The inhabitants of the Sons of Anarchy universe aren't particularly skilled at telling the truth, preferring to keep details secret for their own purposes. Why, in just this episode, Clay lied about how his doctor visit went, Gemma wanted no word about Carla's death spread, Tara said she never got to see Otto, and Jax referred to a day on which he killed two people, got into a fight with the sheriff, and had meetings with the most dangerous man in town as a "quiet day."
But one big secret that really wasn't a secret at all was let out of the bag at the end of the episode: Clay was masterminding the break-ins on the innocent people of Charming and using the Nomads as his grunts. I said as much in my review of SoA's Season 5 premiere, and no, I'm not just patting myself on the back for figuring it out. There wasn't really any attempt at a cover-up—we saw Greg the Peg's prosthetic leg in the break-in at the end of the first episode; Chuck Zito's Frankie Diamonds was rummaging through the contents of Clay's safe in a later episode; GoGo had a scratch on his neck from Rita's talons digging into him during the most break-in. Clay's involvement was also predictable, because who else would be behind this?
So the question I have is, why did the truth about the break-ins unfold the way it did? The clues weren't just there for us to find, they were shoved in our faces so we couldn't miss them. I ask because we knew that the Nomads were behind the break-ins (and could conclude that Clay was, too), but we still watched everyone else in Charming run around wondering who was responsible... not exactly the best use of our time as viewers. I'm guessing the break-in arc was affected at least in part by the big reveal in the Season 4 finale that Romeo was working with the CIA; that was sprung on us out of nowhere, and it frustrated a lot of critics, especially me, because it seemed like a last-minute, convenient way out that stretched the limits of believability. Fast forward to now, and the Nomads were purposefully outed early as being responsible for the break-ins, in order to let us in on it gently. At least, that's my theory, I'm just thinking out loud here! It seems like it would have been a better mystery if we the audience had been able to solve it alongside the characters, especially since they were talking about it the whole time. Instead, we knew what was up by the end of the first episode.
"Small World" was a bit of a clean-up episode that closed the chapter on the first half of Season 5 and introduced the second half by putting things in place and tying up old threads. We all knew Clay was up to something, especially with the pathetic puppy dog routine he kept on putting on, and I for one am SUPER GLAD to have him back. Pope wasn't doing it for me as a villain, especially since he wants to get in bed with SAMCRO. Clay is probably setting SAMCRO up from the inside by staging break-ins pointing toward the club, preparing to blow it up so he can climb back into the president's seat. I know we're supposed to hate the guy, but I applauded the man when he lied to Juice and said his doctor's visit was "not good," even after the doc said he didn't need his Oxygen anymore. The sly dog is going to hold on to the "What, me? But I'm just a poor old man on an Oxygen tank please don't take away my prune juice!" card for as long as he can because he's playing the long game and as long as he's powerless, he won't be seen as a threat. Kind of like Mom from Futurama! I don't like Clay the woman beater (and if you do, you're terrible), but I do like Clay the schemer. It's just too bad for Clay that the guys he's relying on to get the job done could be named Larry, Moe, and Curly.
The episode also changed the dynamic between Pope and Jax, with Pope looking to get into business with SAMCRO by paying them fat stacks of cash to increase the amount of cocaine they smuggle up to Northern California. I'm not sure why Pope doesn't mule the stuff himself; it seems like he's cutting in the middle man by having SAMCRO bring more up, and with the network of gangs he has under his call he should be able to find his own guys, but whatever. Let's just assume he's trying to keep his hands as clean as a big-time drug dealer can. Maybe he's just lazy. All I know is that Jax should hate Pope—let's face it, Pope is the reason Opie is dead—and now they're bro-hugging in the back of Pope's car. And hey Jax, you don't say, "We're getting out of the coke haul I promise," and follow that with a vote to get way deeper into the coke haul. That's like when I say, "I'm cutting back on cookies, but first I'm going to eat every cookie I can get my hands on for the next three weeks." Maybe Jax has a coke problem that's just as big as my cookie problem?
I was very appreciative of the gratuitous violence in this episode as a quick and easy way to end a few stories and characters. Sometimes the best way to get rid of a character after they've served their purpose is to put a bullet through their brain with little explanation (see: Carla). Getting revenge on the security guard who dragged Opie into the underground fighting pit wasn't totally necessary. As I said above, the real villain in that case was Pope. But you know what? I'm totally okay with the guard being dead because screw him, and I like how Jax made it more personal by bashing his head in with a snow globe. I'll never look at the St. Elsewhere finale the same way again. As for his wife? Ehh, well, wrong place/wrong time, you know the drill. She shouldn't have come out waving a shotgun with four giant biker dudes in the dining room, especially since Tig was around. However, it should be mentioned that SAMCRO is piling up the body count, and that August and Pope know exactly what happened should they ever choose to whisper something to the cops.
But Carla's suicide by gun was especially gratifying because she was one of the worst new characters on television this season. If there was ever a character who was obviously getting on the nerves of a show's writers, it was Carla, and the most efficient way out was to have her take Gemma and Nero hostage, attempt to force them to perform sex acts on each other, and then just say, "Well that didn't work so I'm gonna shoot myself now BYE BYE!!" *BLAM* Good riddance, Carla, you will go down as one of the series' most pointless characters ever. I'm just glad the writers saw it too, and I hope Clay put another one in her brain just to make sure. And then chopped her head off just to make sure. And then fed her corpse to a bunch of hungry pigs just to make absolutely sure.
"Small World" was the halfway point for Season 5, and it was designed to close some doors (final vengeance for Opie, goodbye Carla!) and open others (welcome back, Clay!). It wasn't as strong as the previous three episodes and it was a bit all over the place, but it put Season 5 in position for a strong second-half run. And that all starts with getting Clay back in the picture.
– Tig is a total psychopath now, but I couldn't help but laugh when Chibs asked if he was okay after murdering the guard's wife and agreeing to dispose of the bodies and Tig replied, "Yeah, I am. That was really good for me." And then Chibs kissed him on the cheek.
– I love it when the heads of the gangs get together for their rainbow coalition meet-ups. It's like a United Nations summit for jerks.
– Hello, Joel McHale! I believe the story behind McHale's cameo is that he and Kurt Sutter got along so well when Sutter stopped by McHale's The Soup that Sutter found a role for him. Really looking forward to seeing McHale in next week's episode.
– Egregious product placement for Miller Lite, down to the label perfectly turned toward the camera and the pan-down for a full-frame shot. I liked it better when they drank Budweiser.