'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 12 Recap (VIDEO)
by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 23rd 2010 11:10PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'June Wedding']
Often I begin these recaps with an appropriate quote from that week's episode.
But this week, there wasn't a sentence as memorable as one look from a key character.
It was really a half-second glance. Three-quarters of the way through the episode, when Jax Teller took Tara to his mother's house, and Tara took Abel in her arms, Jax finally allowed himself a half smile. It was one of those blink-and-you'll-miss it moments -- it was not a moment that called attention to itself, yet it commanded my attention anyway.
Finally Jax was home, with his mother, old lady and son, all healthy and relatively at peace. For the man who wears a knitted brow as often as he wears his cut, it was a rare few seconds of contentment. Even in that little moment, Charlie Hunnam communicated so much. Whatever else you want to say about the current season of 'SOA,' Hunnam has been on fire throughout.
Someone on Twitter today said he or she may boycott the Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast because Ryan McGee and I "defended" the current season of 'SOA' in a podcast that we recorded a few weeks ago. That is of course that person's right, but I don't think I'm on record as saying the current season is flawless. 'June Wedding' had some satisfying moments and scenes, but it also had reminders of the things I haven't enjoyed about the current season.
On the plus side, 'June Wedding' seemed to go out of its way to give us low-key yet effective moments between various people, all of whom were reconnecting in different ways. Unser and Gemma shared a smoke, Opie and Lyla had some sweet moments, Gemma told Opie to make an honest woman out of his porn star girlfriend, Unser and Clay began to mend fences, Tara and Jax got a look at their child, and even Tig and Kozik took a break from their beef to just hang out for a minute.
I relished those moments, but they also reminded me of how little time we'd spent with the some of the secondary characters on the show. I wanted to feel more moved by Opie's proposal to Lyla, but we hadn't spent much time with this couple in many weeks. I don't know about you, but Donna's death still feels fresh to me. Maybe Opie is rushing into this, but we've spent so little time with this couple that it's hard to gauge where either of them is at.
I enjoyed Tig and Kozik's moment, and the reveal that their conflict arose from a fight about a dog. That was 'SOA' at its twisted best. Yet Kenny Johnson, who plays Kozik, has been underused throughout the season. If Kozik goes back to Tacoma, who knows when we'll see him again? And if you were a fan of 'The Shield,' you know what kind of nuanced and sympathetic moments Johnson is capable of creating. I'm sorry he may not get a chance to show that range on this FX drama.
Jimmy O'Phelan got a very enjoyable moment in this episode. As his henchman, Donny, finally came back to the Russian's with the cash they'd need to get them out of the country, there was a long moment in which Jimmy clearly wondered if he'd run out of chances. Here's the toughest of tough guys, but he feared that his luck had run out. It was a beautifully played moment from Titus Welliver, yet Jimmy's still something of a cipher. He probably would be an enigma in any case, but I'd love to have spent more time with him in his world. As it was, we saw his machinations, but not much of the man.
Still, Jimmy is a thousand times more interesting than Salazar, the season's incredibly annoying Charming villain. What Salazar lacked in depth he also lacked in credibility. Good riddance, Salazar. If only someone had killed this cardboard character about five episodes ago.
I must admit, I did wonder for a moment why Jax killed Salazar, when Salazar's survival meant that the club would retain the protection that it had gotten from Charming PD all these years. But then I realized that Jax wasn't killing Salazar to protect Alvarez, who wanted Salazar dead in order to keep him from spilling the beans about the heroin trade. Jax wasn't really weighing a choice between protecting the drug runs and keeping Charming PD in the club's pocket. He was just looking at a guy who had taken his old lady hostage and put his unborn child in danger, and that guy needed to be put down.
But the impact of Salazar's death was blunted by the fact that the club never should have left him alive to create havoc in the first place. All season long, he's been a cartoonish villain with whom I didn't want to spend any time. I wanted him dead not because he was a truly threatening adversary but because he was simply irritating.
Contrast Salazar with Zobelle, with Zobelle's henchman, Weston, or with June Stahl. They are all loathsome human beings, but they are interesting in their loathsomeness. There are layers to these characters, and a point of view that we understand, even if we're horrified by it. The Salazar story, on the other hand, was melodramatic and had too many eye-rolling moments: Tara got a gun in her hand, yet failed to shoot him; Salazar left two bodies under a tarp, yet (dun-dun-dun!) one isn't Tara's. Salazar was a plot device, not a person, and as such, he added nothing to the world of 'SOA.' Of course, it's only because I'm so fiercely attached to this world that I want to be compelled by everyone in it.
The real supervillain of the episode was Stahl, who continues to astound and amaze with her Machiavellian awfulness. I mean that in a good way. In her interrogation scene with the Internal Affairs investigator, which was the episode's high point, I was transfixed by the performance that Stahl was giving. She shot her partner -- and lover -- dead, and then, in a very composed and appropriately "grief-stricken" 'fashion, convinced the investigator that her partner had killed Edmond. This was the June wedding of the title, perhaps: Stahl united herself and her partner in a web of lies that ultimately left her trusting partner dead.
Talk about a stone-cold killer -- Stahl sometimes make Jimmy O'Fallon look like a Boy Scout. Ally Walker really hit a home run in that scene -- she wasn't just playing Stahl, she was playing Stahl as the ATF agent gave an Oscar-winning performance and sold out her dead lover in the process. Stahl is another Vic Mackey, someone who pretends to understand human compassion and consideration but truly doesn't give a damn about anyone but herself. She'll emerge from all this either dead or with a giant promotion. I'm betting on the latter.
Gemma is absolutely right to not trust this woman, but what choice does Jax have? If Jax identifies the True IRA council, that creates major and deadly problems for the club. And if he doesn't nab Jimmy and turn him over, the entire club does serious time and may be driven to the brink of extinction. But how will he keep Jimmy alive and turn him over to Stahl without the whole club knowing? There are a lot of problems left to solve in Charming.
But the episode did tie up several major story threads -- Salazar is dead, the Mayan alliance will hold, Tara is rescued, and it looks as though Gemma is going to avoid jail time. Jax has made sure his old lady, his babies and his mother are safe. But soon, there will be a Jimmy O'Phelan confrontation. Surely there will be a very high price to pay, for either SAMCRO or the heir apparent to the club.
A few more notes:
* Damn, will someone please listen to Chucky? He may have an idea that would put everything right. Well, as right as things can be in this world.
* I did like the Stahl scene, but the investigator never questioned the fact that everything Tyler allegedly said to Stahl would have taken a long time to say. That's a lot of chitchat for a dying woman who'd been shot in the neck.
* If you want to know more about who will play Lenny the Pimp, check out this interview with 'SOA' creator Kurt Sutter.
* When will Jax get a moment to read those letters that Maureen put in his bag? And what's in those letters, anyway?
* Another of this season's disappointment: That Tara hasn't had much to do aside from cower and be rescued. Maggie Siff and Charlie Hunnam are great when they get scenes together, but as with Opie and Lyla, they've been apart for most of the season.
* A dog. Really? That's awesome.
'Sons of Anarchy' airs 10PM ET Tuesdays on FX.
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