Sons of Anarchy: In the Grip of a Monster

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With all the insanity that has propelled this season of Sons of Anarchy, it's remarkable how few times I've seriously questioned what's happening or wanted to grab a character and throw an ice-cold mug of Miller Lite (SoA approved!) in his face. But the shootouts, suicide attempts, backstabbing, drug-dealing, stupid alliances, cover-ups, information withholding, and homicidal sprees during weddings can only be dialed up so far before a character does something that *sniff* hurts our feelings.

After eight intense episodes in a wonderful Season 4, I finally experienced my first real "whyyyyyyyy?" moment during last night's episode, "Kiss." Sure, Clay has done several questionable things throughout the season, but we expect that from him. I'm speaking, of course, about Gemma, a character who's been a pleasure and a pain during the series' run. When she arrived at the cabin to find Piney dead and Clay's fingerprints all over the scene (figuratively), she called Wayne over to help her cover things up. It was either very stupid or very loyal, and I'm still trying to figure out which.

It's easy for us to sit on our couches and say that what Gemma's doing is borderline mental while we sharpen our pitchforks and oil up our torches: We're well aware that Clay is a monster. He's running the club into the ground, he's killing people who get in his way, and he's about to have people killed who might get in his way. Gemma knows she can't change what Clay has done, but she thinks she can change what he might do. She's playing an all-or-nothing game here, trying to save Clay and Tara while we yell at her to call the police and cut the chord with the man who is ruining everything on a daily basis.

But I'll play Devil's Advocate here just to help me understand her actions. Gemma's love for Clay is the stuff of legend. Her situation is similar to the one from that "I Can't Leave My Boyfriend" episode of MTV's True Life, with those chicks stayed with their men even though they were dirty dogs. It's a disease, but if you were Gemma, wouldn't you at least consider doing anything in your power to make sure your loved one didn't get hit with a murder charge? After everything the two of you have been through? And knowing that the repercussions will cost you more than just your boo? And because, well, you were somewhat privy to a murder plot to kill your old husband so Clay could move in? If Gemma can live with all that, she can certainly live with trying to talk some sense into Clay even if it means there's a chance her grandson's mom will die because of it. I still think Gemma is a good person deep down. It may just take a few dead grandchildren for her to realize that Clay is not.

If you put yourself in Gemma's head and consider her decades of experience with Clay (she still feels she owes him for saving her, though from what I'm not sure), you can kind of understand why she's not ratting him out. Kind of. Clay's actions put her world—her family—at risk of being torn apart, and that's not something she's willing to let happen. I'm not trying to convince you (or myself) what she's doing is right, because it isn't; I'm just trying to convince you (and myself) that what she's doing is within the realm of possibility. The way Gemma sees it, it's either a false sense of family or no family at all, and she's not about to give the latter a chance. People do stupid things for love all the time.

But people also get burned by love. Gemma tells Clay he can't hurt Tara, which Clay promises in a grown man's fingers-crossed sort of way. He says he won't hurt Tara, but he is not that scary hitman he has on speed dial. The episode ends with Clay ordering a slice of murder pie to be delivered to Tara while she's at a conference in Oregon, unbeknownst to Clay that the journey up north has become a family trip that includes Jax. And his two boys. And we're left hanging by our fingernails off a cliff. As soon as we heard Tara say she was going up north, we knew the hit would come into play. As soon as Jax said Tara was taking the kids up, we knew they would be in danger. But then Jax says he's making it a family thing, and whoa! Is there any way this can turn out decent? Not a chance. Welcome to Oregon, Jax and Tara. Enjoy your stay.

Juice still can't catch a break. Linc continues to (freshly) squeeze him, this time giving him the opportunity to save the whole club instead of his own life, which doesn't really hold much value anymore. Juice was initially told SAMCRO wasn't part of the federal investigation, and Linc invites Juice to his war room. Oops. Mugshots of SAMCRO wallpaper the walls, and Linc "promises" (not that we really believe him) that SAMCRO will be excused from the investigation if Juice delivers the meet-up spot between the cartel and the Irish so Linc can make the bust of the century. Linc is such a sleazebag. I love it! Now Juice is in another tough spot, but what choice does he have? I bet he's wishing the trees in Charming were a bit stronger right about now.

I still think Wayne is going to be the wild card here and the one that ultimately points Jax into a real confrontation with Clay. It was so disappointing to see him so close to calling the authorities on Clay and end this whole thing, only to backtrack AND TAKE CARE OF THE WHOLE CRIME SCENE when Gemma gave him the titular kiss from the episode title. That's just schoolboy-crush weakness there, Wayne. But it's also a great way to set him up for redemption down the line. Or get him killed by Clay, I suppose, but I'm trying to be positive here.

This season has been all about how individual motivations threaten the whole, and how horrible situations push those individuals to the brink. When we see Gemma and Wayne and Clay and Juice do these things that we call highly questionable and stress ourselves out, we're supposed to be disappointed in them. So go ahead and scream at Gemma to leave Clay, at Wayne to get his head out of his ass, at Juice to tell Linc to go make love to himself ferociously, and at Clay to dig a hole and jump in it. But don't pretend that you aren't enjoying it.


– Linc is so great that even partial quotes of his are worth recounting: "Maybe saving The Reaper is just the karmic balm your psychic [unintelligible] needs." Can any of you out there finish that quote? Even though I missed a word, it's still badass dialogue.

– Jax earned some major points for saving the Niners from the wrath of the Lobos Golindo cartel, while Clay stayed silent and didn't try to stop the firing squad. It was more proof that Clay has really fallen by the wayside.

– Even though the story moved forward fast, this felt kind of like a breather episode compared to the recent lot of episodes.

Sons always has great outro montages, but this week's put a particularly large lump in my throat as we saw the two central couples in their final happy moments before everything goes to shit.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom