We're into the second half of the season now and "Los Fantasmas" feels like an episode designed to put a lot of pieces into position for bigger plays to come. The school shooting returns in a major way, Gemma begins formulating her next steps in light of Tara's betrayal, Nero makes a big decision with unexpected consequences and Jax bares his soul to Tara in a would-be heart-wrenching moment that's arguably too little and unquestionably too late.

There was a lot of reacting here, combined with a lot of talking about what to do next, which made the whole installment oddly stagnant despite the requisite big (and very bloody) action moments. Those came courtesy of a vengeful father who runs over a Byz Lat and stabs himself in the throat. This, apparently, is the way "Sons" is bringing the school shooting back to the forefront (and gratuitously slip in some photos of dead kids, despite wisely opting not to show the actual shooting back in the season premiere).

Nero was ready to confess to everything (his Catholic guilt is all consuming, apparently; plus he would have found some security for his son in the process), but once Patterson realizes exactly what the father's motivation was for both the murder and suicide, she feels some degree of guilt for leaking the story about the Byz Lats involvement in gun running (you can practically hear Kurt Sutter screaming off camera: "She's got blood on her hands now too, see!"). She'll no longer accept Nero's bogus confession. She wants SAMCRO or bust.

Meanwhile, Tara's bizarre plot against Gemma is already threatening to blow up in her face. Gemma remains surprisingly calm after the fact, but she's quietly amassing a slew of supporters (Unser, Wendy, even Roosevelt) who realize that as awful as Gemma is, she's not kick-her-pregnant-daughter-in-law-square-in-the-stomach awful. Both Unser and Lowen try to talk sense into Tara, who is clearly rattled by everything herself judging by her bathroom breakdown, but she's chosen her path and she's sticking to it. But that conversation with Bobby Elvis about how lost Jax would be without her had to be unsettling. Tara's betrayal is going to hurt Jax, no doubt, but did she realize how much it would hurt the rest of SAMCRO too?

Then, like clockwork, Jax (no doubt motivated by what he assumes is the loss of his unborn daughter) begs for Tara to forgive his trespasses. "I sometimes wish you'd come back five years sooner. Or five years later. I'm lost here Tara. I'm trying to put it back together but I don't know if I can," he says in their closing conversation. The question looming large over the rest of the season is will Jax ever be able to forgive those who trespass against him?

Odds and ends:

- Jax asks Barosky what happened with Alice's body and Barosky reports she was "chopped, burned and buried." He also promises no one will find out, unless Jax gives him a reason. Given Jax's inner turmoil and increased pressure from Patterson, it's still possible Barosky will turn, but he proved himself a particularly loyal rat tonight.

- It's disappointing to see Wendy fall back into old habits, although at least we were reminded that the last time she used was when Jax literally slammed a needle into her arm. Now her involvement with Tara's scheme seems to have triggered this latest lapse. Do we need any more proof that SAMCRO and Charming are toxic to the core?

- No sight of Clay at all tonight. His diminished role this season has been both welcome and frustrating. It was time for the old troublemaker to take a step back, but the show also feels strangely out of balance without him. Maybe that's the point. Instead of rolling our eyes about why no one's killed him yet, we have a chance to actually miss his presence. It won't be surprising if he roars back to life either in the remainder of this year or once we get to the final season.

- Juice didn't even flinch when the car came barreling toward him. Dude is seriously messed up, but we've seen so little of him this season it's easy to forget that's a card the show is keeping in its back pocket.

- A lighter moment in an episode that needed one: Bobby Elvis stepping up as "manager of operations" to interview potential Cara Cara girls.

- Unser's torch for Gemma will never die: "You've got a lot of love in you Gemma, sweet deep love. But it's so wrapped around secrets and hate I don't know if you can find it any more."

- Next week's episode brings a return to the dreaded 90 minute run time. Its title, "John 8:32," is a rather famous Bible verse ("Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"). Hmm...