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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 13 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 29th 2011 11:00PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'To Be, Act 1']

The shocking ending of last week's 'Sons of Anarchy' episode made me wonder if tonight's hour would be dominated by Clay Morrow; even in absentia, the club president casts a huge shadow.

For the most part, however, this week's gripping hour belonged to two of the people Clay has hurt most -- Tara and Jax. The scenes that featured those two characters talking to each other or to Gemma were flat-out fantastic, and once again demonstrate that the show's secret weapon isn't its crackling action but its top-flight cast. Katey Sagal was terrific this week, as always, but in 'To Be, Act 1,' Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff's performances gave me chills.

Many storylines are reaching the boiling point right now, but this terrific hour wisely focused tightly on the couple who have the most reason to despise everything that Clay and Gemma stand for. What made the hour tragic was the fact that Jax and Tara stand on the brink of becoming Clay and Gemma.

And they know it.

Think about it: As Clay did decades ago, Jax is planning the cold-blooded murder of a Sons of Anarchy president. As Gemma did back in the day, Tara is conspiring with her old man to make that happen. And as she did way back when, Gemma has given herself plausible deniability regarding the murder -- which she was, of course, instrumental in bringing about.

Once Jax and Tara had decided to kill Clay, they had doomed looks in their eyes; Tara looked especially damned, as if her soul was already dead. She's crossed over now; she's no better than any of them -- the people she's held herself above for all these years. Now she's a murderer too, or about to become one.

She asked Jax and Gemma to tell her that they loved her, but it was the old Tara who wanted to hear those words one last last time. The new Tara knows that she deserves nothing but condemnation for sinking into the muck of the Sons' twisted morality. She doesn't care if she lives or dies now -- if she gets to raise her sons, that'll be more than she no doubt feels she deserves. Given her fatalistic attitude, it's plausible to wonder whether she'll be dead before the season is done, while Clay, who has committed far worse crimes, has never stopped fighting to remain among the living. His arrogance may be his fatal flaw, but it's kept him alive.

But Clay was on the sidelines this hour, and Gemma wasn't about to let this chance to take him out of the picture for good slip past her. Tara was a few steps ahead of her there. A couple of my favorite moments of the hour were the looks Gemma gave Tara when the doctor revealed she knew Gemma would never give Clay the letters and when Tara produced the syringe and told Jax how to murder his stepfather. Gemma was dumbfounded; the look on her face said, "By God, this b*tch is smarter than me."

Oh, so much smarter. Smart enough to know that Gemma had removed the letters that implicated her in John Teller's death, smart enough to know that Gemma's machinations to put her son on the Iron Throne -- sorry, at the head of the SAMCRO table -- wouldn't work. Tara knows Jax is even more determined to get his family out of Charming for good, now that he sees how the club has poisoned two generations of families (let's not forget how SAMCRO has wrecked Opie's clan).

Gemma's been there through every dirty deal, she's stood by (or engineered) every betrayal. It's hard not to see her as the root cause of everything that's gone wrong, then and now. It's hard not to think that both Clay and Gemma need to die for their many sins, but maybe it's too late for that. After all, if Jax and Tara succeed in killing Clay, what's the point of trying to change their lives? What's the point of leaving? Once they damn themselves by playing this deadly game, they'll bring the poison of Charming with them wherever they go. The rot will be inside them.

Still, Gemma wasn't completely out of tricks, and the most surprising thing she could have done was to come clean about everything. Well, not everything -- she's still Gemma, so her tale featured judicious editing -- and I get that she didn't have much choice, but still, what a welcome twist the confession storyline was. It was a relief to finally have all those dark secrets out in the open, for me as an audience member, and even if Gemma still had an agenda, you could see her almost visibly lighten at being able to speak openly about the past.

There was even a bit of hope on her face; sure, she was inflicting massive pain on Jax, but maybe this gambit would get him to see things her way. Despite all evidence to the contrary, maybe Jax would stay. Gemma can never see that her machinations always come back to bite her in the ass and that her inability to change her ways will doom her. Her blind spot is a mile wide, especially when it comes to her remaining son, but then, Jax and Tara are the ones cursed with self-knowledge, not Gemma and Clay.

Katey Sagal was wonderfully Shakespearean in her scene with Charlie Hunnam, but Jax's quietly furious reaction to Gemma's revelations was nothing short of amazing. Already he has a critically ill president, the cartel, the Irish, an ex and AWOL club members to deal with -- now this? Hunnam did a great job of portraying a man who's not simply enraged but also almost unable to process this new information, which rewrites his entire family history on perhaps the most dangerous day of his life. As was the case with season 2's 'Balm,' 'Sons of Anarchy's' best episode to date, Hunnam owned the screen with Jax's pain and almost silent reactions.

Siff was on fire as well, especially in the final Jax-Tara-Gemma scene. She showed us a Tara who was both newly confident and abjectly resigned. She and Jax may -- emphasis on may -- get out of all this some day, but if the plan to kill Clay works, it'll be at the cost of her soul. Like passengers in a speeding vehicle, Jax and Tara can only watch the approaching crash and wait for the pain. They do appear doomed to repeat history, no matter what escape strategy they attempt.

Everything about the episode was concentrated -- it was as if 'Sons of Anarchy' cooked up one dish instead of four or five, and that main course was more intensely flavorful as a result. But there are other questions and developments worth noting: Why did Romeo tell Jax not to worry about the authorities catching wind of their dealings? There are a few possibilities: Romeo could be one of Potter's snitches; Potter could be on the take and purposefully shielding the cartel (he's always said he's mainly after the Irish); or Romeo could be setting SAMCRO up to take a fall. He may well have decided that the club is a liability and what he told Jax may be part of a plan to shut down the Galindo-SOA connection.

In any event, I can't wait to see what happens next. I had one quibble (see below), but in the main, this was a terrific set-up for the season finale. But the stakes are high. In my opinion, the future of the show (and my future interest in it) could hinge on how that hour resolves the journeys of Jax, Clay, Gemma and Tara.

I do know one thing: Unlike most Shakespearean tragedies, the season won't end with almost everyone dead. This is television, so the damned often have to live with their mistakes for years on end.

A few final notes:

* I'm not one to rant and rave (that often) about awards and who's been robbed, etc., but, now that Katey Sagal has her Golden Globe, Maggie Siff and Charlie Hunnam need to get their much-deserved share of awards nominations. They've been phenomenal this season.

* This week in Silly Contrivances (you knew this was coming, right? Every rose has its thorn, etc.): So, based on extremely sketchy information, Tig murders the girlfriend of a rival gang leader? And by the way, despite the fact that there were dozens of people in and around that cafe, he just happens to kill only one person -- the Niner's old lady? That's about as believable as Jax killing the Niner driver by shooting backward as he rode his bike down the shoulder of a highway. You know, I'm not hating on the action sequence -- I enjoy these crazy riding scenes as much as the next person. But I wish the show would just have a title card that said, "Road Action Scene Now!" rather than come up with not-quite-believable reasons for those action scenes to exist. I know Tig felt bad about being disloyal to Clay, but his reaction was out of all proportion to the reality of the situation and what he actually knew.

* Nice to see Sonny Barger as Lenny again.

* "He's got to die. Like, a LOT." Oh Happy. You make me very happy!

* "He's mine." Dayum. Tara may be damned, but I love that woman.

* "Yeah, just what I need, another promise." Preach, Opie. So many great lines tonight.

* I completely agree with badass 'SOA' fan Kayteadee, who tweeted "There have to be high-stakes deaths this season. Have. To. Be." Damn right. After all this, it ain't right if Phil buys the farm and that's that (and to be clear, I have nothing against Phil or his cereal jones.)

* 'Sons of Anarchy's' first official soundtrack, which features songs from all four seasons, came out last week; for details on the album, look here.

* Please don't refer to anything that happens in the previews for the next episode in comments. Thanks!

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

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Anyone have any idea what Jax was writing down in that notebook at his house and and in Tara's hospital room? It looks like it'll be revealed Tuesday night.

December 02 2011 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree that Gemma's got balls all right. But that doesn't make her special. Katy? does a good job playing her, and she is fun to watch, but I don't trust the bitch as far as I could throw her! I figure tara is probably outta there one way or another after next week and I'll kinda miss her. she adapted pretty good considering this wasn't her world. Hell, I'll even miss Clay as a character, but the sob has to go! they need to draw straws to see who gets to kill him!

December 01 2011 at 1:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Good Wolf !

whooaa...ease up on the caffeine Kat......your disdain for pretty much "everything Tara" just doesn't hold water...she has been a important and integral part of the show to this point...and a character that most people liked and respected. She has also provided some needed balance, and at least up until recently provided an outsiders prospective...someone outside the "way of life" inside SOA's world...which was part of the reason Jax loves her......and in his mind, her loving him, reassures him there is still some humanity left inside of him...and by judging her reactions in deadly situations compared to a someone as hardcore as Gemma isn't quite legit...apples and oranges.....everyone (including Tara) on SOA has issues, but most (with the exception of Clay now) tip the scales to the good side. As far as who deserves to kill Clay more, we were talking between Jax and Tara, no mention of Opie, but of course he deserves some consideration there too. Jax has been all about getting out this season and Tara dying is the only scenario that would seem to make sense to make him re-commit to the club at this point. If it does play out this way, it seems unavoidable to go even darker next season.

November 30 2011 at 11:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

so Leroy, who should still be laying as low as possible so that the Lobos dont take him out, decides to have a nice lunch outside in the open……that makes about as much sense as the Lobos having all that heavy fire power when set up by the Niners/Galindo/Samcro a couple of episodes ago and using it on a wall instead of those firing guns at them.

November 30 2011 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am very curious to see what's going to happen with Juice. He has been very pivotal this season in setting up a massive upset for the Sons. Not necessarily a downfall, but a serious hammering of broken trust. And I truly do think that Romeo has a rat in his walls from within his own cartel and he doesn't even know it. I also think that Tigg running down the head Niner's old lady was so contrived it was rediculous. I supposed the writers could use this lazy tactic as a catalyst to force an eye-for-an-eye retaliation that would mean the Niners off Tara. Jax of course is not going anywhere and we all know that. The only reason why he keeps promising Tara that he's out is because he honestly means it. But as every action has a reaction on this show, I can think of several scenarios that will keep him right where he belongs...

And Jax truly does belong at the head of SAMCRO and either Opie or Chibbs will probably be VP. If Opie can let go of his abhorrence for Jax than he'll probably claim that right of power. And lately, that's a big if. Charming Heights is coming soon and the town will never be the same. So whoever sits as president or VP will have to accept that their outlaw ways of gun running and drug muling are about to be null and void. If the Sons have any chance of going legit and making straight money, it's with Jax deciding to stay. He leaves, SAMCRO is dead.

November 30 2011 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
miss juice

Tara's soul died when she lost her hand. That hand was the only thing that kept her from turning into Gemma, she knows now, that being with Jax means that's what she will be in the end. And who says men don't marry their mothers! Tara has always been smarter than Gemma but Gemma assumed that Tara was still a "good girl". That "good girl" is dead. I was afraid she was going the Ophelia route, with the "tell me you love me". I also think she was trying to determine who was lying. And I don't think she believed Gemma when she said it. Even Jax.
But let's face it, they aren't going to leave Charming.
(death pool on Tara dying because Niners kill her in retaliation?)

In the first episode in this season we see a picture of the russian CIA plant in one of Potters guys folders. Then the sons have the picture and kill the plant.
Luis, Romeo's #2, was former military according to Romeo. I think there are two informers, Luis and the guy in Potter's office. BUT (sorry to shout here), it could be that Otto only ratted Bobby and no one else in the Club.
It may not even be the Feds, but MI-5/MI-6 who knew the Irish Kings were coming to the US to meet with the Sons.

The Tig vs Laroy thing makes more sense than people give it credit for. And it illustrates why Jax was VP in the first place. Tig wasn't interested in the truth, just knee jerk reaction. Jax, again back in season 1 saved Piney by going to Oakland and talking to Laroy about Donna's death. Jax, Chibs are guys that should be in positions of power in the club. I believe that Sutter illustrated that nicely. And it puts another Sons ally in opposition to the club.

The Finale should be awesome. And I think KS for giving me one of the best bday presents ever!!

November 30 2011 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Another great episode and review.If Clay is killed by Jax and then Jax and Tara leave for Oregon,where would the show go next season?I don't think that there is a show after/when they leave town.I am thinking Jax will not have the guts to off Clay by the end of next weeks episode and say something like "I am better than this" and challenge for the club leadership as Gemma wants.It was her and J.T.'s club before Clay came along inducted by Piney.Ryan Hurst Opie has been outstanding for most of the show along with the rest of the cast.They all deserve awards. But Ithink FX shows don't get the attention they deserve.I also love Justified.

November 30 2011 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm not team Gemma, Wolfie, I'm team cojones. And several times over, Tara has had the opportunity to stand up for herself and, instead, she took the route of self loathing and insecurity. This time around, I just used Gemma as an example. In season one, Ima started with Tara in the club house. What does Tara do? Take the passive agressive route. And it worked because, where Jax's head was at back then, like Jax was going to turn down p**sy in a bathroom stall! When the stalker came after her, who killed him? After she shot him in the shoulder? (If she could shoot him once, what was so hard about putting one right between the eyes?) Answer: Jax killed him. Because she didn't have the balls. And Gemma was right, she used him because she knew Jax would hurt him. Some wacked out Irishman stole Abel, and what did she do when there was a gun aimed at her face? She cowered. She did NOTHING! Moral compass my a**! Defending the life of a child makes her nothing other than the primal moral compass for the show! She should have taken a bullet for Abel! That had nothing to do with team Gemma! Tara let that man take Jax's son! What a wimp! And when Jax pushed her away by sleeping with Ima, Tara just took him back. What a wimp. She should have had her son and kept Jax at a respectable--visitation only--distance and let him EARN his way back into her life and her heart. But she just took him back because she's a wimpy MARY SUE! Once again, that's not me being team Gemma. I'm team cojones...Then, fast forward, she see's Ima again in the club house after she bedded Opie, and what does she do about it? Nothing. Who put that scandalous b*%ch in check? Jax! Why?! Because Tara is the weakest link on this show. If things would have been handled differently, if Tara handled her own business instead of letting Jax man-up for her, that wouldn't have made her any less of a moral compass in my eyes. She simply would have been a strong woman who knows how to handle her own business instead of waiting for a man to do it for her. And as far as knowing Jax well enough to know that he wanted and needed to kill Clay himself...um...what about Opie?! Doesn't he deserve a taste or did his dead wife and father just reanimate and quench his need for retribution? And Gemma will win, period. As the play of Hamlet goes, Hamlet didn't go anywhere, so neither is Jax. Tara has two options here and neither one of them are pretty. Either she takes the boys and gets the hell out of Dodge or she tries to think that she is smarter than Gemma and finds out that she is not only wrong, but she is DEAD wrong, and she winds up getting killed. Anyone else for team Balls Sack? Let me know...

November 30 2011 at 8:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Katana's comment
miss juice

Breathe Katana, breathe!!!
I do agree with you somewhat, but we have seen Tara evolve into who she was last night. Tara from previous season would NEVER have given Jax the syringe or means to kill anyone, let alone Clay.
Fear will do that to people. And similar to what happened with Juice it's what you do with that fear the matters. It can motivate you to make a good decision or a bad one.
Tara now, is not the Tara she has been for the last almost 4 seasons. She is turning into Gemma and she knows it.
But, do give the dear girl some credit. After all, she sliced up Hector Sallazar girlfriend pretty well and kept her boss alive. And in fairness, she did tell Ima to sleep with her gun the last time she showed up at the clubhouse.
Again, KS has shown Tara evolve from the "good doctor" role into something else entirely. And who knows what this "new" Tara will do.
(however; I am with you I do think she will be dead by the time the season is over)

November 30 2011 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Good Wolf !

I get why some people think that Tara is this "Mary Sue" character, but the show needs one to work on many levels. It needs one to provide some contrast to the dark side almost all the other characters operate on (including the so-called officials, Feds, etc.). Even if you're "team Gemma", having the ying to her yang around makes you appreciate Gemma that much more. Funny, all said, the most feasible scenario that makes sense for the show's continuance, is to kill off Tara, eliminating Jax's only real reason to leave. If not, it's had to imagine any other credible reason for he and Tara to stay. BTW, I don't think Tara punked out by instructing Jax how to off Clay instead of her doing it , I think she just knew him well enough to know that he wanted/needed to do it himself and she wouldn't have been able to convince him otherwise.

November 30 2011 at 4:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good review, but there are some problems. First, you said that the "two people Clay has hurt the most" are Jax and Tara. Um, what? What happened to Opie? Did his wife and father suddenly come back from the dead? I'm pretty sure he gets the top spot on that list. I get that you were trying to go with something catchy for your lead, but it doesn't work when it just completely misstates reality.

As for Hunnam's award nominations, I guess. He's a good actor, though I haven't been absolutely blown away by his performance like I was with Bryan Hurst last week. Anyway, if he gets nominated, who gets bumped out of there? He's not better than Buscemi or Hall. Reigning winner Kyle Chandler won't be around, but three-time champion (who is the de facto incumbent) Bryan Cranston is coming back. I'm not sure on the others (Hamm, Laurie, and Olyphant) because I don't watch their shows, but I've heard nothing but good things about their performances. Also, there's the distinct possibility that Peter Dinklage will be in the lead actor category next year. Judging by A Clash of Kings, he should be the lead actor of Season 2 of Game of Thrones. Of course, he may want to avoid Cranston, though it's not like Aaron Paul would be much easier to beat. Anyway, Hunnam may sneak in there, but it's almost certainly a moot point, as Cranston should blow away the competition like he always does. Season 4 was probably his best performance yet.

November 30 2011 at 4:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to JohnG's comment
miss juice

I was thinking the same thing with GoT, especially since some of Storm will be included in season 2.
I think Dinklage is terrific, but I don't think it is fair to Sons that they never get any love. And it's always the same 4 shows that win all the awards. I don't watch Breaking Bad so I cannot comment on the show, it's pilot didn't do anything for me.
People may have hated season 3, but I think Hunnam's best work has been season 3 all the way into season 4.
Ryan Hurst though, totally deserves a supporting actor award. He is simply wonderful, few actors can convey so much without saying anything. Hurst never lets the character's anger become too campy. The scene last night with Jax (just what I need - another promise). Both mad me laugh, and hurt for the character. That ability deserves an award.

November 30 2011 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mo Ryan

Hey John, totally get what you meant with your first comment, but for that very reason, I specifically said "two of the people Clay has hurt most." Not "the two people Clay has hurt most." It was "Two OF the people he's hurt most," meaning, there are others -- and definitely Opie was on my mind.

Agreed Cranston will win ever award for TV acting next year, which would be deserved as well. I wish Ryan Hurst had a shot at a nomination as well.


November 30 2011 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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