We’re on our way out of a dauntingly hot summer, but FX is putting us right back into the heat with the Season 7 premiere of the intensity-swamped Sons of Anarchy. Charming has always been a dangerous place, but it’s always had a fairly sane Jax Teller in its population. After Tara met her maker in the most brutal of Sons of Anarchy death scenes, Jax’s days of gameplanning and choosing rational life paths are over. He is running on fumes now, but it’s a lot of fumes, and everything around him always seems to be two seconds away from exploding into leather-clad pandemonium. Make sure you have a new thing of salt in your spice rack, because “Black Widower” has a few open wounds that need tending to.

Jax of All Trades

When we first meet back up with our lowly hero, he’s beating the shit out of a guy in jail while wearing duct tape across his fists, while a cover of “Never My Love” plays, all so he can get in the good graces of Marilyn Manson’s Ron Tully, the head of the local Aryan Brotherhood chapter. (Okay, so carving a swastika in his torso was probably the more direct message.) And so begins Jax’s quest of telling everyone one thing while mentally moving in the opposite direction.

Jax’s motivations this season come from a place of emptiness, where sanity only has base emotions to feed off of. All he’s got now are rage and vengeance, and the only way he knows how to let some of that steam out is to hatch a county-spanning plan meant to take down everyone around him. At least it appears that way. There’s a huge war brewing between Brown/Yellow and Black and/or White and/or the Irish, and everyone is a potential victim here. Whether Jax wants to admit it to himself or not, his hunger for leading SAMCRO is what has kept him in the top spot, even when he knew he was making bad decisions.

And so when all the bad decisions have seemingly been made, everything else looks like a good idea in comparison. Like befriending every single faction and trying to become the unharmed eye in an extremely dangerous hurricane, only to jump out from the middle like Bugs Bunny in a fight. I hate to see Nero get caught in Jax’s jagged path, but I really don’t see too many people surviving this season.

One guy definitely doesn’t make it out of this episode alive. Gemma feeds Jax a fake lead on Tara’s murderer, blaming it on one of Lin’s hired hands. The club then takes the guy hostage and Jax goes calmly apeshit, torturing him for an extended period, not quite caring if he ever confesses to the murder or not. Jax doesn’t need the truth, really. It’s like Memento; he’s just looking for someone to unleash his anger and regrets on…with a carving fork. Which happens, and it’s got a fabulously gross sound effect to go along with it. Will Jax now forget about Tara’s death and go about his life with a renewed approach to optimism and positivity?

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”I’m sorry for your loss.”

Both Jax and Gemma hear this phrase in some form or another throughout the episode, but only one of them is actually mourning Tara’s death. Gemma is not even trying to overly dramatize her feelings about Tara being gone, which leaves Katey Sagal to pull a bunch of quiet “ho-hum” faces that don’t quite do anything for the character or the story. It’s a perfectly natural act, mind you, as no one suspects she jammed a kitchen utensil into anyone’s skull in recent weeks. But it’s such a slow beginning to what will absolutely become Sons of Anarchy’s most uncomfortable battle. I don’t want to watch Jax and Gemma fighting all season, but I cannot WAIT for the sparks to start flying.
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Juice All Up in Your House

After dumping off all of the evidence tying him and Gemma to Tara and Sheriff Roosevelt’s murders, Juice takes it upon himself to move into Wendy’s house as she spends time in rehab. Not much time, mind you, as she pops back out of it after only ten days. (Cheer with me now: No More Junkie Whore!) Juice clues Wendy in on part of the situation – that he’s in the club’s crosshairs – and she lets him stay. This allows her to stay with Gemma and grow closer to Abel and Thomas, finally. These kids always have a babysitter, and it might as well be the mother to one of them doing the caretaking.

But a reformed relationship between Jax and Wendy doesn’t exactly help Juice out. Jax could be schtupping one of the Diosa girls and he would still put a bullet between Juice’s eyes mid-thrust. Gemma is still on Juice’s side, because she owes him, but that’s hardly a guarantee that she wouldn’t flip on him in a heartbeat. After all, Juice has had a death wish for a few seasons now. It’s time someone makes it come true.

Welcome Back, SAMCRO!

This was a pretty exposition-filled episode, especially since it was an extended one. A lot of pieces are being moved around in order for Jax to topple everything in one fell swoop. It’s at times frustrating to see the same kind of cyclical storytelling that Kurt Sutter and his writers have used for years, but that’s also part of what makes Sons of Anarchy feel like a best friend. And knowing it’s headed towards its series finale raises the inter-gang stakes higher than they’ve ever been. I miss this show like I miss my dead father, though I won’t be spending any time writing in a journal about it. It feels good to be back in Charming. It smells like home.

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Stuff That Fell Off the Back of the Bike

“That moment when you’re looking in the bathtub where Tig drowned a guy in piss and vinegar.” – Lyla.

Nice job by D.A. Patterson reaching deep down into her past to admit that she lost her son and nephew to gang violence. But she uses it like an After School Special, and then she gets all weirdly parental, so Jax obviously wasn’t going to respond to any of that.

Li’l Alex Enema needs to get his own comic book, and Nero needs to become a politician.

I love that Gemma just parks in the middle of the road when she sees Wendy walking downtown. Try and give Gemma a ticket and she’ll slam your face into the rim of a trashcan.

Why does the Forest Rangers' cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” exist? I know a lot of people out there love it, and it’s fine and all for the most part and I’m just a big [insert heinous insult here] for badmouthing it, but covering Queen should be outlawed.

Why you talking to the kitchen sink, Gemma? I seriously don’t think Tara’s ghost is interested in your bullshit.

I’m kind of afraid of Happy’s tattoos. He’s like a punch card for murder.

I fucking loved Chuckie playing the bartender role, telling Nero that Gemma is always looking for his car to pull into the parking lot. If any character needs a spinoff…

Watching Bobby drive down the road while dragging that guy in the wheelchair was a good example of how Sons of Anarchy can have fun with politically incorrect situations. Having Jax and the boys bust in on a pastor recording other people having sex is the exact opposite.

If Sutter and the Sons of Anarchy marketing team wanted to bronze Gemma’s clit and make jewelry out of it…sorry, I was busy emptying my bank account.

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