For all the machismo that oozes from the fat folds of hairy guys on Sons of Anarchy, one thing that's easy to forget is how well the show writes its female characters. Gemma and Tara are obviously not just pieces arm candy for their other halves, but go further down the line and you'll notice that even the women who let their asses hang out of their skirts/cloth-napkins-posing-as-skirts have considerable substance. This point isn't lost on the media, and just a few weeks ago, well-known TV writer Alyssa Rosenberg penned a piece for Slate titled, "Sons of Anarchy Is a Show About Biker Dudes. And Feminism."
Well, I'd love to hear what she thought of tonight's episode. The ladies of SoA were still strong in "Stolen Huffy," but they were also pretty quick to get their claws out and full of standard soap-opera scorn. Everything started with Gemma, who's been indefensible in her awful behavior so far this season. It's a continuation of what's been happening since Season 4 and a direct result of being treated like absolute dirt (and a punching bag) by Clay, but now she's overrun with bitterness to the point where it's all about Gemma all the time. Selfish medicating through alcohol, drugs, and random sex is just sad.
It's gotten so bad that ex-methhead Wendy now looks like the sane one, and her decision to spring Gemma from jail after the brawl she incited and the raid on Nero's brothel that followed was a tad confusing. Is she really that tight with Gemma now, or is it a scheme to put Gemma in Wendy's back pocket to use later? Will Gemma owe Wendy for bailing her out? There's some convenience at play here, but it's designed to sell the main event, which is Gemma versus Tara. The look Tara gave Gemma when Wendy came by the Teller-Morrow shop killed like three viewers. True story! (*not a true story)
The mercurial Gemma was also ready to kill Emma Jean (Ashley Tisdale), mostly because she couldn't kill Clay. And she wouldn't have minded putting a railroad spike through the eye of Carla, who just plain don't care for Gemma and was responsible for the guns drawn when Jax tried to save Emma Jean. But what we're seeing from Gemma in these situations is much different than what we'd have seen from the Gemma who was one of television's best female characters back in Seasons 2 and 3. The old Gemma would have been more frightening, with a very personalized death threat to these chicks; the new Gemma throws the gloves down immediately and gets into scraps. Here behavior ultimately started a remake of G.L.O.W., and soon Gemma, Carla, and Tara were all tusslin' in the shop. I don't know about you, but the controlled Gemma of old who chose her words carefully and cut people up on the inside verbally was a scarier Gemma than the one we saw tonight, running around trying to strangle people. That's not a knock on the writing, as it seems more realistic given the amount of times Clay promised to kill her as he was "bouncing her off the floor" (you'd be a little confused, too). But dang Gemma, you used to be cool.
Elsewhere, the tension between Wendy and Tara is reaching a wash-lather-repeat state, and it's making me feel like someone needs to push it along by slapping the back of one of their heads when the other isn't looking. Sons of Anarchy is usually great at keeping things moving, so I'm expecting something to bubble over next week. I'll leave the touchy subject of whether or not Wendy should be allowed to be part of Abel's life up to you, but I'm wondering why Tara softened her stance on the subject as much as she did, and so quickly.
The only woman who wasn't out for blood tonight was Opie's girl Lyla, a shining example of how Sons of Anarchy can craft female characters in questionable careers (she's a porn star) and write them as though they're real human beings. Her grief felt real when she told Jax she's got three kids to deal with now, and Jax let her know that it was going to be Olive Garden rules going forward—when she's there, she's family! No breadsticks, though.
But even Lyla wasn't as broken up about Opie as I would've been. I'm not gonna lie, after the emotionally devastating events of last week, at this point in the episode I was thinking that Opie's importance got cheated. Juice showed a bit of emotion and Gemma had her freak-out, but for a minute there I felt like I was the only one who was really upset. I later realized that was premature, as we got to say our solemn goodbyes to Opie during a great send-off as the club got their time with him and then carried him away. A very tasteful and proper farewell to Opie, and as it turns out, well-placed at the end of the episode.
But as we saw last week, the real impact of Opie's passing sits on Jax. And the scary thing is that Jax didn't look sad. He looked pissed. Like someone had to pay. This is going to be the event that defines Jax for the rest of the season, and the path he chooses will determine the fate of SAMCRO. Was it worth it to lose Opie? No. But will it lead to one hell of a story? I think so.
– I'm a little bummed that Ashley Tisdale's arc as Emma Jean is over (she was only signed on for two episodes), and I'm wondering if that's really it. She did such a great job wearing a bed sheet that for a second I forgot it was Tisdale and said to myself, "Hey, there's a girl wearing a bed sheet." That's acting. But seriously, I'm slightly concerned that this will lead to bigger roles for Tisdale.
– I'm a little concerned that the club is so damn scared of Pope. Their chat at the table was a bunch of guys whimpering about a dude; where were the motorcycle badasses we're used to? Jax: "It's not trust. It's fear. Right now he controls it. We have to buy time to change that." And what Bobby said about a phone call being his bullet?
– Jax's deal with Nero: How many of you thought, "Oh god. This is a stuuuuuuuuupid idea" when they agreed to share the profits of a fantasy porn-star sex ranch? And the order that Nero has to stay away from Gemma? At least he had an out when Gemma and Tara beat the crap out of Carla.
– How much do you think a severed thumb and tit go for nowadays? Do you charge by the pound?
– In the opening scene with the kids on the BMX bikes looking at Jax, I was thinking, "Hey Jax, don't let those kids go, shoot them or they'll expose all the methalymine you just stole from that train," but then at the end after I saw that picture of baby Opie and baby Jax on BMX bikes I was like, "A little heavy-handed but I still might cry now."
– I was totally cool with no Irish, Golindo, or CIA talk in this episode. Totally cool.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom