Sons of Anarchy "Toad's Wild Ride" Review: Descent/Ascent Into Addiction

Sons of Anarchy S05E07: "Toad's Wild Ride"

After watching tonight's Sons of Anarchy, I have decided to lock up my imaginary kids in a bulletproof box and never, ever let them see their grandmother. "Toad's Wild Ride" continued Gemma's freefall into a dark pit of ridiculous behavior, with each episode this season crashing her through the floor to find a formerly undiscovered low. Sons of Anarchy has always been a soap opera, but prior to Season 5 the series operated under the guise of a legitimate drama whose name didn't come up often enough during Emmy time. Now, in Season 5, the series has become a chain of events designed to make us crap our pants, and Gemma has become the sacrificial lamb to jumpstart all the madness. Completely insane is one way to describe it, but addictive is another because this season—while not the show's finest—has been damn entertaining.

The one taking the most heat for all the ridiculousness is Gemma (Katey Sagal, rolling with the punches and dyeing her hair like a Jersey Shore girl), and deservedly so. She's at the center of a lot of SAMCRO's messes because of her whoring and drinking ways and has become almost unrecognizable from the ass-kicking grandma we knew from the old days. I love the fact that Kurt Sutter chose Gemma to be on the eternal bender, because she's the atypical choice: the old lady of the group. But holy shit, girl, get a grip! Your antics are becoming unbearable. If Gemma were my mother, I would handcuff her to a radiator to keep her in line.

The final minute of every Sons of Anarchy episode is a guaranteed doozy, but the conclusion of "Toad's Wild Ride" was a doozy-woozy! There was Gemma, trusted by Tara to take care of the kids after Jax's grumbling convinced her it would be okay, steering her SUV toward home with Jax's kids in the car on a dark and windy road UH-OH. And from the first moment we saw her SUV wobble, we knew the scene wasn't going to end with the three of them singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." I don't know if she was stoned, drunk, hopped up on goofballs, or all of the above, but cheezus cripes woman! You had one job to do that night and it was to not kill one or both of those kids. But apparently you couldn’t keep your lips off the bottle/bong for 20 minutes.

As her SUV swerved and tumbled off the road into a ditch (is Gemma the new Lori from The Walking Dead?), we feared the worst—no more trips to buy diapers for Jax—and it looked like we got halfway there. It was hard to tell, but Little Abel Teller became a kid-kebab, skewered by a tree branch and artistically bleeding all over his stuffed animal for maximum spirit-crushing effect, just in case we weren't already screaming our heads off. Sons of Anarchy is usually pretty transparent with its deaths, so the fact that we're not sure whether he's the show's youngest fatality is a good sign that he'll pull through and live for Tig to push him around on the swings once again.

Bringing grievous injury to a child was another right cross thrown by Sutter as he beat us into wondering what he'll do next and how far he'll go. More than ever, Sons of Anarchy is feeling the need to top itself or at least make sure we're not napping. And if that means we're part of something that's even less believable than before (and before wasn't exactly typical American living), then so be it. Sons of Anarchy is at its all-time high with regard to its addictiveness quotient because the show has gotten really comfortable being so balls-to-the-wall crazy. This type of strategy doesn't work with all shows, but in this universe of bikers and gangs and prostitutes, it fits nicely.

The series is also making good use of simpler storylines this season with Clay's busted home-invasion scheme at the center. Like I said last week, it appears Sutter learned that trying too hard to fool the audience into shock and surprise can backfire, and this season things are more up-front and the thrills are more out in the open. Even though Clay's involvement in the break-ins was merely hidden with fake glasses and a mustache and recognizable from a mile way, that didn't take away from the enjoyment of the storyline, and tonight we saw what happened when things blew up in his face.

This Clay is just as scary as the old Clay, but not because of his conniving behind-the-scenes behavior. This Clay is just as scary as the old Clay because the guy will literally do anything and kill anything for the possibility of holding the SAMCRO gavel in his hands again, even turn on his own buds. Someone please turn him in to the Better Business Bureau! I really did believe he was going to watch Unser take a bullet to the belly from the Nomads, especially when he said to Unser, (paraphrasing) "It's been great, but..." Instead, he orchestrated a risky murder set-up and ordered Greg and GoGo to run into Unser's trailer, guns-a-blazin', because what could go wrong when strangers wearing masks and brandishing guns run into a confined place containing other strangers with guns? (If the straightjacket fits...) I wouldn't be surprised if Clay hadn't even decided which side he was going to take until Unser shot first—Clay was going to win no matter how the shootout panned out—but the fact that he told Greg that he would make sure Unser wasn't armed, only to later make sure the gun Unser was holding was loaded, kind of put a damper on that. Either way, it was a crazy f'ing plan and now two of the three Nomads are dead and Unser's suspicions haven't diminished one bit. So... partial victory for Clay?

In this week's "What was the point of that?" portion of Sons of Anarchy (Carla's suicide being last week's), Joel McHale wrapped up his two-episode cameo (it's been reported that it's only two episodes long, so unless someone is lying, his character won't be returning) as a con man who took Gemma for a ride and then another ride, if you know what I'm sayin'. I love McHale, but his appearance on the show was a total aside and one more rung on the ladder Gemma is steadily climbing down. He banged Gemma, stole her car, and then got beat up, and that was it. At least we got a good banana vodka joke out of it. What I found hilarious was that Gemma woke up naked next to Joel McHale and went into the bathroom and cried. Most women I know would high-five themselves 'til they got blisters if they woke up in the same situation. Let's just all agree that this was McHale and his buddy Sutter just having some fun because they could. Was the arc important to the overall story? Not really. Was it entertaining? Somewhat.

It wouldn't have been an episode of Sons of Anarchy without one more big question raised, and this time we were left wondering who tried to turn Jax and Chibs into Swiss cheese through a hail of gunfire in the closing moments. Luckily Jax was able to show the gunman how it's done and by shooting him dead, and when he was unmasked it was... a black guy! Obviously we're supposed to believe he was one of Pope's men so it obviously he isn't one of Pope's men, right? Or at least not one of Pope's men under Pope's orders. Here's a theory that has worked out for me more than once: CLAY. The man isn't afraid to put a hit out on his family. But if it wasn't Clay, then I have no idea. Pope has no reason to want Jax dead now that they're business partners.

I wouldn't be surprised if you told me that Sons of Anarchy's fifth season is dividing its audience. Some might see the series' transformation into a violent soap opera with shorter side stories as a move made just for shock value. But that's made it a simpler viewing experience by ditching the overreaching complexity of past seasons. All I know is that I look forward to every episode, so the show must be doing something right. Now if only Gemma would stop being such an idiot...



NOTES

– Is Clay really so confident that Juice won't talk that he'd bring him so close to all his crazy plans? Juice is already showing cracks. Is Clay that careless?

– I should have known tragedy for the kids was coming as soon as I saw all the club members adorably playing with them. Filthy Phil playing Monster was especially great to see.

– The Tara-Otto story is moving sloooooooooooow. I'm not even sure what's happening with it.

– How long do we give Frankie Diamonds now that he's the last Nomad on the run? Will Clay get to him first, or will Jax?

Comments (51)
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Also, when, thinking about it, im not just pissed about how this Episode ended i also think it kinda makes no sense gemma bring so stoned. She only had a joint with unser! Shes used to smoking weed so it does make no sense to me....
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I love this show! I really liked your recap as well as it made me laugh a lot.
But this ending really made me so pissed off!! I always loved gemma. She is messed up, selfish makes one mistake after another but you cant stop liking her and feeling bad for her. Shes one of those women you want to hate but you cant. At least thats how i feel.
I just started having a glimpse if hope that things between tara jax and gemma may be ok and then: BOOM !
She makes another- this time horrible mistake which i dont think can be fixed.
Give the woman a break! Argh!!!
Kurt sutter is a fucking genius but this drives me crazy!
Also i think gemma crying when waking up nxr to Joel mchale wasnt nonsense at all as she realised that yet again she got wasted and had sex with a stranger and messed up.
Cant wait to continue watching. My fav show ever! Hoping the best - expecting the worse
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I've been a fan of this series since the beginning, but honestly, with this season, I don't know where things are going. It's supposed to be the final season, right? How many episodes are left, 3 or 4? The storylines don't seem to be moving anywhere! There's been many shocking/ entertaining moments, but it seems to me that this season lacks cohesion or even a goal. I'm a little worried about how things are going to wrap up. And for a final season, it feels a little weak in comparison with the previous ones. I expected this one to kick ass, but so far, I'm not so sure anymore. It's such a shame, 'cos I love this show, I think the acting is excellent, and I've always loved the stories...
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Its not the final season it has at least 2 more and Sutter always has a plan
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Regarding the Joel McHale scenario in this episode, you said: "Was the arc important to the overall story? Not really."

It was important for the Gemma storyline, to make her look even weaker in our eyes, to give her storyline another reason why she f'ked up so badly at the end of this episode.
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tbh,any guy could have been McHale and do that to Gemma. very clean hit and run:P( if you know what I mean)
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Not going to mention that end because honestly I don't know what to think of it.

But who else held the breath for MINUTES for "our man" Unser: I really thought Clay would shoot him too and I'll be damned if he wasn't considering to do the finger-exercise.

Best line from Unser: "I put a nine in his skull because he kept comin' at me."
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sorry for saying this,but I do hope Abel is dead. Of course if this would be real live,I would never want this to happen to anyone, much less innocent kids( but let's face it, in real life some people drive drunk and under influence of some drugs and don't give a shit about hurting others . That said there are cases where some are ashamed of it and regret it ( I was in car accident,but I wasn't the driver. We were all drunk,young and stupid. No one died, but that is not the point. And it was no intention to get drunk and then drive...have no idea what happened, have no memory of accident...all I know it was stupid and 1 time thing. I am still friend with guy who was driving and I know he regrets what happened. If anyone is still reading this, kids,adults,who ever, NEVER drink and drive! If you do drink, get taxi or sober person to drive you or stay where you are or call your parents. Just no drinking and driving.



Back to SOA :

hope Abel dies, because for show that would be huge. Since alot of people watch this, they might think 2x before the drinking and driving or letting others drink and drive. Or in Gemma's case also drugs. If he only gets hurt, people might get wrong idea about whole thing and then this whole accident was for nothing.

As for Jax and Tara and other characters....storm like no other and show could really get even darker and maybe away from all CIA and all that and just focus on SAMCRO members. Don't know if next season is last, but some characters will die at some point,no? Thinking of mainly Gemma,since this whole accident, Clay is saying he lives on borrowed time:D As for others I also feel anyone could get off-ed.
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Nope, don't approve of children getting hurt. There's gotta be another way of keeping people's interest in a show. I just lost respect for the entire show. Kids are not to be touched.
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Its fucking TV! Of course kids get hurt too. As in other movies...get real
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your dumb. its just a tv show
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http://popgoesthearts.blogspot.ca/2012/10/sons-of-anarchy-5x07-review-gemma-hits.html
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Haha, I KNEW that you were gonna mention Lori from The Walking Dead because as soon as I saw that scene, I thought the exact same thing. Not just because of the stupid car crash, but because Gemma is now THE WORST. She'd ruin anything and sucks at everything. Like Lori. I find it quite funny that Sutter is turning his wife into such a hated character, heh.

I assume Gemma was tired because of the brief high she got earlier whilst hanging out with Unser at his crime scene. I predicted, as she was talking on the phone with Tara and smoking a doobie at the same time, that something stupid would happen. And voila!, she dozed off a bit while driving and may have killed one of her grandkids.

Joel McHale's story was pointless and it was written in JUST so Joel McHale could have a semi-humorous role on the show. I'm sure they'll show a clip of his beating on The Soup and an "employee" there would pop up and say they wish they could've been a part of it. That said, I didn't mind it. Every show has some filler -- at least SOA did it with someone I like, heh.

As for the drive-by, I'm inclined to think it was ordered by Clay. The truck wasn't inconspicuous -- it was ugly, loud, and huge -- so I'm assuming they weren't just tailing Jax and Chibs around waiting for a good shot. It may make a bit more sense that Clay had called some non-Pope-employee black dudes, paid them to stay around his house for a bit assuming that Jax would eventually come around, and upon Jax leaving, called the guys and told them to take out the bikers. If they fail, like they did, Jax and Chibs could see they were black and think all this was done by Pope. If they succeed and Jax is dead, Clay could take his throne back. Either way, Clay wins... so it makes sense that he's the man behind it.
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actually this accident made the show more believeable for me - it was completely ridiculous that she didn't harm the kids earlier
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Filthy Phil watched Gemma booze her way into the vehicle, which made me yell at the tv DON"T LET HER DRIVE PHIL!! Juice is make me mad, he could have said something. I thought Clay was going to shoot him or something. Joel McHale saying, "I guess I'm walking... funny. Would be nice if Frankie told the truth..and if they can leave Abel alive, losing Opie was too hard
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First, after the show, I went into my near 18 month daughters room and just touched her peaceful face while she slept.



No one else, (at least until my gut reaction from this episode ends) will be driving my kids anywhere. Ever. Especially my mother in law.



Great episode, great review.



1. I think he's cocky, thinking he has pulled the wool over everyone so often, he can keep it up.



2. Yes, but seriously, how far is the house from the club? Why was Gemma on a highway and not in town?



3. I think she's trying to avoid the bj.



4. Hmm, either Clay with someone looking on, or Jax. I vote the former.
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Not one of my favorites. Joel McHale did absolutley nothing for me, and I'm just getting sick to death of Gemma. At one point, I found her to be one of the most compelling characters, but she's been at her worse this year. As Mate said, it was all just very predictable. The only character I got any enjoyment out of was Unser of all people. This season just hasn't been doing it for me.
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Staff
Unser is the man!
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I have to say, I'm really glad I decided to quit watching this show. Just reading about it makes me exhausted...
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Been loving this season, but this ep left a weird taste in my mouth.



1: Joel McHale just for the kicks of it. You didn't seem to mind, but to me... it's weird. "I guess.. I'll just walk home then?". Let me know when community is back, but please be done on SOA because that was pointless. Took me out of the world of the show, and it was just oddly comical to see smits beating up mchale.



2. Really Gemma? I mean, I get they're making her spiral, but it's literally Lori from Walking Dead now. Nobody wants a character who is just acting stupid. They want a character that makes mistakes, sure, but not someone who does something stupid every episode. I get she fell asleep at the wheel because she's burned out..but seriously? Right now I only like her character when she's with unser. Has no chemistry with anyone else anymore.



The show always pushes the limits of believability, so it seems backwards that the most likely way of someone having an accident feels like it's unbelievable, but it's like they just have to off someone every episode to keep the quota up. It's a little overboard right now. Pregnant cop's wife dying, crazy carla's suicide, and little kid car accident..slow down a bit. You guys can build up to important deaths instead of just forcing one into every episode, you know.



/rant. Still an enjoyable episode, and I do still like the direction the season is going.
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I didn't hate McHale on the show at all as I'm a big fan, but yeah it did seem like two Hollywood guys having fun just for the sport of it. His role had no point, and it was definitely a part that any actor could have played. This is just Sutter showing off his toys to McHale...
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Let's wish - in the next episode Tara will die painful shocking death. then in 9 ep Chibs will hang himself. then in 10 ep Unser will burn alive. then survived toddler will explode on granade with bloody parts all over the room in 11 episode. Hey Sutter working for pure shock man?

I knew something would happen but I wasn't sure with whom - with Tara in cabin or with Gemma and kids or with Jax and Chibs. When Jax and Chibs got drive by I kinda relived but no it's not good enough. Kid should die. Why? What purpose of this? Here we go again two episodes of emotional hysteria and depression and anger. Did we have of it enough with Opie's death? Soap it is. you right Tim. Shock soap it is. And I'm kinda embarrased of what I'm watching. where did all clever drama go away?
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History is repeating itself. John and Gemma had two kids, one died tragically, the other went on to hate the club but becomes its president.



Jax and Tara have two kids, one will likely die tragically, the other will hate the club, but grow up to be president.



I can see the final episode of the series (season 7) showing the future Thomas, about 30 years old, taking the gavel from an older Jax. I would not even be surprised if one of Opies kids is best friends with Thomas and probably his VP or Sgt. of Arms.

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Good point. Well thought out.
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this show gets crazier each week, and i'm loving it
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Gemma has been a mess for a while now, but I didn't see her drinking or taking drugs leading up to taking the boys in her SUV. And while she may have drank enough the night before to feel cruddy waking up, I don't think it was a bad enough drunk to cause fainting the next night - UNLESS she has undiagnosed diabetes. Then everyone would feel so guilty after hating on her, then finding out it wasn't entirely her doings that hurt the boys.

But then again, the way Phil was watching her, maybe she was sneak-drinking. Could go either way with the crazy drama-roller-coaster this show's become.
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Good Idea!

Gemma is going to have a positive drug test so everyone will blame her - but in fact she had a diabetic episode - tragic, especially considering EVERYONE was smoking weed this episode.
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It had to be the weed she was smoking with Unser. Gemma's annoying, but she loves those grandkids too much that there's no way she would get drunk or smoke a lot AFTER getting the call from Tara.
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She was smoking up with Unser earlier that day.
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She can't get her head straight hours later after sucking down half a joint? I thought Gemma was a pro. Or that's some damn good weed.
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We are descending into an immense darkness. When a character lose himself/herself in the universe of Kurt Sutter, he/she won't come back.

I'm also suspecting that this crazy, painful, fantastic fifth season will be also my favourite. There's some huge stomach turning and a feeling that Gemma will get a very dark closure. Well, not only her.

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mistycold

''When a character lose himself/herself in the universe of Kurt Sutter, he/she won't come back.''



What about Juice?

I agree he's not the same anymore but he clearly came back from his suicide attempt.
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Exactly
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Agree x a billion
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I kind of hope this is the last season just so we can see it all come to a head and finally have resolution. After five years of such pain and emotion for both the fans and the characters I kind of want to have it stop just so I can stop crying about everybody dying.
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SoA has already been signed for seasons 6 & 7, if I'm remembering correctly.
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I've said it before and I'll probably still be saying it when this season ends looking at the way it's headed - they killed Opie for *this*? This season is a mess; it jumped the shark with the Walter Goggins episode and hasn't really recovered since then. I mean Gemma's behaviour without reasons, the way that Clay is *still* alive when he's obviously toxic to the club, the lack of revenge on Pope and the fact that Tig's redemption (at the expense of Opie) is for no particular reason.....Jax needs to grow a pair and clean house or Sutter needs to come clean to hardcore fans of the drama, (remember the old days ) and admit he's just trying to get it cancelled because he's bored.
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It's Walton, not Walter.

What is it about Gemma's behavior that you think needs an explanation? She has lost (dumped) her man and lost the respect of her son. Isn't that enough?

I agree that Clay should be dead.

They need to hit Pope hard before the season is over, but they can't do it yet. It doesn't bother me that they haven't done it yet, but they should at least be talking about it.
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Agree. Its a 13 episode season, everything needs to be timed. Jax cant just go out and do everything at once. One thing Kurt Sutter is is awesome at is the slow build that suddenly just smacks you in the face. Keep Faith everyone.
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I have in no way fallen out of love with the show, but it's starting to get ridiculous... like WWE ridiculous.



I fear my interest in the show will fade if Gemma and Clay are still around at seasons end; they have done entirely too much damage to the people around them and have (for the most part) gotten away with it. Sutter had the balls to kill Ope, and i hated him for it, but also applauded the decision to do something he knew would be unfavorable; however, if he fails to kill (or lock away) at least one of the two parentals after everything they've done, I feel as though I will no longer be able to take the show seriously. I don't expect Jax to kill his mother, but if he doesn't at least sever all ties with her, like i said previously, the show loses all believability to me.
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Have to say I completely agree with you; Opie's death was hurtful, but I waited to see what would be the payoff for such a huge character dying. Apparently nothing; Sutter seems to have hit the crazy juice as now one of Jax's own kids appears to bitten the dust and yet *still* he's fruitloop mother and toxic stepfather are *still* breathing....I'm fasting losing patience with this show. I have fallen out of love with it, I just don't want to end up hating it too.
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The show is essentially one long tragedy, so it makes sense that Sutter keeps the bad guys around and knocks off the good guys. It's painful to watch, but I suspect that's also what's so compelling to watch. We're a bunch of masochists.
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I guess being in a motorcycle gang isn't as much fun as I never thought it would be...
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Totally agree Tim. Like you said we wouldn't keep coming back if we were not enjoying it. I think everyone needs to have a little faith in Kurt Sutter. The mans a legend and story telling genius in my eyes.
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Oh it is day number 7 of Clay still being alive. Yes I said it again. Yes I am going to continue to do so until Sutter rectifies his error from last season and reestablishes the creed of the show.



That being said, aside from the black guy shooting at Jax. And maybe joel's short stint. This was fairly predictable. Gemma was bound to get someone killed and it looks like that might be Abel. And if it was before last years season finale I would have said tha in doing so she sealed her fate. But apparently bad things don't happen to really bad people anymore on the show. For examples see Opie and now Abel. Does it make the story tragic? Yes. But it is a cheap form of tragedy. We had tragedy before and it was done better.



As for clay. I would say your prediction might be correct. If pope wanted them dead he has ample resources and opportunities to do it. And his story lacks anyway due to Clay still being above ground. However the club has made a lot of enemies so something could be thrown n there just to try to break up Clay still living. An enemy they killed family member, Who knows it can be another lame side plot line like Abel's mom.



It was a good episode. I don't know if Sutter wants us to dislike Gemma and clay even more than we should already dislike them. I for one and not sure that is possible. I want them both dead. I want the creed of the story back. Where bad things happen to really bad people, and I agree I want the complexity back. This plot is fairly simple and it lacks the depth of season's past. It was enjoyable but I think the quality is off.
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I don't think the car accident was predictable at all. Gemma is kind of self-destructive, but she's no idiot, and she really cares about those kids. In the real world, I wouldn't expect someone like her to fall asleep at the wheel with the kids in the car.

I agree that Clay should be dead already. He was a good character, but he should have died when Opie shot him.
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It wasn't necessary the car accident that was predictable. It was Gemma either hurting herself or someone else that was. She is an addict and in a downward spiral so it was bound to happen. Also, with whomever was going to be dead or severely injured and have that be tragic, that was predictable.



It is no longer smart tragedy, it is there to catch the eye and be slightly shocking. Like with Carla, whom I thought would have been a great character and someone that could have put Gemma in her place. It all just seems like Sutter is trying to shock us for shock sake. It isn't smart, it isn't out of the blue and it isn't furthering the characters at all. The taking of Abel by the Irishman, thought widely not liked. It furthered the character of Jax and was tragic. This is no longer the same show.



And it all falls on the decision of keeping Clay alive.
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i'm really hoping juice turns around next episode and uses the info he has on clay to stop the club killing him. he'd be jax's bitch just like tig, but at least he'd be alive... although i'm not getting my hopes up.
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It was a relief that Tara didn't go see Otto during this episode. I believe they were implying she would have on her way to the cabin if Tig wasn't along with her. He all but said he'd hurt or kill her if she came back to try and convince him. The fact that she's hiding her intentions from Jax seems to back this up. This is where the real tension is in these last few episodes.
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"How long do we give Frankie Diamonds now that he's the last Nomad on the run? Will Clay get to him first, or will Jax?"

-They'd have to go a long way to convince me that either one of them could kill Chuck Zito.
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I don't even know what to say about this episode. Damn, that was an ending. I really did think that of anyone on the show, the kids were untouchable. Sure we're not 100% sure what happened yet, but with Abel already having a bad heart......wow.



I agree with your assessment as far as overarching storylines are concerned. On one hand it's a little sad to not see the complex plots, but it does make each episode more enjoyable.
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