Sons of Anarchy Watch: Season 5, Episode 3 - Laying Pipe

“Depravity craves innocence.”

Tonight’s “Laying Pipe” does more than just use its title to destroy a writer’s chances of analogizing using an easy sex joke. It lays to rest (in a skull-crushed heap) the show’s most tragic character, without a sliver of reverence to be found.

What was so intriguing about Opie Winston? Is it, as our own Kelly West posits, his kind eyes and gentle nature? Is it the unexplainable pull of rooting for someone whom salvation never reaches as he fails to claw his way out of the dark, depressing hole that’s been dug for him? Is it less complex than that? All sympathies aside, Opie is a scapegoat for most of Sons of Anarchy’s human drama. Whereas watching (insert woman-centric reality show) might make you envious about the flippant ways rich people flaunt their wealth and possessions, it takes just over a minute of Opie before one thinks, “Holy fuck. Thank God I’m not that guy. His life is awful.”

I feel the need to break Opie down to how he was written in order to ward off the fictional grief that befell me after his fatal conking. He’s a flip-flopper. He stays tightly knit within the same organization that continues to actively ruin his life. (No, not NAMBLA.) He finds self-destructive new “love” with a porn star, and like buying a car with 300,000 miles on it, you know it won’t last. His kids, supposedly his only other life force, remind him so much of his murdered wife Donna that he avoids being around them for large chunks of time. To remedy this, he tries for another child with Lyla, getting his heart re-broken when he finds the birth control pills she’s taking and that she aborted his child, as if having a baby with the porn star rebound after his murdered wife is a memory-erasing life-rejuvenator. He’s constantly fighting with fellow club members. His dad is dead. He can’t avenge his father’s death without getting it messed up by others. He truly is Charlie Brown in leather. (No fan fiction, please.)

That Opie died without breaking every one of Clay’s withered fingers makes me mad. That he impulsively sacrificed his admittedly vacant life in order to keep others safe, and later alive, makes me mad. That the writers’ thought his and Jax’s conversation, in which Jax reveals the RICO case and explains Clay’s motivations for shooting Piney, was a proper send-off note makes me mad. That three generic bulky strangers, instead of anyone central to the club and the show, are the ones taking a pipe to the face before murdering Opie makes me mad. Live by brothers, die by brothers. I hope this is the umpteenth kick in the pants Jax needs to begin his revolution. Still, what a sad kick in the pants it is.

R.I.P Opie Winston. We hardly knew ye. Catch you in the reruns.

How We Got to That

In just a few minutes of screen time, Damon Pope comes across as an underworld deity, less influenced by divinity as by Old Testament justice. Realizing the imprisoned Sons have protection, he inserts himself, calling a private meeting with Jax to inform him of the new rules. Eye for an eye. One of the four must die to compensate for the cop and cleaner that Tig previously killed. In return, the witnesses whose testimony landed the Sons in jail will disappear, and the guys can walk free. Oh, except for Tig. Pope wants him rotting in jail for life, so he can’t be the one who dies either. Pope also wants fifty percent of the cut from the coke shipments. (He appears to have no use for the kitchen sink.)

This meeting works in two ways, giving Jax the illusion of a heavy decision, and showing him just how deeply embedded into the system Pope’s hands are. Seriously, at least a half dozen cops and guards are working in conjunction for this prison fight to go smoothly. With so much control, combined with an inclination to remove himself from most dirty deeds, I’m unsure why Pope doesn’t get a guard to kill one of the Sons, or why he even lets Jax have a say over anything. It’s as if he respects Jax’s club presidency, but only inasmuch as he can corrupt this absolute power.

The Sons get themselves into solitary before the guards’ shift change, which is the fight’s deadline. I have to assume a shift change is a lengthy process, due to how long it takes before the fight starts, but maybe time really is different in jail. Anyway, when it’s finally decision time for Jax, it looks as if he might bite the bullet. (For a second, I thought this might happen, leading to him getting an ass whipping before pulling an Ultimate Warrior and coming out as the victor. Note: I’m really glad this didn’t happen.) But in a similar move from last week, Opie headbutts the staff sergeant, once again ensuring his fate.

Not that I want to talk about it anymore, but the pipe-lashing that Opie gets is terrible viewing. He gets two or three offensive swings out before he’s overwhelmed and taken down. The actual kill shot across the back of his head is startlingly disturbing. I’m not sure if it was his head staying static while the camera shook around it, or just the bloodied defeat on his face. Or maybe it was Jax’s cries as he beat on the viewing room’s windows. Whichever, this loveless execution is striking both visually and contextually. Where’s a Confederate flag handkerchief when you need it?

Jax’s steely glare closes the episode. He’s met Pope once more, demanding Tig’s temporary release, vowing to return him when all is said and done. Jax tells Tig he’s free, and Tig agrees to back every single one of Jax’s future club motions. Jax mentions nothing to Tig of his returning to Pope, so his intentions are a mystery to me at this point. I don’t believe he was sincere with Pope, but he’s rarely sincere with anyone. Is he fed up with Tig’s grab-bag of club-harming fuck-ups? Is he going to place part of Opie’s murder around Tig’s neck? I almost hope so. I want to see Tig go berserk, dammit. What do you guys think?

This Show Had Other Shit in it?

In other club business, Bobby and Clay meet with Luis to thank him for securing prison protection, and also to guarantee the safety of future coke shipments. Bobby’s assertion as V.P. is obvious, and Clay looks very uncomfortable sitting back and listening. He is not a listener. Bobby should watch his back.

Not that Clay isn’t still prone to pulling the “woe is me” card, conning Juice into taking him where Gemma has been hiding, namely Nero’s escort service. Shame on Juice. Clay treats the business as his own stomping ground, looking no one in the eye and immediately taking one of the escorts to a private room. I’d hoped Clay and Nero’s first meeting would be testosterone-filled, but the complete opposite was kind of fun as well. Especially when Gemma gets wind of Clay’s visit, arriving just in time to beat the shit out of the girl the now bemused Clay was with. (Emma Jane, maybe?) Gemma apologizes to Nero, and he is okay with it. I understand he knows the inner workings on how gang life works, but who would really allow this behavior without the slightest admonishment?

Near the end of the episode, after that one whore’s beatdown, the cops raid Nero’s business, cuffing everyone around. Carla, Nero’s right-hand-woman, blames this on the whore, but I doubt that’s what happened. It had to be either Carla herself, in a fit of unexplained jealousy, or perhaps it was Clay, looking to cause more trouble for Nero than just a lost employee. Either way, Gemma is at the center or it.

Finally, Gemma pisses off more women than just Carla. After being turned away from the hospital daycare for not being an approved visitor, she attempts to use Abel’s former junkie mom Wendy to discredit Tara’s reputation and parental skills by saying Tara’s an Oxy-popping pillhead. When Wendy goes to Tara with that, they both realize Gemma is duping them. None of this amounts to much more than a lot of threats and hateful language. I don’t see a proper end game for this whole custody plotline.

If Opie had just gotten injured instead of dying, this wouldn’t be anywhere near as strong an episode. Like last week, the track is still being placed before the drama train can take off. Gemma being used as only the jealous grandmother and wife, especially using the ploy with Wendy, felt like a lazy cheat for such a dependable character. Also, Jimmy Smits didn’t get any kickass dialogue. And a lot of the prison stuff was pretty convenient, such as Jax picking the biggest guy in the yard to pick a fight with, and only coming out of it with a bruised eye. But it was an emotional episode regardless, and one that I won’t soon forget.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. In Opie’s name, we drink till we bust. See you next week!

Stuff That Fell Off the Back of the Bike

Jax: “I’m not going to war.”

Pope: “You already in it, son.”

Jax’s motives here have certainly flipped by the end of the episode. I have a sneaking suspicion Pope will be sorry he’s leading the opposing side.

I’m taking bets on how Jax is going to kill the guard. My guess is that he’ll choke him to death using only the letters “O” and “P” from a box of Alphabits. Do those still exist?

Did anybody else feel like they were watching Freaks and Geeks when the guys were walking through the cafeteria before someone invited them to sit at their table? Bill Haverchuck is such a biker name.

“Let’s not discuss the tragedy of dead girls. That’s an argument you’d lose.” A chilly line. But really, did Pope expect his gangbanger-dating daughter to live the fullest and healthiest life? Is Pope married? Where is the nagging woman in his life?

“Lying by omission is still lying, and you suck at it.” Wise words, Opie. But then, you’re the one who always fell for Jax’s lies. So who’s sucking now, dead man?

The prison guards bet on how long one prisoner will last against three others. Remember that old story about the empathetic prison guard without a chip on his shoulder? Me either.

“There you go. Finding the hidden advantage in an unfortunate circumstance. Using pain to take you to the next level. Those are the things that turn players into kings.” He’s been through Oz. He knows a thing or two about wheelchairs…I mean, about next level pain.

In reference to Pope securing an in-prison meeting with Jax: “Idi Amin’s got reach.” Hitler = white monster. Idi Amin = black monster. 1970s Minnesota Vikings defense line = Purple People Eaters.

Juice and Carla sitting in a tree. F-u-c-k-i-n-g. Hey, he’s Puerto Rican!

Is anyone on this show treated more like shit than Wendy? And is it more fun to watch anyone be treated like shit more than Wendy?

“Wrap a scarf around that shit. What are you, fifteen?” I’m not gonna lie. I was a little pumped to see Tara slam Gemma like that. But only because this was a weak week for Gemma. I won’t be feeling the same way next Tuesday.

Another week, another racist Tig line. I’d quote it, but it makes little sense without context.

Well now Jax has a sure answer that the Niners have nothing to do with the home invasions. If he trusts Pope, that is. I hope this isn’t like Juice’s plot last season, where all kinds of build-up just fizzles when the spotlight hits it.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.