Sons of Anarchy clocked in with another 90-minute episode tonight, and because I was fortunate enough to have a press screener, I didn't have to sit through 30 minutes of commercials. Phew. Normally viewers can expect 22 minutes of TV per half-hour, but tonight's episode registered an hour in total, meaning we were shorted six minutes from the standard rate. I don't think anyone is really going to complain since SoA Season 5 has mostly been excellent, but a common trend has emerged in these extended episodes over the last two weeks.
More Sons of Anarchy doesn't always mean better Sons of Anarchy, and between tonight's "To Thine Own Self" and last week's "Crucifixed," much of the additional time has been spent on the trickling down of the club's secrets and lies to various members, with everybody's dirty laundry getting aired. Is this the series realizing that it has so much more to cover and fewer episodes than it thought so it's scrambling to squeeze it all in? Maybe. Is it as fun as the rocket-launcher fight that helped swell last year's "Call of Duty" to an hour and a half? Probably not. But these scenes are incredibly important to the season.
Personally, I don't mind watching the dissemination of information, because things get more and more dangerous for everyone, and that's Kurt Sutter's style (it also helps me remember WTF is going on). And "To Thine Own Self" appeared to be the final game of Information Telephone, because pretty much everyone knows everything now. Clay knows that Jax knows that Clay knows, and Jax knows that Clay knows that Jax knows. Gemma knows, Romeo and Luis know, and everyone who wears a patch that didn't know before knows now.
But like "Crucifixed," much of "To Thine Own Self" consisted of dotting and crossing letters that needed to be dotted and crossed to get us to the point where everyone knows everything and everything is on the table. And because the club is so disciplined under Jax (who shows the least discipline of all of SAMCRO's members even though he's the president), the knowledge of Clay's workings and Jax's plans were met with exclamations of "Oh Shit!" and understanding nods rather than the hot-headed trigger-pulling that set the first half of the season on fire. Things have actually calmed down in the second half of the season, but I don't expect them to stay that way.
None of the current goings-on would be as mellow as they are (relatively speaking, as is always the case with Sons of Anarchy) if it weren't for Jax's quick fix to the big problem of keeping the cartel happy by using Henry Lin's firearm resources and the Mayans' drug mules to fill in for SAMCRO. It's about time the club finally got out of these business transactions, considering the blood that has spilled since shaking hands with Romeo and Luis. "I'm tired of being crushed under the weight of greedy men who believe in nothing," Jax told Clay. "I have to change that." This is the most notable accomplishment of the Jax administration thus far, but it seems like a fairly easy fix, not to mention a slightly suspicious one given that Lin has (I think) little background or trust with the cartel and vice versa. And do the Irish have any say? And was the cartel that okay with Jax's change of plans—including Lin's price hike—that they would go from wanting to cut his head off in one moment to taking his word on things and letting him go free the next? Apparently I would not make a good outlaw, carbon.
But even with all this going on, Sutter still managed to add two-and-a-half huge new details to Season 5 with just two episodes left. Nero finally went O.G. after his old crew got involved with Nero's new ladies-for-hire venture and tried to pay for Jax's peace offering of guns with bullets instead of cash. Either the station-wagon escape was totally ridiculous or that wood paneling is bulletproof, because that Mexican gang lit up that car with little damage to the guys inside. And what happened to gangs these days? Are they so lazy that they wouldn't chase down the guys who just shot at them and took off with their guns? I am disappointed in you, gang members.
That little incident led Nero to believe his old gang friends and not the cartel were the ones who'd taken Jax, and Nero went loco on his old boys, sending two of them to the morgue while they were just trying to hit bongs and watch some Terra Nova repeats. Not cool, Nero. I would have expected him to be a little more diplomatic about the situation instead of going in guns-a-blazin', and it sets up a lot of problems for Nero and SAMCRO with ANOTHER gang they now have to tangle with. And that's not even counting the tension of the Nero-Gemma-Clay love triangle, which peaked when Nero stopped by Clay's house for an amazing scene with Gemma. There are a lot of people in bad spaces right now, but Nero's in the worst. And it's all because of a mistake.
We also met a new mystery man played by Terriers star Donal Logue. I have no idea what's going on with him, but the man knows a lot more he should about everything, and he's some sort of master of disguise. The balls on Sutter introducing a character like this so late in the game! Perhaps he's already setting up Season 6?
Things have cleared up to the point that there's no other recourse except for Jax to hit Clay head-on in the final two episodes of the season. But Clay always finds a way to wiggle free, and peace-loving Bobby, who visited Clay in the final moments of the episode for a chat, might be one who helps him out.
– This Juice stuff needs to sort itself out, quick. Seeing him get the business from Jax is almost unbearable.
– We still don't know what Clay's plans are with regard to the "legal documents," and it's taking a bit of the bite out of that plot. We know he's up to something, but what? Until we know, how are we supposed to care that much?
– No Pope in the episode. No Mayor Hale in the episode. No Roosevelt. Don't these guys have big roles this season?
– Unser might go out from cancer and not a bullet like we thought. It's sad to see him in such a weakened state.
– Congrats to Tara for taking the job offer! But when is she going to tell Jax?