Last night's Sons of Anarchy, "Crucifixed," was 90 minutes' worth (including lengthy, amnesia-inducing commercial breaks) of dense posturing and positioning as Kurt Sutter delicately placed his finest crystal, china, silverware, and centerpieces on the table in preparation to yank off the tablecloth with all the finesse of a six-year-old amateur magician. This episode was a game of high-seas boat-rocking, extreme Jenga down to just the middle pieces. It went for the House of Cards world record in a store that only sells electric fans. And it was really fun to watch.
The dissemination of information has been the core of Season 5, and that was in full play in "Crucifixed." Secrets! Lies! Half-truths! Lying by virtue of not telling the entire truth! Sons of Anarchy should be praised for treating its ensemble right; everyone gets something to do (except you, Dirty Phil, you're just there to vote the way everyone else votes and clean the toilets). But where Sons of Anarchy creaks and moans is in the way information is spread among all its characters. I'm saying this on a purely personal level—your experience may differ from mine, and I take the blame for not being able to understand every nook and cranny of the labyrinth of plots that's been created. It's hard enough for me to follow everything that's happening in a general sense, but Season 5 is about more than just knowing what's going on. It's become just as important to keep track of which characters know what AND which characters know which other characters know what, and further and further down the hall of mirrors. The whiteboard in the Sons of Anarchy writers room must be the length of a football field with all the different perspectives. Jax knows almost everything that's going on, but Jax isn't certain what Clay knows. Clay knows more than Jax thinks he knows, but Clay doesn't know everything that Jax knows. Bobby knows about Juice because Jax told him after he found out about Juice from Roosevelt. Chibs knows about Juice, too, but Chibs knows different things about Juice. Everyone knows about Clay, but no one can really prove what they know. And Tig knows that Venus Van Dam has a penis and Tig does not care. Thank goodness for Tig, he's a character I understand.
"Crucifixed" offered revelation after revelation, and the speed at which secrets and information were dumped onto the table for different characters to absorb was dizzying. But instead of being a head-scratching mess of "Wait, what now?" the episode bound everyone together in a deadly game. The noose is around every character's neck, and a false move by any one of them could result in everyone's feet kicking.
We'll start, obviously, with Jax, who's continues to remind us of dear old stepdad Clay. Jax added Juice to his army of blackmailed soldiers and drew a line in the asphalt that said "With Me" on one side and "Dead" on the other. The old Jax would've played multiple sides for the benefit of the club, but now he's clearly positioning things in a single direction.
Well, except with regard to his partnership with Pope, which I'm still having a hard time accepting. Jax was willing to hunt down the hired killer (who had little choice in the matter, really) who took out Opie, even though in the process he was going to destroy an alliance with the Grim Basterds. He was also totally fine with murdering the guard (and his wife) for their part in Opie's murder. But then he shakes hands and has a laugh with Pope, the man who ordered the whole thing? It's one thing to accept that getting into a war with Pope would be bad news, but it's another to pal around with him and offer him great financial investment opportunities. If this is sincere, it's the most Clayish thing Jax has done. And the idea that Jax is totally willing to give Tig up to Pope is definitely not cool. We're on shaky ground with Jax right now as makes his transition to full-blown asshole. But is he really playing by the wisdom of keep your enemies closer? I'm hoping this is a prolonged version of what happened at the end of Season 3, when we believed Jax was doing all the wrong things because he was hiding the fact that he had a bigger plan.
After learning that Jax was making moves to get Otto to recant his damning testimony against the club—which would cut Clay's safety line—Clay's next move was to talk to two-timing cartel member and CIA confidant Romeo. The two came up with the only option that made sense: Get rid of Jax and reinstate Clay to keep the businesses of guns and drugs going. Once again, Clay must duck behind the protection of the Feds, only this time he knows it. Clay also has to know that Gemma and Juice aren't just doing his dishes and giving him Cortisone shots because they miss him, but it isn't always clear what's going on in Clay's mind. Ron Perlman is doing fantastic work of late keeping it ambiguous, y'all.
Otto is still crazy as fuck and this week he made one of his most insane maneuvers yet, and that's saying a lot for a guy who stabs people's eyes and likes to cry during his jerk-off sessions to women's perfume. Every scene with Tara and Otto has been ultra-creepy and almost too easy, but it's when he's at his calmest that you know something is up. Shame on Tara for smuggling in the crucifix at his request, because we all knew that the long end of it was going hard and fast into someone. Otto's nurse found Jesus in her jugular in one of the series' most gruesome deaths, and the primal rage Otto displayed was chilling. But it was his motivation for murder—one last middle finger to the club—that was particularly dark. Instead of taking back his statement outright, the murder makes his testimony inadmissible (by way of insanity, I guess?) AND pins potential accessory-to-murder charges on Tara. "Sons live, Redwood bleeds," Otto growled as he was hauled off to be lobotomized or chained to a stake in a prison basement. That line can be taken a few ways, but I think he meant he'll always have respect for the club as a whole, while the current assholes in the Redwood Original chapter can suck a big one. It's going to be hard to top that as exit dialogue.
With just three episodes of Sons of Anarchy left in the season, what else would you expect other than more gasps and nail-biting? The show does this every year. But this season may be one of the more intriguing ones, because what we're really afraid of isn't an external bad guy or a job going wrong, it's Jax. How far is he willing to go? Will he take Pope's advice and find opportunity in the pain he's suffered, will he follow in the monster-sized footprints of Clay, or will he step back into the neo-hippie teachings of his father? There's plenty of time to put Jax back on the path of JT (we're looking at a seven-season show here), so expect that there will be darker days ahead.
– Jax reassured Tara that the club would handle her situation like it handles all of its situations, to which she replied, "That's exactly what I'm afraid of." Well, it got you this far, Tara! Don't stop now!
– More Tara: I loved the way she stomped on the toy piano to get her baby to wake up so she could coddle it. This girl, like most everyone else, is one loud, sudden noise away from going completely ape shit.
– I didn't think that the big dude who actually killed Opie needed to die... until I saw him sideswipe the Sons' row of bikes and then knock them down like dominoes. Then I almost jumped through the screen and strangled him myself.
– For all the crazy stuff Jax is doing, he's still finding time to take care of Lyla by getting her a free place in Mayor Jacob Hale's swanky new apartment complex as part of their deal. I love that about Jax. He's always looking out for his porn-star friends.
– Thank goodness the "club members aren't allowed to be black" thing was addressed and Jax said they need to change the bylaws. They are (edit: were) besties with a black motorcycle gang for cryin' out loud, and Jax is doing business with Pope and his gangs. This anti-black stance for SAMCRO was always a problem. Obviously no one cares if Juice is half black or is he's half ogre. Let him be.