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April 23, 2014

'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 10 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 8th 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Hands']

In my years of writing about 'Sons of Anarchy,' I don't think I've had the opportunity to write these words yet: This episode belonged to Maggie Siff.

Don't get me wrong, I've always known what a good actress she is, but 'SOA' is mostly the story of the SAMCRO guys, with a few subsidiary stories for Gemma and, to a lesser extent, Tara. Those stories are usually fit in around the contours of the club stories, and not always elegantly. But Tara's attempt to leave the orbit of the club got the time and attention it deserved in Tuesday's gripping episode. In that hour, Siff got her most challenging scenes to date and absolutely nailed them.

If 'Sons of Anarchy' is roughly following the shape of 'Hamlet,' then Charming's Ophelia just went mad. Or perhaps she began to see things clearly for the first time, and we all know what honesty and clarity get you in the world of SAMCRO: Blood, pain, heartbreak.

It was a day of reckoning for many of the characters. Juice finally decided that Potter's offer was better than suicide, and Roosevelt distanced himself from Potter. Gemma finally faced the truth about her own actions as well as Clay's, and ended up with a black and blue face for her trouble. Tara tried to act on the knowledge that Charming is no longer the right place for her, and ended up hospitalized, uncertain of whether she still has the capability to pursue her calling and her dreams.

The middle of the episode contained some of the best scenes of the season and stellar work from the entire cast, but the most compelling moment of all was the final hospital scene between Jax and Tara. Of course, the tenderness of that conversation offered a stunning contrast to the physical violence between Gemma and Clay, but even viewed outside that context, Jax and Tara's attempt to talk about their situation was heartbreaking.

All along, Tara and Jax have offered a contrast to Gemma and Clay's conniving ways, but the fact that the younger couple have been as honest as they can be with each other, and the fact that they have the laudable goal of leaving this violent world together -- none of that has been enough to save them. Whatever their good qualities and higher aspirations, they appear to be every bit as damned as the corrupt SAMCRO president and his old lady.

Or are they? Can Jax and Tara rebuild their relationship enough to attempt another escape from Charming? It certainly seems unlikely. Tara couldn't even look at him; Jax is a living reminder of how the choice she made for love long ago has ended up taking everything else she loves away from her. Not her son, not yet, but isn't that just a matter of time? Wouldn't that be the ultimate torture for Tara -- to see those innocent boys grow up in the life just as Jax did, and end up just as unable to claw their way out?

All the tragedy of the situation, all the pain and despair -- Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff channeled it magnificently. Siff in particular was amazing to watch as she went from almost catatonic to distraught to enraged. It was impossible not to feel Tara's sense of hopelessness as her last lifeline to the outside world was taken from her. With that gone, what Jax offers her may not be enough. Siff gave us an affecting portrait of a broken woman.

We all know what happened to Ophelia in 'Hamlet,' and that relates to my biggest question here (well, one of them): If this season ends with Jax, Tara, Clay and Gemma all alive and kicking, won't that seem very contrived? I just don't see a scenario in which Jax doesn't kill Clay. And honestly, for the show, that would be the best thing. But I wonder if 'SOA' will do the easier thing and kill off Tara instead.

Let's face it, the show has always been billed as essentially a drama with three leads -- Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam and Katey Sagal -- and the central conflicts have always been driven by Jax and Clay's differences. So, believe me, I understand how crucial Clay has been to the show, and I've always thought the world of Perlman's charismatic, nuanced performance. The actor has had an especially tough job this season, given that I don't necessarily think the Clay I'd come to know would act the way he's been acting, but Perlman has sold Clay's decisions as well as anyone possibly could.

Still, it's been obvious for some time where the Clay story line was going: By trying to eliminate the threat from the Irish letters, Clay himself would ultimately bring about the thing that he feared most, namely, Jax coming after him in a murderous rage. The problem with that story line, as I explained last week, is that I've never quite bought the Irish letters as a concrete, life-or-death threat, but the show has pushed them as such.

The mechanics of the letters ultimately brought us to this place, in which there was an attempt made on Tara's life. And no matter how we got here, I can't deny the power of Gemma's final confrontation with Clay, which both actors threw themselves into with jaw-dropping intensity. I wouldn't quite compare this episode as a whole to 'Mad Men's' 'The Suitcase,' but part of what was satisfying about the Gemma-Clay scenes in 'Hands' is that they were, as was the case with the Don-Peggy confrontations in 'The Suitcase,' the culmination of years of suppressed accommodations, resentments and emotions.

Clay called Gemma on her hypocrisy -- she wanted John Teller dead as much as Clay did, and he wasn't about to feed her self-delusions in that moment. And for Gemma, Clay had crossed far too many lines -- he'd not just lied to her and tried to kill Tara despite his promises, he'd also put her son and grandchildren in danger. You do not mess with the mama bear's young.



Their violent showdown was masterfully set up by the chapel scene with Tara's boss, Margaret Murphy, who said some things I'm sure critic Alan Sepinwall has wanted someone to say to Gemma for a long time. In Murphy's understandable opinion, Gemma is a bad woman and she's made selfish choices that have had led to horrific consequences for those who don't deserve it. Clay beat the sh*t out of Gemma but Murphy landed some painful and well-aimed blows first, psychologically speaking.

But after that horrific beating, Clay is the ultimate target of Gemma's simmering rage, understandably. And doesn't Gemma's vow -- the death of Clay Morrow -- have to happen this season? If the show is promising us this in episode 10, isn't that promise the equivalent of Chekhov's gun? If that gun never goes off and Clay doesn't die, then what? Are we fated to more and more years of Jax and Clay circling around each other like two alpha males in a wolf pack? I don't know how many more iterations of that 'SOA' can really pull off, given how mechanical and forced some of the characters' motivations (especially Clay's) have already seemed this season.

The thing is, if and when Jax hears about what Clay tried to do, Clay is a dead man. I don't see any way around that. So there are two options: Either Jax doesn't find out that Clay tried to kill Tara (and it would be very unsatisfying for the audience to know about that but for Jax not to know), or Jax finds out the attempted hit on Tara came from Clay, but, for some reason, he does not kill Clay. Wouldn't that reason, whatever it is, have be very contrived? I just can't see a believable scenario in which Clay lives to ride with the club into season 5, but I fear that 'SOA' will back away from offing him and kill off Tara/Ophelia instead. (Perhaps we'll be faced with another Donna situation -- what if Jax attempts to take out Clay, but kills his old lady by accident? I'm not saying that's a scenario I favor, I'm just thinking out loud.)

The big philosophical question is, is Clay's imprint on this town too deep? Will this generation be fated to make the mistakes of the past? Stuck in Charming, will a bitter Tara become Gemma? Will Roosevelt become Unser? I think the bravest thing for the show to do would be to kill off Clay but put Jax in a position in which he has to fight incredibly hard not to become Clay Morrow.

One thing is certain, however. I wrote these words in my notes during the episode, as Clay was beating Gemma senseless: "Clay is DONE as a character on this show. He's DONE." He has crossed a line that can never be uncrossed. It remains to be seen if he's gone from the show at the end of this season, but I don't see where else there is to take him but the grave.

Additional notes are extensive this time, because the rest of my thoughts are pouring out in the form of bullet points (which somehow seems appropriate):

* As you may have heard already, the 'Sons of Anarchy' season is going to be extended by one episode. It will consist of 14 episodes instead of the usual 13. The season finale will air Dec. 6.

* If you're a 'Sons' superfan, be sure to check out the Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast: Each week, Ryan McGee and myself are talking about that week's episode of the show, and we'll continue to do that until season 4 ends. The first couple of entries are here and here, and we'll have a new 'SOA' segment in this week's podcast as well.

* Of the many confrontations and cards-on-the-table moments in this episode, there were a couple involving Eli Roosevelt, who's done being Lincoln Potter's patsy. Potter tried to keep Roosevelt in line with the threat of that contract the sheriff signed, but both men know that it's entirely within Roosevelt's power to honor the letter of the law while undermining or at least failing to significantly assist the federal investigation. And in his scene with Juice, he apologized for having railroaded him (and by extension, the whole club). It's hard not to look at Roosevelt and see a man who is starting down the path of becoming Wayne Unser.

* Of my four favorite scenes (Margaret-Gemma, Jax-Tara, Clay-Gemma, Opie-Jax), the Opie-Jax scene was among the quietist but, as usual, it was very effective. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- it's Jax's capacity to recognize and admit his mistakes that make me so willing to follow his journey. Whatever flaws the show has, who Jax is and Charlie Hunnam's performance in the role (and the performances of the rest of the cast) make it worthwhile to tune in every week. And Ryan Hurst, as always, said little but infused that key scene with potent emotion and yet more tragic undertones.

* Speaking of Unser, there was more fine work from Dayton Callie in the scene with Gemma. He was furious and near tears looking at what Clay had done to her. Clay may have retreated to the clubhouse to lick his wounds (and good for Gemma for getting in a few well-aimed punches herself), but Clay is unwise if he underestimates the team of Gemma and Unser.

* I don't know about you, but when the Tara abduction story line was resolved within one scene (and a well-shot, adrenaline-laced scene at that), I almost jumped for joy. The thought of another long-term Tara abduction story line filled me with dread, given that her kidnapping last year contained some of season 3's lowest points.

* Director Peter Weller did an outstanding job with the episode, and I wonder if his own history as an actor helping bring out the great performances we saw tonight. Speaking of the episode's credits, creator Kurt Sutter co-wrote the episode with staff writer Chris Collins and David LaBrava. LaBrava, as you'll recall, plays Happy on the show. An impressive first credit.

* One of the most satisfying things about the episode was the way it successfully united different emotional tones -- the fury and the violence of various confrontations provided a contrast to the peace of the picnic and Jax's friendly chat with the California Highway Patrolman, yet the whole episode felt of a piece. The picnic and the scene of Jax singing in the car were bittersweet glimpses of what Jax and Tara could have -- they were snapshots from the sweeter life that is always just out of reach for both of them. And Charlie Hunnam was so good in that brief scene with the cop -- you could visibly see tension leaving Jax's body as he realized the cop wasn't after him for any reason. His whole body just exhaled, ever so subtly. Jax and the cop just talked about their shared love of motorcycles for a moment, and that was that. Every taste Jax gets life on the outside -- where most people aren't in danger all the time -- must make it that much harder for him to get back into the cage that SAMCRO has become.

* This week in Things I Don't Quite Buy: Why would Galindo still want to take out Tara? That's one element that didn't track for me. I understand that they need there to be a functioning president of the club for their deals to work as planned and for things to run smoothly, and theoretically I can understand why they wouldn't want to deal with a different president at this delicate time, but really? They would still take out a woman they don't know for reasons they aren't fully aware of? What's their compelling reason for doing so? That didn't quite fly for me. The thing about 'Sons of Anarchy' is that it regularly offers rationales that kind of make sense on paper but don't feel truly believable. I know drug cartels are ruthless, but I'm not sure I really buy that Romeo is all that interested in a beef between Clay and his VP. Isn't it just as dangerous, in terms of the cartel's relationship with the club, to create more discord between the president and VP by taking out the latter's old lady? Isn't that just as likely to cause friction and problems with their SAMCRO partners? Again, ultimately, the whole Clay-vs.-Tara story is driven by those damned Irish letters, which I don't find all that credible as a threat in the first place, and, without knowing what kind of threat Tara presents, I don't buy that the cartel quickly got on board with the need to take her out. All of that just feels like a stretch piled on top of a stretch to me.

* This week in Another Thing I Don't Quite Buy: The club couldn't simply call the Niners before heading to their clubhouse? Clearly they had some method of communication available to them or they wouldn't have been able to set up the previous meets. I think the episode was powerful enough without one more shoot-'em-up scene.

* Spotted in the park just before Tara was almost kidnapped -- the homeless girl who appears on the show occasionally as some kind of street angel.

* It's so odd that nobody outside Gemma, Clay and Clay knows that Piney is dead. Come on, that's got to come out next week.

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

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Michelle Phillips Cr

Clay was a victim also.Gemma was brutally raped then beaten by her husband. Gemma and Clay never discussed what happen it was on to the next scene with the writer. Kill everyone involved and Gemma becomes whole again.For anyone to rape any woman destroys her, but a married woman it destroys her and her marriage. Clay knew these guys he had to admit it to the club to seek revenge. Tell me which member of the sons could deal with that ****. ZERO! Clay and Gemma can be made whole again if they deal with this issue. I,m sure this was also on Clay.s mind as he pounded on Gemma. We are all human and any man would be angry with everyone his life has been destroyed also.

May 21 2012 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michelle

Clay Morrow have lived with Gemma all these years raising another mans son. Trying to bring Jax close as Gemma tells him not knowing that Jax is not Jax Teller but Jax Morrow would be good reason for Clay to beat that ass. Let's not forget about Gemma and Tig, Clay is owed one more Gemma ass beating .

March 08 2012 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
decadance

I really liked this show, but it's gotten to the point where the characters have lost their intelligence.
I get having long hanging unresolved issues, its good for society showing things can't be reolved in 30 minutes, but this is insanely problematic on the other end of the scale. We have been waiting for Clay's justice for 4 years, let it be over or the show. Either would be better than the degredation of the characters we have grown to like.

November 20 2011 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christine

The homeless woman has appeared in every season: http://sonsofanarchy.wikia.com/wiki/Homeless_Woman_-_List_of_Appearances

When asked about her appearances, Kurt Sutter said "She is who she is and she represents what she represents and that’s really all I’ll say."
Guess we all have to wait and speculate.

November 14 2011 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christine

*spoiler for those you dont watch the previews for next week* What is the pupose of Wendy showing up NOW? Is she going to do more damage to Tara's already broken mind or will her presence pull Tara out of it all. I mean if Wendy goes after Able will that be what makes Tara find her strength again? I mean Tara is a strong women they all have said it this season, Gemma, Jax, and Opie but everyone has there breaking point and I think Tara has finally hit hers. But will she find it again. Like Piney said everyone does damage, but character is defined by how you fix the damage. Just saying . . .

November 13 2011 at 11:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
steviexo

All of you saying Jax will want to kill Gemma... are you retarded? That is his mom! He might never want to talk to her again but I highly doubt he would lay a hand on her.

November 11 2011 at 12:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LINDA

Hi everyone, I can't remember where I heard it but can anyone help me out...I heard the show's creator would like to see it go through 7 seasons.

November 10 2011 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe_415

Well, ever since, Una Venta where we met SAMTAZ we know that Romeo and Galindo being in business with the sons is only temporary, and that Galindo is using the SOA as a business card for the Irish. Bottom line, their going to string the sons along however they see fit, until they can cut them out of the equation with the Irish. This is why the IRA doesn't trust Galindo, and was hesitant to meet with them, when Clay called. I mean first they say, their war with Lobo Sonora wont cross the border, which it did. Then they told Clay that using their "Hitman" was irreversible, which was a total farce. To add onto what the Irish called them, heathens, these cartel guys don't care about anything but blood and greed, who has the biggest sword. Jax was right the SOA is totally out of their league with these "heathens".
I wont lie, episode 10 scared me a little. I've been a die hard SOA fan since the pilot, a long time ago, worlds away it seems in terms of the stories time line. I've seen the best and worst this show has had to offer its viewers over the years. But I literally had to take a break in between certain scene's while watching Tara almost kidnapped by a cartel. Clay being the sponsor of said hit against Tara. Piney was already dead, and Juice cooperating with the law set in motion the ultimate feeling of "what could possibly happen next"?... And then Gemma shot at Clay, and he beat her. I teared up on that one, and could barely watch it. I came out of that hoping Gemma was alive, and knowing if she was, that Clay would not be for very much longer. Looking back on that now, I hope Opie gets to pull the trigger. It would be too much if him AND Jax took a shot at Clay each, but I would take either scenario. Lastly, when Uncer informs Op of his fathers slayer, I wonder if he trust Jax to help him deal with Clay, after the hospital scene between them, or if he learns the truth about John Teller as well from Uncer.

November 10 2011 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rhys

What's interesting about the attack is that it appears that Galindo was trying to kidnap her - not just kill her. Also, Romeo was clearly lying about the assassin being "independent". Romeo claims they cannot call the hitman off - yet right after the conversation Romeo's lieutenant asks if they should call him off. Then the hitman is actually just chilling on the park bench when the other guys try to grab Tara - so it was Galindo's men who were trying to grab Tara, not the hitman by himself. Also, if the goal was to kill her - why didn't they just shoot her instead of grab her? They could have easily shot her where she was without hitting anyone else. So I think Romeo is playing at something bigger then simply killing Tara. I think maybe Romeo is trying to use the situation to somehow get Jax in a position where he has to go along with the cartel. Maybe pit Jax and Clay against each other and then "rescue" Jax from Clay so that Jax is indebted to them.

November 10 2011 at 1:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dmoongo

As much as I like SOA, I feel that they are at a point right now to wrap everything up and not have another season.

November 10 2011 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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