After last week's stunning, brutal and divisive installment, it would've been a surprise to see "Sons of Anarchy" deliver a follow-up quite as memorable. But I wasn't expecting an episode that felt so... hollow.
There were two major things that needed to be achieved in "Stolen Huffy": send off Opie in a fitting way and keep the story moving forward. While the hour attempted both, the results were merely OK.
First of all, for anyone with lingering questions as to why exactly Opie sacrificed himself last week, Jax has an answer: "I think Opie's been looking for a way out since Donna died. He's never been right since. He went out a warrior," he informs the club as he breaks the news in a meeting. So, there you go.
After not being mentioned at all last week, Opie's kids get a single shout out this week when Lyla tells Jax she's concerned she can't raise three children on her own. It still feels like the show has conveniently dropped how important Opie's kids were to him, and we're supposed to buy that the combined effects of Piney's death, Jax's decision to protect Clay and the lingering damage from Donna's murder caused him to throw in the towel for good. I'm willing to go along with that, but I wish there was a better attempt at convincing us Opie felt like he had nothing left to live for, instead of simply ignoring the kids and hoping we won't really notice.
It's also a bit odd that the most emotional response to Opie's death comes from Gemma, who hears the news from Clay when she tries to blame him for the raid on Nero's place. Gemma's break down is a showy moment for Katey Sagal. Unfortunately, the sequence doesn't play as anything deeper or more moving than that. Gemma's briefly back in Clay's arms for a bit of solace (yuck, let's not go there), before pushing away and processing the news on her own. The "Jesus Christ, what the hell's happening to us?" line is a good one, but doesn't sit entirely right coming from someone as hardened and ruthless as Gemma. Why isn't Tara asking that? And demanding that Jax see his best friend's death as a wake up call that life is too short for this MC b.s.?
Writer Chris Collins and director Paris Barclay did a better job mining emotion from Opie's death with the climactic funeral sequence, scored to Greg Holden's "The Lost Boy," and those haunting shots of Ryan Hurst lying in the casket. Still, the episode barely scratched the surface of what this loss really meant to anyone in SAMCRO. Any hopes that the demise of Opie would somehow kick the show up a notch evaporated pretty quickly here.
Finding closure in Opie's death is important for the characters and the fans, but the show also needs to push forward into the future and start showing us what Opie's exit means for Jax and the club. Instead of that, much of "Stolen Huffy" was occupied with the fallout from last week's raid on Nero's establishment. Most of Nero's crew assume out of town prostitute Emma Jean (Ashley Tisdale) reported them to vice after Gemma punched her lights out. They want her dead, and Jax winds up on a mission from Nero to save her life. It's a rather uneventful subplot -- hinging on protecting the life of a character we don't know and don't really care about -- that eats up a significant chunk of screen time. At least it leads to the payoff of Jax and Nero officially getting into business together when Jax offers him the opportunity to "manage" the Cara Cara girls' high-end escort work. Jax also uses the meeting to forbid Nero from hooking up with Gemma. (Jimmy Smits' "You sure that's a business request, not some twisted mommy thing?" was one of the best lines of the night.)
Gemma gave Nero another reason to stop seeing her when she goaded Tara into laying a smackdown on Carla (a.k.a. "Dora the Whorer"). It was almost sweet, in a demented way, that Gemma realized Tara needed an outlet for all of her frustrations. Gemma's general disdain for Carla simply made the situation a win-win. But combined with Gemma's continued meddling in the ongoing battle between Tara and Wendy, there's just far too much manipulative Gemma this season and not enough of any other side to balance it out. Also, we've now had two major catfights in two weeks. I get that "Sons" is actively drawing parallels between Tara and Gemma, but someone better rein this in before they go too far into "Dynasty" territory.
That's pretty much the extent of major events in "Stolen Huffy," which overall felt weirdly ambivalent about fully engaging with Opie's death. Maybe there are just too many balls in play right now, but if there was ever a moment to pause, dig a little deeper and explore how the characters are feeling after a major crisis this would've been it. I guess that's just not how "Sons" rolls.
Odds and ends:
- No sightings of Damon Pope this week but we're reminded that the club fears him ("He could kill with a phone call as easy as a bullet," according to Bobby Elvis) and that Jax believes playing nice with Pope will keep their black rivals off their backs. Or at least that's how he justifies the decree that there will be no retaliation for Opie's murder.
- Isn't it a little creepy that Jax told Lyla she'll find a way to make it as a single mom right before he told Nero the only way the Cara Cara girls can make a decent living is through prostitution?
- For all of this episode's problems, Charlie Hunnam's performance remained commanding throughout. With Ron Perlman relegated to the background, Hunnam is more than ever the show's solo leading man and his work has grown in tandem with the demands of the role.
- Out of context line of the night: "I want a thumb and a tit."
What did you think of this week's episode?
Everything: Sons of Anarchy
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