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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 1 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 8th 2010 12:01AM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'So']

Note: The following 'Sons of Anarchy' recap/review assumes that you have seen the first two seasons of the FX drama and Tuesday's Season 3 premiere of the FX drama.

The act that ended the season 2 premiere of 'Sons of Anarchy' was horrifying.

To see Gemma violated by the enemies of the Sons was devastating, but it wasn't hard to envision the ways in which that rape would drive the club to exact punishing vengeance in the weeks to come.

Vengeance was indeed had in season 2, but the outcome wasn't what the club expected. The most serious fallout was, of course, the kidnapping of Abel, but the club ended up dealing with a whole series of setbacks: Half Sack died, Gemma had to go on the lam (and members of the club had to lie to her about Abel), and in the Season 3 premiere, Jax can't quite deal with the wreckage and tries to break up with Tara.

The club may have beaten back the white-supremacist threat, but the law of unintended consequences (which was often in play on 'The Shield,' where 'Sons' creator Kurt Sutter worked for seven seasons) meant that the Charming crew's victory exacted a horrendous personal cost.

These personal issues are certainly nothing to sneeze at, but what the Season 3 opener and the next few episodes establish is that the show is now working on a bigger canvas: Some of the threats to the club originate far from Charming and reach back deep into the club's history. As one of the closing shots indicates, Cameron Hayes is indeed in Belfast with Abel.

(By the way, 'Sons' creator Kurt Sutter wrote here of the SOA-Belfast connection and here of the differences that will emerge between seasons 2 and 3. For more on how the the club's Irish connections will impact the Sons, Sutter spoke more about that in interviews that can be found here and here.)

The focus on the home front at the start of the season makes sense, partly on a practical level (an extensive introduction to the Belfast angle in season 3's first episode would probably have been too much, too soon). But the Belfast-Charming links that 'So' begins to establish mean that season 3, especially at the start, will not be a repeat of Season 2. It'll take more time to set up the dual story lines, but I for one am intrigued by the bigger scope that season 3 promises.

In any case, the initial focus on the U.S. club makes thematic sense as well; the show frequently explores how we define ourselves by the company we keep and the difficulty of maintaining autonomy in the close-knit culture of Charming's resident MC.

Much as Clay reminds Jax at Half Sack's wake that going it alone isn't an option, Jax still instinctually rebels at the idea of having to share his pain with the entire club. But Clay knows that Jax needs to galvanize the people around him -- if not for them, then for the club's sake. SAMCRO may have wandered afield from John Teller's original intentions, but it was founded so that like-minded men and women could shoulder each other's burdens. And as a practical man, Clay also knows that without some kind of target, the angry energies that sometimes swirl around the club could go astray.

Personally and politically, Jax has to pull it together. But Jax's heir apparent role isn't a voluntary one, as much as he loves and relies on the men around him.

Charlie Hunnam is doing a spectacular job of depicting Jax's conflicting desires for connection and freedom. His encounter with Piney at the graveyard reminds us of his many personal losses (a father and brother dead, a child missing), but Hunnam makes Jax's murderous rage at the end of the episode just as believable as his impotent grief. In that moment at the end of 'So,' his rage as a club member and as a father come together, and for once, the distinctions don't matter.

"We don't know who we are until we're connected to someone else," Tara tells Jax.

Those connections haven't been severed, but they're fraying. Gemma's on the run, and as she slowly goes mad in a motel, Clay has to lie to her about her own grandson. Jax and Tara reunite (and Maggie Siff really shone in their reconciliation scene), but Tara can't quite deal with the fallout from Abel's disappearance and Half Sack's murder and she loses her cool in surgery, the one thing that steadied her life in the past. Gemma reunites with her father, but he's not the man she once knew. Everything is spinning on the edge of control, which isn't a great place to live in but it's an ideal place for this show occupy.

"You love the right things," Piney told Jax, but that's clearly not enough to save Jax -- or anyone else close to him -- from a world of hurt.

A few final notes:

- I wrote in my Season 3 review about the show's intensity, and by that I'm not just referring to the shootout with the gang members or the drive-by at the wake (though those moments are certainly pulse-quickening). In its quiet yet barely restrained emotion, the scene in which Jax tries to break up with Tara is every bit as compelling as those moments of violence.

- A moment of silence for Deputy Chief David Hale (Taylor Sheridan). He may have given SAMCRO a hard time, but he the man good intentions.

- Having said that, I love what Dayton Callie brings to the show, and this means we'll probably see a good amount of him this season. It makes sense to have just one sheriff, and one that is sympathetic to the club at that; SAMCRO has enough on its plate without dealing with local law enforcement issues as well.

- We've seen Katey Sagal play a lot of different kinds of moments over the course of the show's previous two seasons, but all those Gemma variations didn't prepare me for the way in which she was transformed in the presence of her father. Whatever other family drama Gemma has in her past, clearly she and her dad (played by the great Hal Holbrook) always loved each other a lot.

- Having said that, trying to keep Gemma caged up is like trying to kidnap Fiona on "Burn Notice": Proceed with extreme caution, but seriously, don't even try.

- I discussed 'SOA' on two podcasts this week -- the 'Talking TV' podcast I do with Ryan McGee, and I guested on Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg's 'Firewall & Iceberg' podcast too. You can find links to both of them here.

- Be sure to return next week for next week's review.

'Sons of Anarchy' airs Tuesdays at 10PM ET on FX.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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19 Comments

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Harley

Get rid of soap opera Gema and get back to some riding....over 30 mph. 1st season was so much more realistic. Don't continue turning it into "As the Wheel Turns" or "One Life to Ride For"
Harley....full timer.

November 03 2010 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bridgett Vinson

Hi
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Hope it helps someone who wants to Watch Sons of Anarchy Season 3 Episode 1 Online

September 10 2010 at 9:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gina

This is a little off topic but, what is up with Ally Walker (Stahl) that woman has had so much plastic surgery! She was a beautiful woman on Profiler and now she looks horrible!!!!

September 10 2010 at 8:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tena

I hate my cable company (Comcast) in Houston. Our cable went out 5 minutes prior to the SP of Sons! It comes on again Friday night, but................
They said it was because of the bad weather we had earlier, but it was about 4 or 5 hours earlier and it was fine before that (even during the storms).

September 08 2010 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JD

It's pathetic that one of the best written shows on TV is getting slack because there is no "action". I saw plenty of action in the season closer leading into this episode. And some good action in the opener leading into what this season will be.

Man some need to go watch The Vampire Dairies or Gilmore Girls or ABC on Sunday night.

September 08 2010 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TopiaryCow

Agree with Kevin Brown. The first season was so cool, because these were men of action, who TOOK action.

Now it's become a show of old ladies (Stahl and Gemma) old men (Clay and Gemma's Dad and Unser) and impotent bikers...who threaten people but don't seem to do much.

Can't believe they are still in Charming when the dude took the baby on a boat. Why didn't they go after them? They're afraid of the water?

Sucks, sucks sucks. If I wanted to see depressed guys breaking up with their girlfriends, beaten by life, I just have to look around town.

Please, give us some action, some smarts, and some wins. Sick of seeing them lose to creeps like Stahl etc.

September 08 2010 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chunky695355

that show kicks ass....period. cant wait for next week!!!

September 08 2010 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KT

I agree and disagree with you Kevin Brown. Yes the show was "deep sorrowful", however it had to begin where season 2 ended. So it had to show the emotion of Abel's kidnapping situation and Gemma being framed. And the last 5minutes was awesome!!! I love how my boy Jax smashed that dudes face. He took out all his frustration on that guys head (which i think was one Weston's crew, but we shall see). Loved it! Love the show! Love the cast! Can't wait to see how it all plays out and I hate that I have to wait a whole week to see the next episode. I wish I could take off from work and FX just saw a marathon for the next two days of Sons season 3. I would grab a pack of newports and a bottle of gin and just watch!

September 08 2010 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevin

I love the show but was disappointed with last nights episode, it was all long, deep sorrowful, soulful shots set to music. Nothing really happened until the last 5 minutes of the show. The kidnapped Abel subplot is going to get old quick. We kind of had Gemma, who usually comes across very level-headed, generally acting like a spoiled teenager. I hope the series isn't going to go the route of the Sopranos and get so caught up in it's own preceived self-importance that it becomes boring. That being said Hal Holbrook was great.

September 08 2010 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kevin's comment
KT

I agree and disagree with you Kevin Brown. Yes the show was "deep sorrowful", however it had to begin where season 2 ended. So it had to show the emotion of Abel's kidnapping situation and Gemma being framed. And the last 5minutes was awesome!!! I love how my boy Jax smashed that dudes face. He took out all his frustration on that guys head (which i think was one Weston's crew, but we shall see). Loved it! Love the show! Love the cast! Can't wait to see how it all plays out and I hate that I have to wait a whole week to see the next episode. I wish I could take off from work and FX just saw a marathon for the next two days of Sons season 3. I would grab a pack of newports and a bottle of gin and just watch!

September 08 2010 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gina

Loved the episode. Jax trying to be all noble by telling Tara to leave him was great. He knows what this kind of life has in store and wanted to spare her that. I give her some credit, for realizing that she loves him and only feels alive and real when she is with him. She needs to grow a spine now and stand by her choice. Jax will need her a lot now and she needs to be able to be there for him.

Hale dying was necessary I think. They never showed the back story with the Sheriff but I think it probably happened the same way it was with Hale. In season 2 he let the club deal with some stuff (like Zobelle) and that is the road to becoming like the Sheriff. It would have been a difficult road for him. He is a good man and while he started to see that everything is not as black and white as he thought if he continued on he would have wound up corrupting his beliefs.

Jax was wrong about one thing though. Cameron did not need a passport for Abel. Only a forged birth certificate. Getting Abel out of the country was easy. Getting him back not so much.

I would have thought that Gemma would have had a bad relationship with her father. Him being a preacher and all. Instead it was apparently her mother that she was not close to. Makes sense why she mothers the club. She probably did not have that in her life.

September 08 2010 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gina's comment
Jenny Penny

I think it's too bad that Hale died, b/c I was really looking forward to seeing how he dealt with the club. I always wondered if we'd see him eventually turn into a version of Unser, or if he'd go the opposite route as he seemed to be in the beginning of last season. Now it looks like we won't ever get to find out.

September 08 2010 at 12:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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