It's weird that an episode with a pistol-whipping, a stripper getting shot in the leg, and a hired gunman getting shot in the gut and pushed off a building (with his head clanking off a dumpster on the way down for good measure) could be considered a relatively mellow episode, but in this over-the-top fifth season of As The Motorcycle Wheels Turn, "mellow" is an apt descriptor for last night's Sons of Anarchy, "Ablation." We've seen some crazy shit this season, and so have the show's characters. But this week it was time for two of them to weigh what's happened and act on it.
In many ways, "Ablation" was a continuation of what's been happening all season long for our Big Three. Clay's plans to take back the club hit more snags, Gemma slid further into her disaster zone, and Jax got a whole lot meaner. If the old adage "Things get worse before they better" is true, then things for SAMCRO are going to get a whole lot better real soon because they couldn't be more stinky for the club at the moment.
We all thought Gemma's low point happened when she drove Jax's kids off the road while riding the Ganja train, endangering everyone's lives. But I'd argue the low point came when she tried to pass off Clay's lie about the mystery van that shot up Jax also coming after her. Yes, nearly taking two dependents off of Jax's tax returns was bad, but that was just stupidity. Lying to Jax about the circumstances was intentional deception, and there was no more sickening moment than Jax and Tara taking responsibility for what happened and apologizing to Gemma. They apologized to Gemma! Ugh. Gemma, you're the worst.
Regardless of what the outcome is of Jax's master Mom Whore Plan (more on that in a second), I'm having a harder time seeing redemption for Gemma than I am even for the worst of the worst Clay. At least Clay has motivation and we know that he's suffering from an irreversible case of assholism. Gemma, on the other hand (which is probably on some random guys' privates while Jax's kids watch), is just in an inexplicable, selfish, self-destructive phase with no common sense.
That's why I'm totally on board with Jax's decision to get at Clay through Gemma, specifically by throwing Gemma back into the pit of venomous snakes that is a relationship with Clay. Jax holds all the cards here, and though the way he ended up with that 52-card hand was a bit extreme (see: driving his kids off a cliff), it's the kind of story setup that makes Jax asking Gemma to literally suck the secrets out of Clay palatable. About 10 months ago, if I heard that part of this season would include Jax telling Gemma to go back into the clutches of that monster–the same monster that turned Gemma's face into purple cauliflower–I'd probably write a very strongly worded letter to Kurt Sutter. Now? I'm all, "Throw that bitch back at Clay, fine with me." It's an incredible sacrifice for Sutter to ask of his wife Katey Sagal, and a gutsy call for both. She was, at one time, one of the show's most beloved characters after all. Now she's essentially a plot device, our compassion for her stripped (or ablated, some would say!) after a string if inexcusable actions. Sutter has asked a lot of Sagal in her career as Gemma Teller. She's been gangraped, beaten, and railed by strange men, but a character turn for the worse like this might be the most he's ever asked of her. At home, Sutter must be giving foot massages to Sagal like he's trying to squeeze gold of her feet.
And Jax asking Gemma to do the unspeakable falls in line with where he is, too. Ever since Opie was murdered and Pope, the devil on Jax's shoulder, put crazy totalitarian ideas into his head, Jax has been on a warpath. He doesn't have problems bashing in a guy's head with a snow globe, he doesn't mind swinging the axe to cut off some dead guy's hands, and he was totally okay with shooting a guy in the gut and letting him fall backwards three stories onto the ground. Violence is no stranger to the job of club president, but the cruelty of Jax's methods even stand out to his friends. Did you see the look on the faces of Chibs and Happy when Jax let Frankie's contract killer fall off the building even after he sang and gave Jax more than enough information? When men who have bashed people's brains in with bats are saying, "Not cool, bro" then you might be a wee bit over the edge.
At least one person is willing to call him out on it. Thank god for Nero, who might be the only normal person in this sea of insanity. Nero's been the most positive influence on Jax this season, and it's scary to think where our prince would be without him. Early in the season I had my doubts about trusting him, but apparently Nero is the real deal and here to balance Pope's influence, which Dark Jax is a lot more susceptible to. Nero's talk with Jax about "accelerating the endgame" is something Jax needed to hear, but at this point, it's all in one ear and out the other as the rage and fury inside him is making the decisions.
"Ablation" put the skids on a lot of threads as a new chapter of the season was opened. There were a lot of secrets released, which normally wouldn't be fun to watch, but the amount of shit that hit the fans as a result of those secrets coming out rivaled that inside the Port-a-potties at a Texas chili cook-off. Now let's all get ready to squirm as we watch Jax pimp his mother out.
– Yeah, for a second I feared the worst for Chibs when Frankie (jerk!) had him at gunpoint. Losing Chibs and Opie in the same season would have been too much. I don't think we'll see another major death—and by "major" I mean core member of the show—this season, unless Unser gets it.
– Abel is going to be okay! Well that worked out well then. I guess. At least they didn't drag out his fate long.
– "Hey, next time... a few fingerprints on a glass will suffice." —Unser.
– As enrapturing as the conversation between Clay and Juice was, I'm still not sure what it means for either of them. Juice spilled all his guts to Clay, and Clay oddly reciprocated with some secrets of his own. Was that just to gain Juice's trust for a plan he has down the road? I don't think Juice would side with Clay over the club even if it meant outing himself. These secrets he's been holding have been weighing on him, and he's dying to let them go.
– Tara! Are you stupid? Everyone knows that when punching someone in the mouth while you're injured, you use your non-injured hand! Come on, girl.
– When Roosevelt told Jax that he would give up the rat, was he talking about Juice? How will that play out?
– The more I think about it, the more I think Clay's plan of staging break-ins with the Nomads was stupid. Did he actually think he could get away with it?