried to take her into protective custody when she was hurt. They also tell Jax that Big Otto Delaney (Kurt Sutter) gave up Bobby Muson (Mark Boone Junior), but they'll try to get him out. The biggest catch is that Jax needs Clay alive to keep the gun deal in place.
Before parting from the almost abandoned RICO staging area, Lincoln gives Roosevelt the file on Jean Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi), along with an alibi for Juice that will save his life with the Sons. They part on mostly good terms, even as Lincoln acknowledges that he doesn't really like people. Roosevelt brings the file to Juice in lockup and offers him the chance to destroy the record linking him to his black father. Roosevelt insists that he's freeing Juice to get back to being a cop, instead of a blackmailer. Meanwhile, Mayor Jacob Hale (Jeff Kober) is having a city counsel meeting to get his Charming Heights luxury housing approved.
But before that can happen, Lincoln arrives with a bag full of sex toys and a young boy blow up doll for pedophiles as he unmasks Hale's primary investors as a sleezy Japanese porn company. Roosevelt's wife beams as Lincoln lurches out of the city council meeting almost as quickly as he arrived. When Hale confronts him, Lincoln says that he did it to give the good guys a win. Also, he really doesn't like Mayor Hale. In the hospital, Jax gets into Clay's room and dismisses Tig (Kim Coates). Jax then lowers the shades and produces the syringe given to him by Tara. But before he can use it, Clay wakes up and calls out for his son.
However, Jax is in no mood to play games with Clay. He takes out his knife and holds it against Clay's throat as he says that he read John Teller's letters. He knows that Clay killed his father, that he murdered Piney and put a hit out on Tara. Jax doesn't care why at this point, but he concedes that he needs Clay alive to keep their deal with the Irish. But as Jax presses the knife against Clay's neck, he forces the older man to relinquish the Presidency of SAMCO and leave his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal) alone. Broken, Clay tells Jax that he should kill him, but Jax insists that he's already dead and he spits in his face.
Almost immediately thereafter, Gemma runs into Jax and she is very disappointed to see that he didn't go through with killing Clay. In the police station, Roosevelt's wife relates the story of Lincoln's appearance, which put Charming Heights on hold. But Roosevelt soon gets the bad news that the woman killed in Tig's hit and run was the daughter of most dangerous gangster in Oakland. This means that a gang war is coming to Charming. Outside of Jax's house, he finds Opie (Ryan Hurst) waiting for him. Jax explains that Opie was right about Clay and he says that he's taking the Presidency of SAMCRO and he wants Opie to be the new Vice President.
Except Opie isn't so eager to rejoin the club that cost him his first wife and his father. Nor is he swayed by Jax's reluctance to share the reason he changed his mind and stayed in Charming. Regardless, Jax tells him to come to the club meeting at 8PM. Then Jax goes to Tara and he tells her everything… about the CIA, why he couldn't kill Clay and why he has to stay. Jax tells Tara to take their boys to Portland with her and he'll send her all the money that he can. He kisses her goodbye while fighting back tears before Tara starts to cry as well. In jail, Bobby has a guitar and he settles in for a long stay. At the same time, Juice destroys his file, but he keeps the picture of his dad.
In the SAMCRO clubhouse, the other members seem to sense the changing of the guard. Jax takes his place at the head of the table and makes Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) the new Sergeant at Arms. Jax notes that it's after 8PM and Opie isn't there. But before Jax can convene the meeting, Tara enters and tells Jax that she isn't going anywhere. As she wraps her good arm around Jax, Gemma enters and tries to stare down Tara. More disturbingly, when Gemma looks at Tara and Jax, she sees the spitting image of herself with Jax's father, John Teller from decades ago.
As soon as Romeo and Luis revealed their connection to the CIA, I knew that was going to be used as the excuse to keep Clay on the series for at least another year. That was my greatest fear about this season. I was worried that Kurt Sutter and company would pull back before the end in a misguided attempt to keep Ron Perlman on the show after the usefulness of his character had ended. And that's exactly what happened.
Sutter's early explanation for Clay's survival is that he doesn't want Jax to be done with his vengeance at this stage in the series. Well… Sutter wrote the majority of the series and he runs the show. So, when he writes the events into a corner as he did in season four, then he should realize that he has no one but himself to blame when people expect a resolution to his plotlines. Given everything that Clay did this season to make himself into an unlikable villain, I wouldn't be shocked if Clay's survival sparks a backlash from the fans. In all honesty, Clay's survival did not feel organic to the story.
And yet I don't doubt that the Galindos and CIA connection was planned from the start. There were two murky instances during the season that this information suddenly explains. How else could the Galindos know that Jax and Opie were being held by the Russians if not for someone spying on them? Why else would Tara's would-be abductors not shoot her when they had the chance? In a critical moment, the gunmen could have cut down both Jax and Tara… but they didn't. Now we know why. Even if Clay hadn't survived, Jax would have been unable to walk away and abandon his friends and brothers to this mess.
While Clay's survival may get most of the attention, Juice getting away with his actions almost without consequence can't simply be skipped over. Why build up that story if the writers had no intention of giving it a proper resolution? Ditto for the RICO investigation. The way that was shut down ended that plotline with a whimper.
Although, it also led to the most hilarious scene of the night, when Lincoln Potter came into the city council meeting with all of those porn items. With Lincoln's underhanded way of dealing with Juice and Otto, it's easy to forget that he's ostensibly the real hero of "Sons of Anarchy," even if he's opposed to everything that the main characters are trying to accomplish. This move was also brilliantly set up during the season through Lincoln's barely hidden contempt for Mayor Hale. The line "Because I don't like you" may never be this funny again. But Lincoln also seems to truly believe in the second part of what he said. The good guys needed a win and Lincoln gave them one. I also loved the way Roosevelt's wife enjoyed the spectacle.
Even though it didn't end in Clay's death, Jax's confrontation with him in the hospital was one of the most intense and well written scenes of the entire season. The entire series as a whole has been building towards an epic Jax and Clay showdown. And Charlie Hunnam's intensity in that sequence was a thing of wonder. Ron Perlman also gave Clay an unexpected vulnerability that we haven't seen from him before. Clay's repeated use of the word "son" for Jax may have been his last ditch attempt to reforge an emotional connection with his stepson. In a lot of ways, Jax really is more like Clay than John Teller… but Clay had to kill JT to even get to that point.
Because the matter was not settled here, Jax and Clay will undoubtedly have another confrontation in the future, presumably when Clay is back on his feet. And I can't escape the suspicion that Sutter will drag it out as long as he can. He might even be able to squeeze more drama out of this stone. But Clay's survival still felt like bulls*** and a betrayal of the story we followed so intently through season four.
And speaking of betrayal, Tara's decision to stay with Jax did not seem to be in character, at all. Are we to understand that rather than take her sons and get them to safety out of Charming like she always wanted, Tara decided to stay with Jax and become the new matriarch of SAMCRO? If Tara really picked Jax over their sons then I don't buy that at all. That's not true to the character we've been following for years, even if she's a hell of a lot darker now than she was at the beginning of the season. Gemma certainly can't be happy that her position has seemingly been usurped by Tara. And without Clay by her side, Gemma is definitely a lot less intimidating.
The fade in image of Jax and Tara slowly morphing into a young JT and Gemma was haunting. And if history really repeats itself in Charming, then maybe Tara will take a lover within SAMCRO and slowly turn on Jax the way Gemma eventually turned on JT. Tara had it right in the last episode. Charming is a poisonous town for her and her family. She should have left as soon as she could.
The very fact that Tara stayed means that Jax didn't pay much of a price when he decided to take over the club. There was no sacrifice. Even the way Jax argued that he had to stay made him seem like a selfish prick. Jax could have said that he was staying to keep his brothers-in-arms out of jail, since he was open with Tara about the CIA and Galindos connection. But instead Jax put it in terms of staying with the club because he couldn't stand letting something that was part of himself be destroyed. And while Jax has said that he loves his family more than the club, maybe that's not as true as he likes to think.
Regardless of all problems, this was still an amazingly compelling hour of television that had me riveted throughout. Season four was a watershed moment for "Sons of Anarchy" and it earned its place among television's elite series. And if the show had lived up to all of its narrative promises, "Sons of Anarchy" could have been an instant classic as well.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.