'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 4 Recap
by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 29th 2010 10:00AM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Home']
Season 3 has been a different kind of ride for 'Sons of Anarchy' fans.
There's been a fair amount of setup in the first three episodes, and in the powerful episode 'Home,' much of what transpired in the first few episodes paid off in a big way.
Of course, we all wanted Jax to find out where his baby was, and as soon as they tend to Gemma's collapse, the crew will no doubt set a course for Belfast.
But it wasn't just what Gemma found out -- it's how she found out. The truth emerged in a way that nearly destroyed her.
Having abandoned her biological family -- not just as a young woman, but once again in this episode -- Gemma has made the Sons of Anarchy her life. Loyalty is everything to her. This isn't just a biker club, it's her chosen family, with ties that are stronger than those of mere blood.
And they all lied to her.
Of course, Clay, Jax, Tig, Tara and the rest deceived Gemma for what they thought were good reasons. Many things are done with good intentions on this show, and most of them go seriously wrong. And that's not just due to the usual foibles of human nature. It could be due to the fact that, as Jax no doubt thinks in his darker moments, everything in that world is founded on a betrayal.
John Teller wanted to establish a world and a culture apart from the greed and conformity of mainstream society, but now the club sells guns to marginalized members of that society, fostering the kinds of bloody, violent scenarios he'd seen firsthand in Vietnam.
Jax himself feels ambiguous at best about the values that the club stands for. Is he being true to himself by staying with an organization that has strayed so far from John's ideals and a culture he may not fully believe in? Should he try to change it from the inside or leave to carve out his own life? Is there a middle path in there somewhere?
Jax's ongoing struggle hinges on whether he's deceiving himself about his own life and what SAMCRO is really about, but this particular episode was rife with lies on many fronts. The irony would be delicious, given the value that these people place on solidarity with each other. But it's "delicious" isn't the right word when Gemma is prostrate on the ground, paralyzed and pulverized by the knowledge that no one told her that Abel had been kidnapped. She had to find that out from a virtual stranger who lives thousands of miles away.
And that wasn't all. Jimmy O has been lying to the club all along, as they'll soon find out. Just as Jax suspected, he was feeding them a line of blarney, meant to keep them at bay until he could sort out his problems back in Belfast.
Tara tried to lie to Jax about what had happened to the Guatamalan caregiver, but in the heat of an argument, she told Jax the truth. It's not that Tara can't be a tough old lady -- as her run-in with the hospital administrator proved, she's certainly learning fast on that score -- it's that the deceptions are just too much for her. That's why, when Gemma says, "There's no one I trust more than you," Tara can't take it. It's one thing to wonder if Jax has ever lied to her, or wonder whether she should lie to him. It's another to deceive a woman whose trust is not easily earned.
The problems between Jimmy O and Father Ashby are bigger than mere lies and game-playing. If there's one mystery that drove me mildly batty this season, it was this: What did the priest want with Abel? What would he or his associates gain from hiding the grandchild of John Teller -- a friend of the True IRA and the architect of a SAMCRO/True IRA alliance?
I should have known that the Irish priest would have Machiavellian plan (did I learn nothing from attending Catholic schools?). Ashby's plan involves getting Jimmy O out of the way, permanently.
Jimmy O is much more gangster than soldier at this point, and the fact that Jimmy is building an army of young hooligans who are loyal to him -- not to the cause -- has put Father Ashby in a bind. Jimmy is a respected member of the True IRA and a powerful man in his own right. Ashby can't engage in an open power struggle with Jimmy, as the priest explained to Maureen.
Ashby needs someone to come to Belfast looking for Jiimmy's head on a platter. And that person is Jax Teller. Once SAMCRO comes to Belfast, Jimmy will have very big problems indeed, and if he happens to die, then Ashby's hands will be apparently clean. That's one tricky priest.
Back in California, the club had to deal with a group of small-time criminals that I dubbed "the methbillies." This story line felt a little bit rushed; I would have liked more time with Frances Fisher, who is perfect casting for the show. With any luck, she'll return (it does look as thought she and Piney have a history of some kind).
At any rate, the methbillies story line was basically a chance for the club to go shoot at stuff and pull off a rescue while the rest of the episode's plot elements were moved into position. And though the shoot-out at the Vicodin Corral felt a bit tacked-on, I greatly enjoyed Piney's line about SAMCRO being "the good guys."
Also, the methbillies story was mildly amusing, as 'Sons of Anarchy' story lines go. The episode needed that, given the darkness of that final scene with Gemma and the heart-rending nature of her scenes with Nate.
What can really be said about Hal Holbrook's performance? He was unbelievably good, whether talking to Gemma about her troubled past with her mother, protesting his arrival at the nursing home or wordlessly wandering into the home's TV lounge. The look on Nate's face in his last scene was painfully ironic, considering that the title of the episode is 'Home.'
In the episode's closing montage, we saw just how homeless, lost and unloved so many people in this world felt. Nate, having lost his wife, had to leave his home, an act that tore Gemma apart (and good God, Katey Sagal's work in that scene was amazing. When 'Sons' puts Gemma through hell, spellbinding scenes are usually the result). Little Abel appeared to be in a grim foster home, one of many squirming, squealing, motherless children. The crew rode frantically home, only to find Gemma, who finally found out where Abel was, collapsing in front of the clubhouse.
It was a powerful ending to a solid episode. And it set up much more emotional and physical mayhem to come.
A few final notes:
* Liam O'Neill of the Belfast charter will have a lot of explaining to do when Jax finds out he was lied to about Abel's whereabouts.
* Liam's old lady, Cherry, may know too much for her own good, having found that suspicious stack of cash in his clothes.
* Nate saying "Don't let your family slip away" was just one more twist of the knife in this episode, which examined the ways family members can betray, hurt and let down the people they love most.
* So Gemma would rather shave her head than be a redhead. That's got to be an in-joke about Katey Sagal's most famous pre-'Sons' character, 'Married With Children's' Peg Bundy.
* Who else enjoyed the mini-'Deadwood' reunion between Titus Welliver and Paula Malcolmson?
* Logistically it was necessary to keep Gemma and Clay apart for much of the season so far, but Katey Sagal and Ron Perlman are so good together -- I hope we see more shared scenes between them as the season progresses.
'Sons of Anarchy' airs Tuesdays at 10PM ET on FX.
Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.