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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 8 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 27th 2010 12:15PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Lochan Mor']

'Sons of Anarchy' looks unapologetically at violent lives. Whether the sons are in Belfast or California, fisticuffs and bullets are never far away.

But what struck me about 'Lochan Mor' is that it was really about children -- how beloved they are, how fiercely they are protected (and how they protect their elders). But what may be most striking about this super-sized episode is how it dwelled on the idea that their very existence can be dangerous.

We had Tara and Lyla deciding what to do about unplanned pregnancies. We had Maureen Ashby looked after by her daughter Trinity, who is shaping up to be another one of the show's very cool, very tough chicks. We saw Chibs finally reunited with his wife and child -- a child who hasn't known anything but violence and fear for quite a long time. There was Jax still looking for his son but facing possible death twice in one day in his quest to reclaim him.

And of course there's Gemma, the mother hen of the whole Charming chapter, following her instincts and getting the Sons out of a jam with Northern Ireland law enforcement. But much worse is coming.

Without getting too pretentious about it, these are all people who, as Yeats' poem has it, are "vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle."

No wonder Tara thinks being a parent in this world is just too scary. She's done well in her lessons at the Gemma Teller-Morrow Charm School, but the Sons willingly live in a frightening, unpredictable world. Their bonds to each other are strong, and family means everything to them. But those family ties aren't enough to protect the people Jax, Gemma and Clay care about. If anything, the lives they've chosen put them and their loved ones in even more danger.

Will Tara abort her baby, or will she become one of the mothers who finally says "enough" to all the testosterone-fueled equipment-measuring that's going on among the men? The sense I get is that there will certainly be more hell to pay, as Kellan Ashby and Jimmy O fight a proxy war with the Sons in the middle and as Jacob Hale uses his own set of patsies to fight his Charming war for him. But I also think that the women might be the ones to rise up and put a stop to all the bloody conflict. Maybe.

What's clear is that the Sons, and the sons (especially Jax and Abel), are being used. If they don't take the situation into their own hands and take back some control, they're sunk. But their reception in Belfast proved that they have only each other to rely on. And can Jax trust Gemma and Clay, given the lies they appear to have told him about his father?

Perhaps Gemma and Mo will form some kind of tentative alliance, but then again, maybe not. There's clearly some kind of tortured history between them. The part we know -- that John Teller had a kid with Mo and Gemma never knew that -- is painful enough. As for the other secrets in John's history, I hope we and/or Jax learn them soon. Vague hints are fine up to a point, but I think there's been enough of a prelude to this particular secret. We need to find out what it is soon, or the hints about John's past could grow irksome.

Not irksome at all: That sensational opening scenes of the Sons arriving in Northern Ireland. The show has always been really great at three things: Wordless sequences that set up stories and settings; song choices; and road sequences featuring the crew on their motorcycles.

This may be my favorite 'Sons' road sequence yet. It managed to be graceful and exciting at the same time, and the episode's editor and director did a fabulous job of integrating Black 47's "Big Fellah" into the sweeping shots of the crew rolling through the countryside and into the city.

The song choice was particularly apt; the "Big Fellah" refers to Michael Collins, an Irish revolutionary hero who died in 1922. The song laments a loss, an ache, a longing for leadership and someone to provide hope. Nothing could have been more appropriate as Jax, the great hope of the Sons, who's on alien turf and wary of possible betrayal from every corner, rode into Belfast. It was a stirring song about painful history and loss, an excellent choice for a man with Irish roots riding into battle in order to put his family back together.

But is that possible? I must confess, the final image of the episode left me scratching my head. I know it was meant to be one of those big "SOA" twists, but I don't think it worked. Of course, it's terrible if Abel was adopted and possibly lost to Jax forever. Yet I'm wondering: What does Father Ashby know about Abel's adoption?

I noticed that when Ashby visited the orphanage, there was a nun with him (and was it me, or did that nun have a gun? It wouldn't surprise me -- that Ashby would hang with a nun with a gun). In any case, that same nun was in the scene with the couple taking home Abel. Does that mean Ashby was in on that adoption and even arranged it? I'm not sure.

There are two possibilities. The first one: Asbhy is double-crossing Jax, and has no intention of giving Abel back to his father. Recall that Ashby only promised that Abel would go "home in the arms of his loving family." He didn't say whose family. But riddle me this: What does the priest gain from pissing off SAMCRO? Does he expect Jax to die in the war against Jimmy O, and thus an angry Jax is not his problem? Or does Ashby have a further use for the child, therefore he needs to make Abel even more inaccessible to both Jimmy and Jax?

This is one devious priest, and I wouldn't put much past him. Then again, I suppose there a second possibility: Abel is being adopted without Ashby's knowledge. Perhaps Jimmy's spies have figured out where the child is, or perhaps the people running that orphanage just wanted to make a fast buck off a cute blonde baby. In any case, I wish there'd been less ambiguity about that last scene, in terms of what Ashby did or didn't know. But we may get answers quickly about that next week -- I hope that's the case.

The overall impression I'm left with is of two factions putting the Sons in the middle -- and neither side can be fully trusted. Ashby and Jimmy have their own agendas, and they're basically using SAMBELL and SAMCRO to fight their war for them. But the Sons and Jax have their own agenda -- to get Abel and get out of Belfast alive. That is not going to be easy, not when their own hosts in the Belfast charter can't be trusted.

More importantly, Jax's dilemma just got a lot more complicated. Should he do as Father Kellan Ashby asked and kill Jimmy, or should he fulfill his deal with Stahl and deliver a live, very guilty Jimmy to the Feds? And he can't confide in anyone about this impossible choice; both of the deals Jax struck are secret.

Jax's secrets are, to me, the most interesting ones of the season. Given that I'm invested in Jax as a character, and interested by the journey he's gone on as a father and an increasingly ruthless leader, I'm eager to see how these backroom deals will play out for him. The whole "secrets of John Teller" thread is too vague at this point to be a big draw for me; those skeletons in the closet are likely to be more interesting when we see how they affect Jax.

In any event, let's hope he finds out soon that Trinity is his half-sister. Ye gods! Raise your hand if you spent half the episode thinking, "Jax! Don't tap your sister!" And maybe that's how the secrets will start coming out -- if Jax and Trinity's flirting goes any further, I can see Maureen or Gemma flipping out and explaining why those two should just remain friends.

Jax may find out more than he bargained for when it comes to his blood relations, but I have the strange feeling that he'll end up with a diminished family in the end. A frequent 'Sons' theme is how the people you trust most can betray you in the most devastating ways possible. If Jax emerges from Belfast with his kid, what will he have lost in the bargain?

Can Jax trust Gemma or Clay or will he find out something that makes him reconsider his entire relationships with them? More importantly, will he end up with any children at all? Abel himself isn't really a person we can invest in yet; he's more of an adorable MacGuffin at this point. But he matters deeply to Jax; he was raised in a culture where protecting family is the only job that matters. And obviously Tara's a long way from being a mother, if that actually happens, but he probably would have died to protect her before. If he knew she was pregnant, he'd be even more committed to her.

But as people have suggested in comments and emails, it's hard to imagine how Jax could emerge from this whole experience with two healthy, happy, safe kids. This is the kind of world that exacts a price for all that violence. There was a sense of foreboding infused into 'Lochan Mor,' a feeling that someone would die, if not now, then soon. Sure, we had the violence of the roadside stop and in the loyalists' shootout, but those were just preludes.

Episode titles from this season of 'Sons' have referenced Yeats' 'The Second Coming,' and here's a passage that comes to mind:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

"Surely some revelation is at hand..."

A few final notes:

* I think for some 'SOA' fans, the reaction to this episode will consist of "Shirtless Jax!!" It may have taken a long time for the club to get to Belfast, but I'm betting that for some, that scene makes it worth the trip, eh?

* From what I understand from this interview with Kurt Sutter, none of the cast members or guest actors from 'Sons of Anarchy' shot their scenes in Ireland. Scenes of the club on the road and in the city were shot by a second-unit crew that flew to Belfast (the guys on bikes on those scenes were locally recruited extras). Any scenes with dialogue or recognizable characters were shot in California, on locations that matched the Irish countryside and city. The scenes inside and outside the SAMBELL clubhouse were shot on sets that were built on or near the show's Los Angeles-area sets. All in all, the show's crew and directors did a simply outstanding job of making California look like Northern Ireland (which I've only visited once, but the countryside south and west of Belfast has some of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever seen).

* Nice job on the soundtrack throughout, and the Irish-inflected theme song was a nice touch.

* My favorite Clay line, "I don't recognize your bullshit MC," is gone from the previouslies. They do this just to hurt me. Ah well, my friend Marina created this desktop wallpaper for those of us who wanted it immortalized visually (scroll down to the end of the post, where you'll find the Clay image, right-click to save it to your computer).

* So the Kozik-Tig beef -- which continues to be amusing -- has to do with "her." Hmmmm....

* Will the club take the bait that Alvarez left and attribute the attack on Lumpy's gym as something the Mayans did? That's assuming Kozik or Tig can track down the freaked-out prospect and get him to tell them what he saw and heard. I have to think that the SOA members left in Charming wouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion that the Mayans are up something. They've got a truce with that crew, and clearly something bigger is happening with the real estate in town.

* Favorite line of the episode: Happy saying "Oh yes, I will!" when ordered to kill someone by Tig. Crew members like Happy haven't gotten as much to do this season, given how much time we've spent on the Irish, but David Labrava delivered that line with beautiful menace.

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

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Thanks for the great review Mo.

I have to say, this was one of my least favorite episodes. Like many of you, I'm getting tired of the " finding Abel". Enough already!

Kinda glad Darby had a change of heart when he went to see lumpy. However, what was up with hale hiring Salazar...I mean he was the one who was responsible for his brothers death! Jeez!

Also. the flirting between Jax and Trininty...gross! Seems as if Jax forgot Tara pretty quickly.

I predict Tara will decide to keep the baby, however,,,she will be kidnapped , hurt and lose the baby. I love Tara and wish she would get it on with Juice or Opie haha.

Hope next week is better!

October 30 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great write up Mo! Surprised to hear from your latest podcast that there are split feelings about the season. Quite enjoying it myself. Loved the Celtic slant to the episode ie the opening theme.

My only real complaint would be too many characters and the supporting ones from the SOA have been given very little to do.

Beyond that it is has been a very engrossing season for me.

October 29 2010 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Father Ashby has a pretty obvious plan based on what he told Jax combined with his actions with Abel.
Use the SoA to get rid of Jimmy to avoid doing it himself and showing the IRA foot soldiers there is division in its leadership. Then he can pass the blame for the elimination of Jimmy on to the SoA club and have them killed in order to hide his machinations to get rid of Jimmy to increase his own power.

October 27 2010 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Noah B.


Kudos to you for your insightful and well thought out weekly commentary on SOA. I must admit that my favorite thing to do Wednesday morning at work is read your article on the last nights episode. Even though your article isnt always the first one available, I always wait because its actually worth it. You dont just deliver a recap, you analyze plot structures and character relationships.

Keep up the good work,

Noah B.

PS: I'm 99% sure that Kellan Ashby gave the nun the gun, along with a warning that someone might try and snatch the baby. But thats just my take on it :)

October 27 2010 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Noah B.'s comment

The priest did give her the gun. I watched that scene twice to make sure! The nun was very familiar with guns, she checked to make sure there was a round in the chamber and put it in her habit! LOL

I think the gun was in case Jimmy or his goons showed up. I think Father Kellan has a plan B if Jax doesn't kill Jimmy, let Abel be adopted.

I honestly hope Tara keeps the baby. I think it would really tie in what was going on during the first season. Jax wanting the club to go more legit, that would give him a reason to get back to the task of getting the club out of the dangerous stuff they do. And provide security for his family.

October 27 2010 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think this gave us much for a 90 minute episode. The ending, the constant twisting with the Abel storyline is getting tiresome. And to add the adoption to the end? Ridiculous. Pointless. I don't want to watch an entire season of them chasing this baby all over the globe. I'd like to see this wrapped up and them all get back to Charming where, clearly, there is a storm brewing and far too many loose ends.

October 27 2010 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to AmyD's comment

I totally agree with not wanting the whole season to be about chasing Abel....boring. I love SOA, but I am most frustrated by all the commercials, especially during their 90 minute episode. About 45 minutes of it was commercials (5-6 minutes of SOA and 5-6 minutes of commercials). I know the commercials pay the bills, but don't get so greedy that you turn your fans off :(

October 27 2010 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I actually think Chuck's line to Tara about what was up with Tig and Kozik was pretty darn funny.

The more we see of Clay the more I am beginning to wonder if HE isn't the one with the 'heart of gold' as opposed to John Teller. Jax wants to think the best of his father, and I think he is going to get a rude awakening here.

The entire episode I was with you, Mo, I was just waiting for him to 'hook' up with his little sis, and for Maureen to freak out. Hopefully, it will just develop into a friendship, which would actually be great to see.

I loved this episode, though I have to say I want them to wrap up the Abel issue soon. Really liked the reworked theme song as well.

October 27 2010 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

hate to be a smart-ass, but it is Jax asking Happy to kill that copper, Tig is of course back in Charming.

October 27 2010 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Skinny Black Girl

Oh and while Happy's line was a highlight, I got the BIGGEST kick out of Gemma's request for "comfort" from Clay. That was awesome. Haha

October 27 2010 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Skinny Black Girl

This recap was phenomenal Mo. You always examine the episodes beyond being "good" and "bad" get into the psychology of the characters. It's what makes your recaps stand out from other critics'.

What I'm seeing this season is the underlying juxtaposition of Clay vs. the Teller Men. Jax's unraveling will run parallel to whatever John Teller dirt is buried in Ireland and force us to re-examine our Golden Teller Boys and Clay. The first two season showed the Tellers as deep-thinking, kind-hearted idealists and Clay as the ruthless pragmatist. Season Three reveals the Tellers' inconsistencies, while Clay is unwavering. Tellers wax poetic about loyalties, but betray their women. Clay may occasionally stray, but he's clearly a doting husband. In Ireland, we see what may have motivated Gemma to take up with John's second-in-command either before or following his death.

I think this is what Sutter does best. Show us that in this world, there are no clear good guys or bad guys.

October 27 2010 at 1:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Skinny Black Girl's comment

I mentioned in an earlier thread(last week's maybe?) that I thought there had been a brief mention in Season 1 that, somehow, Clay had a hand in JT's death, and that Gemma, while maybe not having outright knowledge of it, had her suspicions. She and Clay are of the same mind when it comes to the club, and neither of them want Jax to fulfill his father's Quixotic dreams. That could be part of the "skeletons in the closet" angst that is weighing on Gemma right now.

October 27 2010 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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