Sons of Anarchy: Good Guys Gone Bad

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Sons of Anarchy Season 4 has gotten off to a better start than any prior season, with its brewing showdown between Clay and Jax, the very battle we were promised in the series pilot. But I thought "Brick" was Season 4's most interesting (not "good," not "bad," just interesting) episode yet.

If there were themes to "Brick," they were 1) that good people can make horrible choices, whether they're forced to or not, and 2) that even when things seem really bad, they can always get worse. SoA's fourth season has focused on creating divides within SAMCRO, and "Brick" put the series on the verge of entering dangerous overdramatic-for-the-sake-of-being-overdramatic territory. If only one external force (the sheriff, the ATF, a rival gang) was exquisitely masterminding SAMCRO's implosions by getting the members to turn on each other, it'd be absolutely brilliant. But instead we've got several independent issues conveniently resurfacing at the same time.

Okay, fine—it's not real life, it's television. And at least it's still compelling television. The tension has to come from within, because SAMCRO is its own worst enemy, so I'm choosing to ignore the manufactured, "perfect storm of shit" development in favor of settling in with my SAMCRO boys and gasping every time one of them is coaxed into stealing cocaine from the cartel (Juice), lying to a friend whose wife he slept with (Bobby), getting laid outside his marriage (Opie), or admitting to murdering a SAMCRO co-founder (Clay). Sons of Anarchy is like Axe Body Wash in that it's a soap for "manly" men—but that's just another way of saying the show has created an atmosphere of tension and drama. And isn't that all we want from our stories?

At the center of the tension is Clay, who we can finally confirm played a major role in John Teller's death murder. Juicy! I give Sons of Anarchy a lot of props for revealing that detail early in the season instead of holding it close to the chest like an autographed 8x10 of Zac Efron.

Also involved in JT's death: Wayne, who presumably forged the police reports, and Gemma, who I think only knows part of the truth of what happened. SoA creator Kurt Sutter is playing a tricky game of "who knows who knows what," and it's getting a bit difficult to follow as everyone goes behind everyone else's backs. As far as I can tell, Clay knows the most, and that's bad news for everyone else. Gemma, meanwhile, is the most screwed, because she thinks Clay believed her lies when he was in fact using her ignorance to his advantage. Ahhh, blissful marriage! As for Wayne, well, Wayne seems more of a pawn stuck between a King and a Queen, unsure of what he wants to cover up and what he wants to expose. I'll place my bet on Wayne having a major moral conundrum that results in him totally screwing either Clay or Gemma.

In the direct path of a giant cannonball splash is Tara, who wisely (or unwisely, if becoming a murder target is considered a bad thing) hid copies of John's letters. Now that we know Clay killed John, I have to think that offing Tara to silence her isn't out of the question, and let's face it, as far as murderable main characters go, she's fairly high on the list. Ditto for Piney, who may find himself buried if Clay can negate his "contingency plans."

And patiently waiting in the wings is Jax, who has taken a backseat as of late. He's been greatly underused in the past couple episodes while the storylines that will ultimately force him to explode play out. Jax will get his turn eventually, but in the meantime, he's playing support to Clay, Gemma, Juice, Wayne, Bobby, Piney, and Tara. Thankfully, Sons carries such a strong ensemble that our hero can be sidelined without damage.

For me, the most effecting story of "Brick" was Juice's. I love the guy and his penchant for squirting colon-cleaning water up his butt, so it was incredibly painful to see him forced into stealing some of the cartel's blow because Sheriff Roosevelt exploited a long tradition of racism in motorcycle clubs and tied Juice's arm behind his back. (Side note: It's okay that Juice is Puerto Rican but being half black is grounds for getting his ass kicked? Someone needs to explain this selective racism thing to me.) We had to suspend a bit of belief when he took a nap with a kilo in his trousers after his attempt to take just a sample was thwarted, but the payoff was indelible: Juice standing in the room while SAMCRO (and the Mayans) found out that a kilo was missing. I would not want to be him right now.

Boldly lying to his friends was Bobby, who dropped by Otto's pad (i.e. prison) to tell Otto that Bobby was sleeping with Luann before she died and that SAMCRO had taken care of the man who killed her (they didn't). It was a total screwjob for Otto, who's been nothing but 100 percent loyal to the club while he rots away in a zero-star iron hotel. I'm disappointed in Bobby, but I don't blame him. If you're going to lie to someone to smooth things over, pick the guy who has to get through maximum security to exact revenge.

And Opie! Oh my God, Opie! The most disappointing move of all! The gentle giant found birth control pills and morning-after pills in Lyla's porn "dresser," convincing him that she's been sabotaging his plans to have a kid. So Opie slept with some cheap whore to get payback. This was very sad, because Opie is the closest thing Sons of Anarchy has to a legitimately good guy. Did anyone else guess that Lyla had those pills because she's gone back to doing guy-girl porn, or was that just my hormones getting the best of me?

It's interesting that the first episode of the season was all about love and family and the club, and now we are where we are. All that goodwill was just a set-up for an ugly downfall, as SAMCRO is ripping its own guts apart from the inside. "Brick" was difficult to watch because it set up some of my favorite characters to be assholes. But you know what? I like being challenged and uncomfortable. Carry on, Sons of Anarchy.

Notes:
– This is the first time (I believe) that Kurt Sutter (who plays Otto) has shared a scene with his real-life wife (Katey Sagal, who plays Gemma). They're such a cute couple.

– Should Tara have put the copies of John's letters or the real things in her desk? By leaving copies in there, she's letting others know that the originals are elsewhere. If she had put the originals in her desk, any future snoops might believe the danger is gone, giving her the upper hand. Or is my logic flawed?

– How does Linc think he's going to get out of his lie to Roosevelt? He told Roosevelt he would strike his involvement from the record, but now he's setting up Roosevelt's career (and his reputation among the African-American community) to be utterly ruined.

David Hasselhoff was GREAT as the rival porn producer. Hasselhoff and Tom Arnold on the screen at the same time? YES! I really hope the Hoff sticks around a big longer.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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