”Let’s get this day locked down.”

Tonight marked the overdue end of an era. Clay, a man who turned to land bridges after he’d already burned all the water ones, is at long last an EX-Son of Anarchy. He has shuffled off this Redwood Original coil. He’s pushing up daisies and running off to Ireland. What I’d like to do now is look him in the eye sympathetically and give him a big pat on the back, right where his tattoo was blacked out. My only problem with this episode is that Clay wasn’t in more pain during that scene, which was otherwise handled with the right non-maudlin touch. I wanted them to burn it off with flaming logs. I wanted more physical retribution instead of just mental. As well, I could have used an episode-long Picture-in-Picture showing a loop of Clay sobbing into his sore hands. I love that an inhuman-looking person like Ron Perlman can bring humanism to a character who makes inhumane decisions. It’s the circle of life, and Charming’s lion king is definitely Jax.

I admit, there is physical retribution when Jax beats the living shit out of Clay. Out of all the pre-opening credit scenes this show has given us, this definitely hit a peak. Jax’s biker prose optimism becomes rage when Bobby drops it on him that Clay is going to the table with his confessions. Jax is not ready for this. Bobby has gone behind his back, the son of a bitch. Clay’s black-heartfelt fessing up was a feeble attempt to retain nobility, and I’m glad no one was fooled. It was really all about him not thinking Jax was good enough to lead. People still died, you douchebag. You’ve done no one any favors with your awful decision making.

The table vote, as predictable as it was, made my bones rattle with tension. The jubilation of knowing he would lose his patch gave way to unabashed fascination. Not often on television do you get to see someone’s fate verbally sealed like that. Bobby’s “nay” vote allowed Clay to live, albeit temporarily, and also sent Jax spiraling into a face-pummeling mania. Very soothing drama. Bobby saved Clay to “stop Jax from becoming the guy he wanted to kill.” He did it for the good of the club as well. All anybody does on this show is done for the good of the club, yet nothing anybody does seems to help the club. It’s a Catch 22 oz. beer.

Inner-club problems aside, Clay’s removal means their deals and schemes need some attention. Jax successfully feeds Lin to the Cartel. Romeo is impressed with the weapons he can get, but not with the elongated timeline needed to get the deal in place. In the meantime, he tells Jax a final deal for the IRA’s guns must be made, and though Gaalan is initially reluctant to help Jax, he relents. And everyone hugs and has a few pints. That would have been nice. Instead, Romeo and a large section of his crew blow the doors off of the meeting spot, wanting to guarantee the deal went through. Not only is it an embarrassment to Jax, but Romeo takes both the guns and the money, due to Gaalan shooting one of his men. All the blame lands on Jax’s shoulders, and Gaalan promises revenge.

And that revenge takes no time at all to kick in. Tara, guided to find a legal guardian for the boys in case of her and Jax’s untimely death, lands on “That Junkie” Wendy, and grants her the privilege of seeing Abel while he’s in daycare. Meanwhile, Jax is rounding everyone up to meet at the clubhouse for safety’s sake, and he runs into Wendy at the hospital while warning Tara about Gaalan. After they talk, Wendy gets kidnapped, demanding their guns or $475,000 for her return.

Another digression needs mentioning. Nero’s downward spiral back into gang business continues, as his cousin talks of an oncoming turf war, and a need for weapons. It’s a favor Nero brings to Jax, who is glad to help. Nero realizes that as Clay is being pushed out, he’s being pulled in. To prove this further, Nero spots Jax the money for Wendy’s return, claiming he could have gotten out of this game already, but he wasn’t ready to step away. “You can’t stay in uniform and not play the game, man.” Wise words. He admits his earlier advice for Jax’s own endgame may have been projecting his own issues. To me, Nero is becoming the perfect blend of Jax and Bobby, impulsive though repentant.

So Wendy is safe, but now she’s been armed with the knowledge of Abel’s kidnapping, and she threatens Jax and Tara’s custody rights with it. On top of everything else, some of which I haven’t even gotten to yet, this couldn’t have come at a worse time…for Wendy. In no mood to fuck around with petty problems where his head isn’t on a chopping block, Jax visits Wendy near the end of the episode choking her against a wall as he relinquishes all of her power. If she continues on the custody trail, he will report her to her counselor, saying she’s been using. But how will…oh, Jax has a junked-up syringe, which he sticks in Wendy’s arm, dirtying up her clean system. I didn’t think he would kill her, but I still expected it.

So who is Donal Logue’s mystery man? As some may have predicted, he’s Lee Tork, the brother of the nurse that Otto mutilated. He’s also a retired Federal Marshall, which explains how he was able to just waltz into the prison and beat Otto’s face in. He visits Tara, and after first appearing mournful, he lets Tara know all the ground rules are against her favor. She tells him she didn’t know what he would do with the crucifix, the same thing she said for her official statement for the legal proceedings, and he says he believes her. “But I also believed my niece and nephew would grow up with a mother.” Cold-blooded. Tara tells Jax he might get her charged with conspiracy or even murder. I seriously doubt Jax lets this happen with just a shrug and a smile.
Tork is last seen sitting on the floor of a hotel room reading Antonin Artaud’s Watchfiends and Rack Screams, surrounded by bags of prescription pills and guns. Is the book a metaphor telling us these are Tork’s final days of insanity? I understand that brotherly love is unconditional, but is he really about to bring a war to SAMCRO? If so, I feel sorry for him. He won’t get far. Jax tasks Unser with finding out more about him. There will be a weakness, and it will be exploited.

And we come right back around to Clay, who is now free to start his own side business of gunrunning. While trading the money for Wendy, he and Gaalan talk. Clay is the only person Gaalan trusts in Charming. Like a bitch, Clay asks for a ride back to Ireland to hide out for a couple of months, and requests an extra seat for Gemma. Gaalan says it’s a go.

Clay presents the offer to Gemma, who spends a little too much time in this episode genuinely snuggling up to him. I actually thought she was considering going, but then she shows up to smooch on Nero immediately afterward, so I have no idea. This whole love triangle should not be as interesting as it is, but the odd dynamics intrigue me. Obviously I hope she breaks Clay’s heart a second time.

Before that, though, Clay resubmits his offer to Tig to join him on the IRA deal. No politics, just money. And though Tig has mentally given Clay the boot, he doesn’t say no. I see this as being the only way Tig lives through Pope’s intentions to kill him. Pope is interested in the Charming Heights deal, but tells Jax if he doesn’t deliver Tig, then everything else they have is finished. But he does offer advice when Jax asks for it. He tells him to come at Clay from a different angle. “Payback by proxy.” So maybe Jax is going to hire someone to do the job. Maybe Jax will dress Clay up like Tig and let Pope kill him. Dream finale right there.

Okay, so I have two more problems beyond Clay not squealing like a pig during his tattoo blotting. One: THE DOCUMENTS WERE A FUCKING MACGUFFIN! I really didn’t want to believe that this is how they would take this. The entire “proof and reason behind Clay hiring the Nomads” turns to nothing. He shows Gemma after confessing all his shit to the club. It feels like we were all put through the wringer for no reason other than the writers backing themselves into a corner. I won’t forgive them for this.

Second, what the hell is wrong with Romeo and Co., bursting into a room filled with crates of fucking rocket-powered grenades, and then shooting their guns off willy nilly at people HIDING BEHIND THESE SAME CRATES! To paraphrase a friend of mine, tonight could have been the series finale.

Not that it needs to be amazing in order to make this season a game-changer, but I really hope next week’s finale actually ties up some things in addition to unraveling more plot threads to set up next season. Already, my head hurts thinking about going another eight or nine months without new episodes. Can withdrawals begin even as you’re still hooked? See you next week!

Stuff That Fell Off the Back of the Bike

What was that song during the last few minutes? I loved it so hard.

It’s funny to hear grown men say “Mr. Mayhem” like they do. Though I wouldn’t tell them that. Or think it in their presence.

Bobby, you don’t know nothing ‘bout how that gavel corrupts. Mark Boone Jr. isn’t a thespian, but he always delivers when it’s his time to shine. It takes more than you might imagine making those corny lines actually sound dramatic. And still slightly corny.

What a strange joy it was to watch Jax and Augie the Advisor talk. Though Jax appears dismissive and implies August may be biding his time before a takeover, I think he’s quite jealous of the loyalty August shows to Pope.

“We can’t all be all things,” is the kind of advice that Pope should fill a book with. I’d buy it, because he told me to.

The gun that Juice is interested in is one that Piney gave to Clay for his five year anniversary. He always thought he’d give it to Opie, but since that can’t happen, he gives it to Juice. Ugh. Juice does not deserve Opie’s intended shit. He deserves his old stuff third-hand. That’s right, Juice, I saw how visibly relieved you were when Bobby voted against Clay’s death. I saw it, and I spit on it.

Jax’s wide-eyed and sneery warning to Bobby: “I’m sure that the right thing will settle in. But today, if I get you alone, VP, I’m gonna tear your goddamned head off.” Bobby is saving the club by breaking the president down to his primitive instincts. Not too smart.

Nero’s doctor client goes to the clubhouse while everyone is on lockdown, in order to patch up Clay’s face. It easily could have been that doctor’s worst night ever had something gone down. Why didn’t Nero warn him?

How much American stand-up comedy from the 1980s does Gaalan watch?
“So long as she doesn’t pack like my wife, there’ll be room.”
And white people do stuff like this. And Irish people drink stuff like this.

Hey, Dave Navarro, nice job not looking like a woman for once.

“I don’t feel guilty. You earned it.” The gall of Clay telling Tig not to feel guilty about voting for his death must be as big as Perlman’s skull.

When Clay cuts his shirt sleeve and stabs the table with the knife, my TV started dripping faux testosterone on the floor.

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