Sons of Anarchy: In the Grip of a Monster

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.


Notes

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

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Oh man, I'm marathoning the sh*t out of SOA and can't believe how Sutter always finds a way to make things worse for the club with every episode. I love it !!!



Love your reviews of this show Tim, keep it up!



PS: "Maybe saving The Reaper is just the karmic balm your psychic neck wound needs."

Linc is awesome...creepy but awesome!
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Does anyone else think that it may have been a bad idea to bring Juice into the RICO case room? I mean, he's an electronics expert and obviously desperate! They just showed him everything they"re doing! He clearly saw "PLAN B" about him and Otto, he knows that RICO means they go after everyone involved, and now he knows who these feds are and where they're located.



They seem to think that he doesn't have any other choice even though he tried to kill himself but if he doesn't turn completely rat, what do you think he's going to do to protect his club?!
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I agree that Gemma's actions are very WTF moments, but the second she goes outside the club to deal with a situation is the day the club is destroyed. Her loyalty to Clay pales in comparison to her loyalty to the club. You can almost argue that she wanted JC out and Clay in because she didn't agree with the direction JC was going to take the club. So since the club is currently going in a downward spiral she's trying to fight fire with fire and it's just creating more fire. In the end, someone is going to suffer for it, but the important thing, to Gemma, is that the club lives on and does not die.
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I've said it before and I'll say it again. Clay is no Walter White (some people seem to think that after Clay is dead the show might fall off a bit).... The guy is #1 on everyone's hit list. I'm calling it now.. I think he'll get killed and they're leave it up to speculation for awhile as to who killed him. After this episode I think Gemma is in some serious trouble as well. Of course Jax will find out eventually and feel very betrayed and untrustworthy of his mom. Of course Tara might die too..... everyone is up for grabs this season! Love it
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And I've said it before and I'll say it again: Charlie Hunnam is no Ron Perlman.

If Clay dies, the next season is the last. ;)

Well, unless they bring another heavyweight actor.
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Personally I think Hunnam is great. The thing is Perlman plays the bad guy who's a part of the good guys so well. In previous seasons he was more of a gray area but this season he is full on monster. Even the shit he did in the first 3 seasons was what he truly thought was best for the club. Now he's just going all out for himself. It will be a very different show without him but it's hard at this point to see how he'll make it to the next season.
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Hunman is a great actor I would never deny this. But he doesn't have the strength of Perlman's screen presence... yet. A few more years of experience and he will probably be huge.

The whole show has been revolving around Clay and the impact of his actions to the club and to the people around him. Sutter is following the same progression as with Vic Mackey (The Shield) where he did a few "excusable" things at the beginning but got meaner and meaner until the end.



"(...) it's hard at this point to see how he'll make it to the next season."



Because nobody knows what he did, except Gemma and Unser (and the viewers). He is on nobody's hit list.

His first mistake will be the hit on Tara.

There is enough Cartel action, with the few episodes left, to carry him through next season.
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Man, what an episode. What a season. Best......show.....ever.
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Clay has to go ASAP. He's become way too self-invested and clearly doesn't give a damn what happens to the club or the people around him as long as he gets his way. I actually think Gemma did the right thing telling him she'll continue to trust him and keep his secrets, because I think he would've found a way to shut her up if she didn't, regardless of what he feels for her. This has been a terrific season so far. I thought the third season was great but this one is getting even better.
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Love your recaps. This has been a tense season waiting for it to all implode.



I have to say I was more OMG at Clay I felt this episode was make or break for him. As he clutched the phone there was that flicker of hope that maybe Clay can come back from the brink and be redeemed. Alas, he's chosen the dark side and now we watch to see if Gemma will follow.



Now to Gemma and her actions this episode, I think she is basically trying to save her own backside. By protecting Clay she's actually protecting herself because she is an accessory to the crime and I don't think anyone is going to believe she was clueless. Clay being outed would destroy her relationship with both the club and her son which is her entire world and she is fighting hard to protect. Deep down she knows she's kidding herself to think that she can control Clay but her only other two options are tell the club (which she can't do without condemning herself) or kill Clay.



I'm hoping that the hit on Tara is going to severe the 'ties that bind' between Gemma and Clay. I'm going to even go as far as to say I hope Gemma is the one to finally put Clay down.
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It seems like another main character has to die.. who do u think it will be? its most likely either Tara or Clay
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Why do I feel like Abel is going to get shot, kid was kidnapped so he's not untouchable.
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Bobby. Contracted by Otto. But everyone will think it is Clay.

[not a spoiler - just a guess]
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Clay is like a rabid dog. Someone needs to shoot him and put him out of our misery.
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Only three episodes left! Another great cliffhanger. I'm worried about Juice and Jax ;/.
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A lot of face to face drama in this episode!!!!
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This review is great. Well written, succinct, just enough author-fan-love for the show yet equally and aptly critical. It also made me laugh. I have a weird love-hate affection for Linc and quite often find his delicious quotes semi-unintelligible. Shout out to this "Tim" that wrote this.
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Wasn't it funny when he jumped on the table after juice started the fight?
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Loved it indeed!
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Am I the only female utterly disgusted with Gemma's stand-by-your-man routine? In previous seasons this woman was strong and stood on her own, and now she is purposely turning a blind eye to the sins of her husband, blithely swallowing his lies, and knowingly allowing him to play her. It is repulsive.



The woman has always been completely self-serving, calculating and conniving but with her own code of morality, yet watching her now, her behavior smacks of desperation. That kiss with Wayne Unser - desperate. That not-confrontation with Clay in the final scenes - desperate. Where is the woman that stood strong, proud and quiet after being gang raped? She was no where near Charming in "Kiss."



Perhaps last time Clay went to prison totally freaked Gemma out, she realizes they are getting on in years and she does not want to be out in the world single at this point in her life (not a whole lot of opportunity out there for a 50ish old lady), or perhaps she is clued in to the true nature of her homicidal hubby more than she lets on and is truely afraid of the man, but Christ on a cracker Gemma, show some self respect. I have come to expect better of you lady.
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I think you might be forgetting something Gemma said to Tara when Tara found out she had been raped. She was strong yes, but partly because she thought it would be a blow to Clay, who wouldn't want to touch her again. Her strength there, again, had to do with Clay. She also did nothing (to Clay) when she found out that Clay had sex with Cherry, she just took a swing at Cherry. I think that a lot of her strength comes from trying to be the woman she thinks that Clay wants, and the rest is for herself. She did, in my opinion, confront Clay in a quiet manner. She told him she went to the cabin. That is where Piney was. It was her way of saying, "I know, and support you." Now, do I think that she should have supported that murder? No, especially when her grief for Piney and what Clay had done was so obvious. But I think she KNEW that he was going to do it the night before, when she was at the clubhouse and he said he was there and going to spend the night there.



I have a feeling she will really stand up to Clay when she feels she was betrayed, which, with whatever happens next week, I have a feeling that someone is getting hurt, at minimum. Jax is going to let his mom know someone went after Tara. I don't know if Gemma will believe Clay's lies that someone else is going after her, or if Unser will clue her in on some of what is going down with Clay.

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I think she wll have a mental collaps if something happens to Tara or the grandchildren.
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I think she's torn between being terrified by Clay and by being terrified by the prospect of ending up alone (because he could also kill her son and grand-children.)

If there is a hit in Oregon against Tara that ends up hurting Jax and/or the children, I think she will change her stance.
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And Gemma didn't tell Tara the same thing as she told Unser. Gemma told Unser that she knew Clay planned to kill JT and she supported that decision because it was best for her family (What a Joke!!!). She told Tara that she knows what everybody else knows, that JT died in accident and like all bikers should, on two wheels. Just a little bit of a difference........
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Gemma is stupid and deserves to die when Clay does and just how Clay does. There is a reason she looked up at Tara so guilty looking when she was told Jax would find out some hurtful truth about Gemma if he read JTs letters. Then that wench Gemma had such a look of relief when she was told Jax would only learn that she had been with Clay before JT died and not that she tried to kill him.



Bottom line, she supported Clay's decision to kill her husband JT and thats evil enough. Now she is helping cover up Piney's murder.



Regardless of Unser revealing to her that Clay read the letters, it still means Clay lied to her and didn't tell her the originals were still out there when she acted like they were burnt, just like Unser didn't tell her (until this episode). And she still tries to cover it up when she told Clay nothing happens to Piney or Tara, and now Piney ends up dead. I would like Clay to kill Gemma before he gets killed. LOLOL
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I totally hear what you're saying. I'm mad at Gemma for her decision, but she's got it bad for Clay. Women! Go figure! j/k of course but I have to say it so people don't kill me for it.
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"Jax earned some major points for saving the Niners from the wrath of the Lobos, 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."

-- Luis is a LT for the Galindo Cartel, not the Lobos.
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Drr... correcting. Good catch.
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Great review, as always. I know you focused on Gemma for the most part of this article because her actions were kind of a turning point. I've always been able to excuse her for her past actions but toying with Unser's feelings like that and helping Clay cover up yet another murder of a "brother" is just too much. She has totally crossed a line and I'm starting to see that she is just as selfish as Clay is. She is letting the people she cares about die instead of walking away from Clay.

I can't even explain how much I loved Jax for threatening Clay when he made the comment about Tara. I, personally, have been waiting to see Jax pound Clay's arthritic hands into mush for a while now.

I just wrote a post on my blog about this S.O.A episode. Check it out here: http://mclairjeune.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/s-o-a-kiss/
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Great recap, Tim. I can't really add anything except, maybe, that you didn't mention the move Linc made on Otto. I understand that this part wasn't as intense as those you depict but, strangely, is the one that stayed in my mind after the show. He can't do much from where he is. Will he rat on the club? I doubt he will, but that situation may be another chunk on Clay's plate.



Linc: "I'm just a guy who's trying to balance the scale."
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True, but I think that was just leverage for him to put the screws on Juice. Good point though, I love Otto. And he's just getting dicked around.
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and what about clay's actions are shocking? he is the definition of "1%er"..although i shake my head when i see his home and gemma's escalade and the trappings of upper middle class suburbia---but the murders, betrayal--thats outlaw life. he is no poster boy for the scouts so don't act surprised when he does what come natural. as far as linc is concerned--remember what happened to the last federal agent who thought that badge made her bullet-proof? and what's up with the pleather car coat? wait till opie finds out about his father--how much grief can one person stand before he self destructs..after all the natural thing for someone in his situation would be to turn to the club for support, but the club keeps whacking his family members! juice should just cut his losses and get out of dodge---the philippines maybe far enough away, the club is a little pre-occupied to run him down just now. and give us a break with ten minutes of story followed by ten commercials already!
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Exactly, Clay murdered Opie's wife AND father? I would really like to see what goes down with that... Clay is forcing a LOT of hands, Jax, Opie, and Bobby, and that is just in the club. I bet Gemma and Unser might have something to say next in line...
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"Maybe saving The Reaper will be just the karmic balm your psychic neck wound needs"
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Yep! 'tswat I heard too.
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Clay "saved" Gemma from her life after Thomas died
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Psychic neck bruises is how I heard it.
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I agree, Gemma and Clay share a love of legends... like Romeo and Juliet, maybe ending the romance would save some lives. Gemma seems to protect Clay at the expense of anyone else, Jax, her grandsons, and Tara. Knowing the hit can't be called off, and that it is a family vacation, well, it just makes me wonder which of the 4 will die? Abel? Thomas? I don't think it will be Jax or Tara, but a death of one of their children (especially Thomas) would change their relationship tremendously and be and excellent story set-up. I have a feeling that Tara might end up hospitalized... with Jax on the warpath, and injured. I still don't think that Clay will realize his mistake. Even with Donna, it was more like, "Whoops. Well, we move on." There didn't seem to be remorse in him. He has more than once called Jax his son, and Abel and Thomas his grandsons. Will he feel remorse if one of them die or are terribly injured?



And Juice... His story is keeping me watching all the time. Although I wonder, is it strange that I find it worse that SAMCRO is racist than that they are murderers?
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"Psycic Scar"
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