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In the penultimate episode of the season, the Sons finally begin to take back control in Charming. I didn’t think it was possible, but last week the Sons of Anarchy writers wrapped up three pretty intense story arcs (Donna’s death, Gemma’s rape secret, and the Clay and Jax feud) in just one, amazing episode. Before that, I wondered how they could possibly settle many of the storylines and still have any kind of resolution for the season finale. It was a master stroke allowing the last two episodes to focus almost solely on the war with Zobelle.
After a more than a few weeks of the gang’s ineptitude (going to jail, Caracara burning, losing their gun supply) they finally gets their biker groove back. “The Culling” established SAMCRO as the big boys on the block once again, finally upperhanding Zobelle and Stahl in calculated (if not convenient) masterstrokes. Where they have erred so many times over the course of this season, they proved tonight that a club united can actually get shit done. With the whole SAMCRO universe on lockdown, the Sons can finally go to work. They turn Weston against Zobelle, form a mini gang alliance with the One-Niners and the Chinese and pump fake Stahl out of the IRA guns.
Getting the IRA gun pipeline with the whole bait and switch was a little convenient for SAMCRO with the entire ATF force leaving the IRA safehouse and letting the Sons walk off with the guns. This did establish three things though: Chibb’s wife and daughter are still anything but safe, Eddie and his “Da” are probably a couple of dead rats, and Agent Stahl continues to the be the black mark of death for any of her informants or their family.
“The Culling” basically boiled down to the last ten minutes, which I watched with a pit in my stomach. From the time the Bikers vs. Nazis Royal Rumble started, I kept waiting for the inevitable disaster like an actual culling of a SAMCRO member. It never came, just proving Sons of Anarchy works brilliantly using just expectation. But what it lacked in major bombshells, it more than made up for in sheer violence. Between Tig biting off the face of an Aryan and Clay threatening Zobelle’s daughter in a way I don’t particularly care to explain, Sons proved it can be just as hard hitting in its graphic brutality.
If anything, I was left almost disappointed by Weston and Zobelle seeming to “get away” by going to jail. It may be because I have been trained to want the villians dealt with swiftly and justly. I think though it is more because Henry Rollins and Adam Arkin are so damn convincing as men of pure evil. They have played characters with absolutely no human value. I need my anti-heroes to deal with this lowest form of scum.
“The Culling,” was not my favorite Sons of Anarchy episode. That’s fine because the episode worked to set up the final showdown between Sort of Bad and Really, Really Bad. I think I know who will be left standing, but I get the feeling we lose at least one SAMCRO member to the war with the Aryans.
Highlights and thoughts:
- I don’t particularly love the Tara character. It may be that I just don’t like Maggie Siff’s perma-scowl. But one thing this season has accomplished, and finished off tonight, it showing the transformation of regular woman into “old lady.” Tonight, Tara finally crossed the line into Old Lady-status when she pulls a Gemma on the hospital admin right down to the choke hold, punch in the face, and very thinly veiled threat with her revolver. It came across a bit over the top but illustrated a striking point about women’s roles in these gangs. They have to be tough to deal with all the other shit.
- FX keeps it in house with Kenny Johnson’s (Lem from The Shield) cameo as SAMCRO member and apparent Tig antagonist. Lem was a character on The Shield who was the kind of nice guy caught up in the machinations of men he admired (Vic and Shane). It makes me think the same kind of thing happens to someone like Half-Sack in the season finale. There was a bit of foreshadowing for this just in the crew talking about his eventual patch in.
- Unser’s character finally takes the step out the door as a man of the law by basically aiding and abetting an attempted murder. At this point, I have to feel SAMCROs influence on him goes much deeper than just being on the payroll or having some dirt from his past. I felt he wanted to see Zobelle go down for his role in Gemma’s ordeal as much as Clay and Jax.
- Amazing transition with the music in the opening scene to opening credits. This is one of the subtle things Sons of Anarchy does so well. The music helps shape the show in creating emotions in scenes almost as much as the writing and acting.