I haven’t checked in with Sons of Anarchy for a couple of weeks because I’ve still been generally disappointed with the direction of this season, but I had planned on writing up some musings on “Turas” no matter how good or bad it turned out to be. Thankfully, last night’s episode felt more propulsive and less manipulative, resulting in the most enjoyable hour of the season since the premiere.
The episode didn’t necessarily address the cliffhanger from last week with Abel being possibly adopted by a random (and surely nice) family, in fact it didn’t address it at all. Nevertheless, and I hate to say it like this because it makes me seem like a very stupid person trying to do stupid criticism, but here, it felt like stuff was actually happening. Again, that’s a completely basic statement and one that’s certainly not true in the most obvious sense. Things have been happening all season. However, the plot has felt stalled on multiple occasions and even after arriving in Belfast at the end of the episode two weeks ago, it still seemed as if the pieces were being moved around on the chessboard. And unfortunately, the characters felt too much like said pieces.
Anyway, “Turas” solves some of those issues or at least attempts to, as a number of characters find themselves in particularly awful situations and things only seem to be getting worse. For the most of the season, it has seemed as if everyone was trapped in this weird liminal space where there wasn’t as much urgency as there probably should have been. Here, SAMCRO finds themselves in the middle of all kinds of bad blood over in Ireland, Tig’s having trouble cleaning up a mess back in Charming and Tara’s trapped right in the middle of that as well. I don’t want to say that I watch this series for the shooting, the violence or whatever — Lord, I am making myself sound like a total fool in this post — but there’s just been this lack of danger all season that when combined with the stalled sense of pace, creates a static feeling that doesn’t really suit Sons of Anarchy.
Moreover, this episode also stands out because it finally really crystallizes some of the Belfast politics and relationships that were obscured or at least difficult to understand (for me, but again, idiot!) earlier in the season. It’s now understood that the Sons really want to take out Jimmy after he organizes for the arms truck to blow up in an attempt to take them out and threatens the teenage girls and it’s also understood that Father Ashby is kind of a crappy person for letting all of this go down just so Jimmy eventually gets dealt with in such a way that doesn’t involve him having blood on his hands.
Thus, even though it seems like Operation Recover Abel is going to be held out until the very climax of the season, the threats and the reasons as to why it’s going to take that long now feel more substantial. There are some real powerful mofos trying to kill SAMCRO and keep Abel away from Jax, and although I don’t think a cool explosion is the only reason the story feels more substantial, I’m not going to lie and say that it doesn’t have anything to do with it.
This is now a particularly intriguing story because it puts Jax (and to a lesser extent, the rest of SAMCRO) right in the middle of a battle that they didn’t especially ask to be in the middle of. Jax has three real options: 1.) He can kill Jimmy for Ashby, presumably then get Abel back 2.) He can capture Jimmy in some way and bring him back to the states so Stahl can take care of him, presumably then save his whole crew and mother from going to prison or 3.) He could kill both Ashby and Jimmy and roll the dice with Stahl. It’s a complicated place to be and one that is going to force Jax to have to make a choice, his son or basically everyone else in his life. I specifically enjoyed the fact that Gemma is trying to place the blame somewhere and Jax is self-aware and rational enough to realize that the Sons did this to themselves in a way by running guns in the first place, emphasizing that consequences always come back to bite you in the ass.
It also feels like the stuff in Charming is really starting to pay off as well. I’ll be the first to admit that the threads with the Mayans and Hector, but now, the inter-mingling with Hale and the abduction of Tara and the hospital supervisor (who, of course, is also in some sort of MC or gang based on her cool back tat), there’s urgency and direction there as well.
In the end, this season will absolutely play better on a DVD- or DVR-induced binge, that’s for sure. Kurt Sutter is certainly trying something different in his storytelling approach this season and that should be commended, even if I haven’t especially enjoyed how that approach has been executed. Thus, after “Turas,” I’m going to try to be more forgiving until the end of the season comes because this is certainly a specific attempt at a distinct kind of pacing and storytelling, and while much different than last season in a lot of ways, probably should be thrown to the side or anything.