"These men behind us, they love you, they respect you and they understand your grief. But they're also wondering what you're going to do with it. - Clay to Jax
Tonight Sons of Anarchy returned with an emotional and yet violent reminder why it is on the short list of best shows on television. The Season Three premiere, "So" reintroduced us to a group picking up the broken pieces and wondering just where the hell to put them all. The beauty in creator Kurt Sutter's masterpiece (and I don't use that word lightly) is its focus on the "problem within the problem." And tonight's episode showed us just how the big problem of being part of something violent can lead to an escalating sense of non-control and eventual powerlessness.
Jax's short trip off the deep end in last season's finale when he watched IRA goon Cameron boating away with Abel has carried over as we see SAMCRO's vice president at absolute rock bottom. But SAMCRO is nothing if not forever intent on revenge so when the boys set about showering Jax off to get him ready for a bloodbath it would seem as though they wanted to wash the stink of remorse off the young man and get him prepared for the battle ahead.
Jax has always been the club's requisite quasi-pacifist (picking up where his father left off) so it's logical to see him destroyed over Abel's abduction rather than enraged. And it makes total sense he'd want Tara out of his life for good. He knows life in the club causes only pain and anguish to those who hang around too long. The abduction of his son was a direct result of Jax's involvement in all things criminal. How long before Tara meets a similar fate?
And then there's Gemma, cooped up in a dingy motel room, on the lam after being framed for one murder (and having committed another all on her own let's not forget), watched diligently by Tig and a small army of bikers. Gemma's dilemma is in almost total contradiction to Jax's issues. Where he wants to get everyone the hell away from him, Gemma wants nothing more than to be closer to the action, and her family. So when she can't go back to Charming, she instead goes home. Gemma's past has always been shrouded in a little bit of mystery and her trip home to see her widower father hopefully will begin to shed at least a pinhole of light on her roots. She hated her mother and took off never looking back, we learned that much. And her father most certainly loves her as his reaction to seeing his daughter for the first time in years was heartbreakingly beautiful.
A big part of Sons of Anarchy in the last two seasons has been about secrets and how keeping them almost always leads to bigger problems. Last year Gemma hid her abduction and rape from the rest of the the group because she felt she was doing her duty as club's guardian. But keeping the secret only caused more pain for everyone. And when she revealed it, almost too much damage had been done to both her and the inner circle of the club to recover. Now Clay and Jax are working together to keep Abel's abduction a secret thinking it will spare Gemma the pain. While this probably seems logical in the short term I can't help but feel it'll only end badly for Gemma, and Clay and Jax when she eventually finds out. (And she has to right? She keeps asking about the kid).
But just when we think we're preparing for a season of a sad Mister Teller, the tide turns in a shower of bullets that stuns the club and shakes Jax out of his malaise. And while the drive-by shooting unexpectedly takes the life of Hale (more on this in a bit) it acts as the spark to Jax's flame. The use of slow motion to capture the moments leading up to the shooting, to an almost fast forward attack by Jax on the shooter was kind of tension-building turned "holy-s#$%" moment Sons of Anarchy has absolutely mastered.
During Half-Sack's funeral Clay openly wondered how Jax would handle grief. Well, now we know. Jax will fight to death in order to protect his family.
Many other thoughts on a fantastic season premiere
- Police Chief Hale. Hale is a tough guy to sum up succinctly. Since the beginning of the show he's always expressly stated his desire to rid Charming of SAMCRO. But last season his motivation became a little fuzzier when he aided the sons in ridding the town of Zobelle and his cronies. It turns out he just wanted what was best for Charming, even if it meant choosing the lesser of two evils. He compromised his core values in order to get out between a rock and hard place. So I sort of understand why he ended up a casualty this early in the season. How could he possibly have done his job effectively knowing he had basically sicked the Sons on Zobelle? His character was just going to become too confusing/confused.
- If there was any doubt about Tara's intentions on remaining fully ingrained in Jax's life and in the inner-workings of the club, tonight's episode left no doubt. As she continues her transformation into "old-lady" we see the rage still there, along with the willingness to put up with things like say, lying to the feds.
- Clay had the quote of the episode in his threat to Agent Stahl. " Anything happens to my grandson. I promise you. I'm gonna shove a gun barrel up that bony ass of yours and blow your black heart out." The look on her face was priceless.
- I'm pumped about seeing Kenny Johnson (Kozik) return to the show though he'll always be Lem to me.
- Well I guess Abel is in Ireland. The Irish connection on this show has only grown through the years and I'm excited where this geographic shift ends up.
- Couple of awesome songs bookending tonight's episode. At the beginning we get "No Milk Today" by Joshua James and the Forest Rangers (a Herman's Hermits cover) as Jax mourns the loss of Abel. In the final scene its "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" by Richard Thompson. Sons of Anarchy always gets the music right.
- Even after a year, hearing "Riding through this world…" in the opening credits gets me so freaking pumped up
- I racked my brain to come up with what exactly "So" meant as the title of tonight's episode and came up with two conclusions. One: I think it's almost a question posed to Jax. Akin to asking, "So, what the hell are you going to do about this?" But I also think its a reference to Jax's rings on his left hand that spell out SoNs. The "So" is on his middle finger.