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September 3, 2014

'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 2 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 13th 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' -- 'Booster']

This episode provides textbook examples of what I think is working -- and wobbling -- this season on 'SOA.'

The long-term tensions, alliances, goals and conflicts that are being set up among various club members are gold, as far as I'm concerned. One thing I especially like about this episode is the variation on a theme we've seen explored in the past -- the idea that when Clay and Jax are allied, they're actually more dangerous to the club than when they're at each others' throats.

That's not to say that the alliance is smooth sailing all the way. Far from it. Jax felt blindsided by the deal that Clay had made with the cartel about transporting coke, and Clay couldn't believe that Jax would really and truly walk away from the club forever. Both men were forced, not willingly, to accept the situation as it is, and given their parallel goals -- to make money before leaving the club's leadership positions -- they had to grudgingly get over whatever problems they might have with each other's actions.



So that's all fine well and good, and I can see lots of potential in those kinds of internal conflicts and alliances. As for the episodic plot of the week, well, that was less enjoyable. I had one minor annoyance and one major one.

The minor annoyance had to do with the Gemma plot and the John Teller letters. I think we need to institute something I'll call the Old Lady Story Alert (OLSA). Last year, Tara was stuck in an abduction story line that never quite came together and which didn't make her seem as intelligent as she normally is. The less said about that whole plot the better, but I think we can all agree that, on a scale of 1-5, that was a 5 on the OLSA scale (with 5 signifying the number of drinks you had to take to make the story line tolerable).

This season, we've got Gemma rooting around in drawers and stretching out the whole "Who Killed JT" plot, which already feels a bit long in the tooth. I'm willing to give that thread some slack, given that we're early in the season, but if the JT murder story gets strung out too long, it may well go higher than its current rating of 2 on the OLSA Threat Level Scale. Let's just get this out of the way, in case there's any confusion: I love Gemma. I love the performances Maggie Siff and Katey Sagal give; they're phenomenal actresses. So let's just hope they get some good and meaty story lines this season, and that the John Teller plot doesn't begin to seem like an excuse to give the women something to do.

All right, my major annoyance with the episode boils down to this: If the cartel put the word out that the Sons were not to be messed with, why did the Russians mess with them? I understand that the Russians would be itching to get revenge for their murdered colleagues, but I'm working under the impression that when the cartel says not to do something, you don't do it!

Maybe I've been watching too much 'Breaking Bad,' but it strikes me as not quite credible that the Russians would come after the Sons (indirectly, but not *that* indirectly), given how powerful and deadly the cartels are. You mess with them in any way, you die, even if you mess with their ammo suppliers, you know?

To me, the more logical course of action would be that, after being told to back off, the Russians would lick their wounds, get out of town and go find a new set of customers in a new part of the state or country. So the entire story line didn't make a ton of sense to me, and the whole issue of the 24 guns also seemed a bit confusing. (Were those guns the club took when they were murdering the Russians? I'll be honest, I lost the plot when it came to the two dozen guns and what that was all about. I know people will try to clarify this in the comment area, and thanks in advance for that, but given that the whole story line wasn't really clicking for me, I'm not going to expend a lot of brain power trying to do the math on the disputed weaponry.)

In any event, the point of the episode seemed to be to prove that the cartel has the Sons' back, but even that aspect of things didn't quite work for me. This is information I had early in the episode: As the local representative of the cartel, Romeo Parada (Danny Trejo's character), told the Sons the cartel have the club's back. He certainly seemed like a man of his word, so I didn't see a particular need to have that information reinforced.

My reaction to the Russian plot boiled down to this: I never thought Jax or Opie were really in danger. I knew someone would ride to the rescue just in the nick of time, and the way Parada did so was actually a bit of a letdown. It struck me as a bit of Cartel Ex Machina. So Parada just happened to have a guy on the inside who let him know what was going down? OK then. If what transpired with the Russians on the reservation was partly a setup for what's to come, it just didn't feel particularly necessary.

So, it wasn't my favorite episode, but there were things to like in it. I am a fan of any Jax-Opie interaction, the Clay-Jax stuff was excellent, and the episode did a deft job of showing us the three kinds of old ladies: Some think they need to know everything (Tara), some know the broad outlines and assist with those (Gemma) and some don't want to (or can't) know anything (Lyla). Does any of those strategies put the lives of family members in any less danger? That remains to be seen.

Finally, I'm a little torn on the rampage we saw from new sheriff Eli Roosevelt. Not to say that Rockmond Dunbar didn't play the scene convincingly (he did), but part of me wonders if his axe rampage in the club was a bit overdone. Of course, the club brought payback on itself with the murders they dumped in the sheriff's lap, but I wondered if it would have felt a bit more believable had Roosevelt stayed a calm, collected law-enforcement rival and not openly provoked the Sons like that.

Perhaps the idea is that Roosevelt is the more in-your-face opponent and new prosecutor Linc Potter is the more cool, collected one, but what if the club had two cool, collected, intelligent foes? I just wondered whether that might be double the fun.

What did you all think?




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19 Comments

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willow162

Does anyone else think there is something not quite right with Opie's new wife? When the new sherriff insinuated they had people everywhere, I immediately thought of her. Don't trust her one bit, especially after the close up on her and Opie dancing at the wedding.

September 17 2011 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Smartypants

Generally enjoyed this episode and didn't have much problem with the sticky plot points others have brought up. Give the power of the Cartel, I can believe they would have a mole inside a major competitor's operation. What I find harder to believe is that they would need a relatively small-time gang like SAMCRO as their broker to the Real IRA guns. But I can let that slide.

What Clay and Jax didn't seem to hear from was Romeo's message, "We have contacts everywhere." They probably don't have someone in the club yet, but suspect they'll be looking for an inside line soon enough. The question is who will it be? The easy choice would be one of the new guys, but it would be a lot more interesting if they made an attempt at turning one of the major members or an old lady. My money would be on Lyla or Tara who would do it to keep their families safe and let the club fall. What do others think?

And Mo, I'm going to disagree with you about the sheriff's "rampage". I think the Roosevelt was completely calculated in what he did. It was very in your face, but he was not driven by rage or any loss of control. It was very cold and methodical. Go back to the look he flashes Clay when he's about to enter the Chapel. There was no apparent anger, just cold, hard determination. Taking down the rogue's gallery and attacking the meeting table are calculated actions to provoke SAMCRO. Clay's almost amused look tells me he understands exactly what the sheriff is doing. The challenge for him, as head of the club, will be to keep the members from acting rashly in response. He may be forced to exact some kind of retribution sooner than he'd like, in order to nail down all the votes he needs to move coke for the Cartel.

The most intriguing development of the episode for me is the revelation that Gemma and Unser are somehow connected through JT's death. We know the story of SOA follows the general outlines of Hamlet -- the question is did Gertrude and Claudius, err Gemma and Clay, plot together to kill JT, or did Gemma set him up on her own. I could see Gemma acting on her own, then getting Clay go along. Clearly there is a lot more to learn about the mystery of John Teller's death. The accident report Gemma found mixed in with JT's letters to Maureen is signed by Deputy Chief Unser. Gemma, Clay and Unser clearly worked together to cover up the truth behind the death. But how and why?

September 14 2011 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Smartypants's comment
miss juice

'Contacts everywhere"
Translation = we bugged your bar phone to keep tabs on you. I think it's meant to prove that no matter what happens, once you're in with the cartel getting out is almost impossible.

September 21 2011 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
msvviolet

Definitely a twist with Gemma and Unser.. I wouldn't doubt Gemma killing JT, but I wouldn't think that Unser would be alright with that. He always seemed like a decent guy. Gemma is definitely more worked up than Clay over the letters, but then again Clay has alot on his mind. Gemma and Unser have a very strong connection though..always have, wonder how that all started??

September 14 2011 at 11:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to msvviolet's comment
Mo Ryan

agreed, there's interesting stuff there. I think that story line does have some potential, no doubt.

September 14 2011 at 5:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
J.O.

Interesting points. At our house we actually enjoyed a little more action this week.

I wonder about this, did the cartel set up the 'hostage/rescue" with the Russians to enforce their point to the Sons or perhaps there was just a small renegade faction of the Russians out to get their revenge?

More awkward than Gemma going crazy looking for the letters, for us, was the pause before the applause when Tara announced their engagement...

September 14 2011 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick

I have to say, I'm not surprised to read this review and find the opinions that I did. Basically, I'm expecting every week to be 50% complaints about things that aren't what you wanted to see, 30% compliments about good plot advancement/acting/character stuff, etc., and 20% miscellanous. The reason I expect this, is that I think you are disappointed in the way the show is going (as evidenced by your strange argument at the end of S4 E1 recap about their retaliation against the Russians), and now find the need to over-criticize every minute plot-detail (i.e., Russians going after the Sons...that happened about an hour after they met Danny Trejo...this is just a guess here, but the Russians and the Colombians probably aren't on some OC Twitter feed, just a guess).

Apart from that (and my complete confusion surrounding your distaste for the "Old Lady" storylines) I agree with the rest of your review. I don't know what the purview of a TV critic is, and if I'm wrong here, let me know...but complaining about a show not doing the things you want seems pretty pointless. Especially since, in my useless opinion, the show has managed to increase tension and comraderie (spelling?) while adding new interesting characters and complex situations...the stuff I generally look for in good TV.

September 14 2011 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rick's comment
Mo Ryan

All I'm doing is throwing out my own thoughts and reactions to each episode. That's really it. And it kind of is my job, I guess, to put those opinions out there in order to start a discussion. Not being facetious or confrontational here, just describing how it is. Thanks for your feedback. And I'm really not going by some formula when I write these things, I'm just describing my reaction to what I liked and didn't like each week. If I feel that I'm repeating myself too often, as I said in my review of the first episode, I'll take a break from weekly reviews or just stop writing them. I don't want to bore anyone, especially myself.

September 14 2011 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mo Ryan's comment
purvid

We enjoy your opinion and take on the episodes even though we may not always agree and have our own opinions. It is a great way to start a discussion. Please keep reviewing weekly! Not a bore - we look forward to them :)

September 16 2011 at 10:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
katie71483

To me, the cartel riding to the rescue felt like a reminder to other interests of their power and a warning to SAMCRO about how quickly they can retaliate if they feel like they've been crossed.

I felt like the Gemma / who killed JT? story line had sort of a new twist with her conversation with Unser towards the end. It almost made it sound like Clay was out of the loop about something related to it, which was kind of interesting. To this point, I'd always assumed that he and Gemma were in it together. I'm interested to see where that goes. I do completely agree with you about the OLST, though. It's gone on way to long and I'd much rather see Gemma and Tara with something new and interesting.

I was also intrigued by certain other club members realizing that they're not really in the inner circle anymore.

September 14 2011 at 9:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AV Rider

Love Danny Trejo and Benito Martinez. But yeah, the cartel-to-the-rescue bit was hokey. And really, the conflict between what SOA has always been -- the gatekeeper keeping drugs out of Charming -- and the new role as mule for the cartel is a real stretch.

The new sheriff is intense but the situation is badly set up; he would be an idiot to be that confrontational right out the gate. And to say to Clay he had wanted to work things out? That was hilarious. And then the rampage in the clubhouse? The sheriff is acting like a rookie, not a seasoned pro. For whatever reason the writing hasn't hit a rhythm yet, but I'm hopeful.

September 14 2011 at 2:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
blogless

Don't stop the weekly reviews - I am a big fan of them and I like the fact you express your disappointment when you think the show's doing something wrong. I appreciate it (probably because I agree with you most of the time) and I look forward to coming here after watching the show.

September 14 2011 at 2:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Lumi_nation

I'm concerned that Gemma and Tara (and other women) are going to fail the Bechdel test bigtime this year. I understand that it's all about the men and the club, but they--at least Tara--have other parts of their lives that take up a lot of their time.

September 14 2011 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Lumi_nation's comment
Mo Ryan

Good point! It would be great if those other areas of their lives got some exploration, or if they simply got stories that were really well integrated into the main plot (as was the case with Gemma in Season 2).

By the way, for those who don't know what it is, here's the Bechdel Test:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dykes_to_Watch_Out_For#Bechdel_test

September 14 2011 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joanna_Nani

I honestly can't see SOA women other than Gemma and Tara having any significant impact on the plot. I am still figuring out the purpose and function of Lyla, as she seems nothing more than window dressing for the male audience. As Opie himself said, "She's no Donna." The relationships of Gemma & Clay, of Jax and Tara, are very much partnerships, and it is a dissapointment that Opie & Lyla's relationship seems completely opposite. Next to the confident, strong Gemma & Tara, Lyle is meek and compliant, an accessory the show could probably do without. I'm still hopefull that maybe, MAYBE, Sutter has plans for her.

September 15 2011 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
O Nikos

So you were wondering last week about doing reviews every week. This weeks already seems like a forced review and a hatefest of the episode. I get it that it's your review and your opinion but I've seen this play out here numerous times with other shows getting reviewed, hopefully this won't turn to that.

September 14 2011 at 12:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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