Wow, so THAT happened. I know we've said that Clay has passed the point of no return before, but this time he stepped over that point, peed on it a little, and gave it the double-bird as he trotted off toward a horizon that few television characters ever reach. It must be tough for Ron Perlman to play such a despicable and vile character every week (he's doing fantastic work this season, btw). He has to warp his brain and go to work believing in Clay and he deserves an award just for that. I love good villains and almost always want them to stick around a series to enrich the drama, but Clay has entered a territory all his own. I want him dead, and if I have to put a hitman on speed dial to see it happen, I will.
"Hands" was one of those rare episodes of Sons of Anarchy that provides such a hard punch in the gut that it's hard to calm down after the credits roll. THAT scene with Clay and Gemma was one of the most difficult-to-watch scenes of television I've ever seen, and it was eerily reminiscent of the final moments of Season 2's opener, when Gemma was also on the wrong side of extreme physical abuse (it still haunts me). I don't think I'll be able to erase the image of Clay's face as he beat the living crap out of Gemma from my mind, no matter how hard I scrub.
Last week I struggled with Gemma's decision to defend Clay after Piney's murder and everything else he messed up, and in "Hands," Gemma saw the light by seeing the darkness in Clay. And for that, she got brutally beat down. Creator Kurt Sutter is merciless when it comes to torturing his characters for the purpose of his story, and something like this had to happen to bring the Jax vs. Clay showdown to fruition. A lot of credit goes out to Sutter and his real-life wife Katey Sagal for never holding back for the sake of their art. How do you think that breakfast conversation goes? "Honey, last night I wrote a scene where you get brutally beaten by your husband. Pass the bacon, please."
But we're not in the clear, yet. Clay made an interesting accusation when he told Gemma that the plan to murder John Teller was all hers. We've known for a while that both of them were involved somehow, but Clay put it all on her, saying he was helpless to resist because of Gemma's "form-fitting lady parts" and "damsel in distress" state (I'm paraphrasing for TV.com's semi-family-friendly audience). Clay is certainly a monster and easily played the wife-beater role, but Gemma isn't innocent in all of this. Did she deserve the beating? Absolutely not. But she has secrets of her own. She's now going to orchestrate the second murder of one of her husbands, this time letting Jax get his hands bloody. And this time we know the guy deserves it. But what happens when Jax finds out that Gemma also played a role in JT's death?
The confrontation between Clay and Gemma was set in motion by the botched hit on Tara, who didn't even come close to enjoying Oregon's lack of sales tax during her road trip up north. Instead, she ended up with a crushed hand and little hope of returning to her profession as a surgeon. Drugged up, frustrated, and broken emotionally and physically, she unleashed a bitter tirade at Jax about staying in Charming and flushing her life down the toilet so that Jax and his pals can continue strutting around in leather cuts and slowly killing themselves. It was another brutal scene to watch, as the collateral damage from Clay's decisions and Jax's pact with Clay moved closer and closer to Jax and his family.
And if that wasn't tough enough to watch, Jax then chatted with Opie and admitted that he's been lying and secretly plotting his exit from SAMCRO. Opie reminded him that not long ago, it was Jax, his BFF, who convinced him to stay in the club, which ultimately cost him the life of his wife and destroyed his family. Arguably, it will also cost him his father's life, as soon as he finds out Piney was murdered. "I NEED you in this club." Aww, Opie. The exchange put another surprising strain on one of the show's strongest bonds—Jax and Opie are ADORABLE together—and provided more torture for us, the viewers. But that's how Sutter rolls. Sons of Anarchy has been compared to some of Shakespeare's works not because people prance around in poofy shirts, but because it's a tragedy. And Season 4 has been the most tragic of them all.
But there was one uplifting moment in this symphony of devastating blows. Sheriff Roosevelt stepped up and apologized to Juice, and even hinted that he may take SAMCRO's side against Linc and the investigation into SAMCRO simply because he's so ticked off at Linc and his manipulative ways. You gotta love Roosevelt right now, he's been questioning things over the last several episodes and redeemed himself by proving he's a man of honor last night. In this battle between cartels, feds, gangs, and individual members of SAMCRO, it's not where people start off, it's where they end up that will determine who wins the fight.
"Hands" was not only one of the best episodes of Sons of Anarchy's fourth season, it was one of the best of the series. Sutter has managed to combine our emotional connection to the characters he's perfected over the last four years with intricate, fast-paced plotting, and the result has been extraordinary television that's simultaneously difficult to watch and impossible not to crave.
– Every time I see Jax doing something soft, like singing "This Old Man" at the top of his lungs to his kids on a family road trip, it cracks me up. I should record it and use it to blackmail him.
– I love the wrinkle that the hit crew was actually comprised of white boys disguising themselves as Mexicans. I really appreciate these kinds of details. Of course a professional hit crew would run their operations like that.
– That was probably the LEAST productive meeting with the Niners EVER. Two men dead, nothing gained. They didn't even grab a beer!
– When Wayne was playing cleaner at the scene of Piney's murder, Gemma called him up to tell him something was wrong. Wayne replied in total deadpan, "Really. Can't imagine why you'd say that." Gotta love Wayne!
– Juice might just be better off telling the club what's going on.
– Gemma: "Clay can't be saved... He ain't going down by law. He's going to die... by the hand of his son." BOOM! Can't wait. [UPDATE] As some of you pointed out, it sounds like Gemma actually says, "By the hand of A son." Which could mean she's looking to sic Opie on Clay to avenge Piney's death, which would conveniently keep her own hands clean of having to tell Jax about her involvement in the murder of his father. Or it's "A son" as in a member of the Sons of Anarchy. God you guys are good!
– In case you missed the news, Sons of Anarchy is adding an episode to the end of the current season for a total of 14. Apparently the original plan was to air a 90-minute finale, but now it will be two 60-minute episodes. Also, it looks like next week's episode is 90 minutes long!
Question: Who do you think is truly in danger of dying by the end of the season? Can the series survive without Clay?