"You don't give a shit about this family. And the John Teller you knew twenty years ago, he didn't give a shit either." - Jax to Ashby
It speaks volumes for this season of Sons of Anarchy that a few of the most emotional, touching, and telling moments in the history of the series happened tonight; smack dab in the middle of a ridiculous sequence of events. So let's start with the good first. The story of Jax and his father is the tale of Sons of Anarchy. It is the glue holding it together. When Father Ashby pleaded with Jax to stop the bloody Teller line and let Abel go off with a loving family, it put Jax in the kind of moral and familial predicament the series is founded on.
It all lead to the moment in the market with Jax watching Abel's new, loving, and non-violent, family care for the kid in a way Jax knew he never could. This was by far the best scene of the entire season, watching Jax go through, basically, a lifetime's worth of emotions (with Sun Kil Moon's "Alesund" haunting the background) and coming to grips with giving the kid away. It's no coincidence that Abel really only became part of the Sons of Anarchy story when he was kidnapped. We've been made to think Jax is in no way, shape, or form a good father. He knows as much. So watching Jax find an almost inner peace as his son finally has been given a way out (something Jax never had) was both touching and sad. But in true Sons style, the good decision to leave Abel in a protective world, almost came crashing down about a minute and a half later, and in the worst possible way.
Look, I understand SAMCRO operates in a world where they live on the precipice between stability and all out, well anarchy, but the idea that their problems reproduce and spawn like a virus is somewhat exhausting. Just when things are getting better, it’s just a matter of moments before they go fucking terrible again. And this is a major problem. The writers, rather than having us bask in some subtlety for a change, choose to monopolize the storyline with cascading problems. Tonight's episode was a perfect example. Jax has two heartbeats to think about his future and child while pleading with Gemma. But then Ashby barges in with the news that Jimmy O is going after Abel and it all goes to shit again. I'm not saying it shouldn't go bad, I just want a second to ruminate.
Similarly, for a brief moment we get a look at Maureen and her letters from John. We see her pain. We get some insight into how John viewed the relationship between Gemma and Clay (more on this in a bit). But then she stuffs those letters into a bag and we're whisked away into another impending crisis needing immediate attention. Maureen's character (along with Titus Welliver's Jimmy O) was one of the few bright spots in the Belfast story. And we never even really got to know her. Normally I would say, why get attached to someone who's run is short-lived, but Maureen offers such a fantastic connection to the club's roots, and history and makeup. Unfortunately we never scratched deeper than the surface because so much time was spent running around looking for Jimmy, or Abel, or O'Neal, or Jimmy again or finally, again Abel. See? It's exhausting.
I thought we would go to Belfast and get a little history lesson. I thought we'd find out how those ties bind the Irish and the Americans. How the Irish charter was founded. How did John Teller come away so disillusioned? Instead we got some more wild goose chases with a few excellent moments thrown in here and there.
Of course the club's problems are far from over. In fact, some of these characters are so boxed in now, I'm anxious to see just how they get the hell out. Tara's kidnapped (no one's dead until we see a body), Gemma's a fugitive twice over, the Sons have skipped bail, Jax is still in bed with Stahl without anyone knowing, Stahl is operating pretty roguish, and we've still got Unfroze Cavemen Hale and Unser to take care of. That's a lot of ground to cover with only two episodes left. But it's Sons of Anarchy, and rest assured, things will get a whole lot worse before they get better.
- In the end, Jax was wrong about Father Ashby. Kellum did care about the Teller family, eventually giving his life to ensure Jax got Abel back. We'll never really know the exact history between Ashby and John Teller, but the good Father did give us a cursory look into Jax's father's pain. That being said, I don't think Ashby really had Jax's or John's best interests in mind until the very end.
- John Teller intimates in his letter the growing relationship between Gemma and Clay was neither a secret, nor something he really cared about on an emotional level. But he does allude to the dangers it presented him. This was a fascinating piece of reflection that makes me wonder more and more about the contents of Maureen's other letters. They can't have anything overtly incriminating on them (I don't think Maureen could have been even moderately pleasant to Gemma if she thought Gemma had a hand in killing John), but they probably do describe just how the club was formed and gained power.
- I never really considered why show creator Kurt Sutter would come to use the Sons of Anarchy as the name of the gang. But the Teller boys (Jax and ultimately Abel) are most definitely children born into and from a world of turmoil.
- Nice to get another episode of the Keystone Kops of Anarchy running around Charming screwing things up. These guys are hapless right down to them bringing in the feds to help with the hostage transaction and getting the money stolen by a couple of kids on bicycles.
- Leading me to Kozik. I loved Kenneth Johnson on The Shield because his character Lem was the kind of clueless follower you could always root for. Unfortunately, that role has come and gone. The guy just isn't a good actor, at least not in this series. His wide-eyes and forced delivery are cringe-worthy.
- I know I complained about the crazy speed of these episodes, but I'd be remiss to not mention the scene in the orphanage. Sons of Anarchy has thrown out a great deal of implied baby violence this season, but Gemma holding a gun to the kid's head took the cake. That whole sequence of events had me on the edge of my seat.