'Sons of Anarchy' - 'Oiled': Pinata party
A review of tonight's "Sons of Anarchy" coming up just as soon as I get too godly for my collar...
"Even if I'm the devil, wouldn't be the first time you shook my hand, Wayne." -Jacob Hale
A lot of devils' hands to be shook in "Oiled," which introduces new alliances, new enemies and new locales and invites us all to keep up as best we can.
After a brief glimpse of Belfast during the "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" montage last week, we spend an extended period of time there, getting to know Maureen, the woman Cameron left Abel with, and Father Kellan Ashby, who isn't so godly for his collar that he can't double as a leader of the local IRA faction. And we see that Ashby and Jimmy O, while members of the same organization, don't have the same agenda, as the priest defies Jimmy's orders to keep things quiet and arranges for the very public display of Cameron's body.
Jacob offers Unser a deal to pick his successor, and after the carnage of season two and the season three premiere, you can see Wayne beginning to recognize that Jacob, while selfish and untrustworthy, has a point about his old arrangement with SAMCRO seeming more obsolete and dangerous all the time.
We learn that the group who shot up the wake were members of an MC in nearby Lodi who are about to be swallowed up by the Mayans, presenting another potential war for the Sons at the worst possible moment. And we also meet the representatives of the friendly African-American MC in Lodi, the Grim Bastards (led by Michael Beach from "Third Watch").
Tig hooks up with Gemma's father's nurse Amelia, but things get awkward when Nate shoots Tig in a fit of dementia, Amelia figures out that Gemma is a fugitive with a large reward attached, and Gemma has to make her a prisoner.
And then there's that new Jax/Clay alliance I talked to last week. Jax began the series feeling ambivalent about the culture of violence that had built up around SAMCRO. Now he's the angriest, most violent Son of them all, and Clay continues to cultivate that. As Clay tells Bobby - who sees what's happening between stepfather and stepson, and isn't the least bit comfortable with it - "I'm helping him through it."
After the intense grief and then shockingly violent climax of "So," "Oiled" is a more purely expositional episode. It still has time for vintage "Sons" touches like the way the Sons treat the leader of the rival MC, but mainly the episode has to lay out much of the complicated web the characters are going to make their way through over the course of this third season. So it wasn't as gripping - in particular, our lack of knowledge of the Ashby/Jimmy O dynamic and Jimmy O's much-discussed plan makes it hard at this point to really grab onto the Belfast/IRA scenes, despite the presence of strong actors like Titus Welliver and Paula Malcomson - but it was necessary. Now we know most of the players, and the stakes, and we'll get to see if Jax is right when he worries that "It's gonna get a lot worse before it gets better."
Knowing the way this show, and this MC, rolls, is there any way Jax's words aren't prophetic?
Some other thoughts on "Oiled":
• I know Unser has always been lenient on the Sons, but letting Jax walk out of jail after beating a man half to death in front of a bunch of cops and a few dozen other witnesses? That's the sort of thing that feels more appropriate to the last show where Dayton Callie played a frontier lawman.
• Speaking of Sons avoiding prosecution, Unser reminds the Sons, and us, that Zobelle's daughter had a gun on her when Gemma shot her, which seems to be laying the groundwork for how Gemma will avoid the one murder charge if/when the Sons manage to get Stahl to recant on the other one. Of course, we know that the Polly shooting wasn't in any way self-defense, but I imagine by the time that mess unravels itself, it won't much matter.
• Another unlikely alliance: Margaret the hospital administrator reaches out to Jax to try to keep Tara from quitting. I didn't like the show's use of Margaret last season as a strawman villain, the cliched administrator who's just there to make the doctors' jobs harder, so I was pleased to see her get some more humanity here - to tell Tara, even as the bruises on her own face are still fresh, that whatever their personal issues are, this podunk hospital needs a doctor of her talents - but I almost wonder if the scene with Jax took things too far in the other direction.
• Think we're ever going to find out why Tig is so scared of dolls?
• Got a big kick out of Chuck's fingerlessness being a useful distraction in a hospital setting, and also Juice's reaction to their bounty hunter friend's target getting hit by a car. ("Damn hybrids! Dangerous!")
• Because of all the drama both characters have been going through for the last season-plus, it's rare that we get to see a Jax/Gemma conversation that's relatively light and playful, but it's nice to be reminded of the grown-up relationship of equals the two have.
• Though Opie has mostly found peace and happiness with Lyla, it's clear from his reaction to seeing her video at the porn shop that he's still not entirely right with his old lady's profession.
• This week's songs included "Into They Hands" by The Celtic Rangers, "Nasty Girls" by Fiona Locke and "Sincerely" by The Maguire Sisters.
What did everybody else think?