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Sons of Anarchy Recap: Torture Porn and an Unexpected Shooting

Hello, I'm Joanna Robinson and I'll be your Sons of Anarchy recapper this season. Yesterday, I wrote this article on Sons of Anarchy's ten most violent moments and it was a pleasure to see some of you in the comments. I'm going to write about each episode this season by breaking it down into ten points. So let us begin with last night's episode, titled "Straw."

First Things First, Who Was That Kid? 
The episode opened with the typical Jax Teller voice-over, but instead of Charlie Hunnam’s face we saw that little blond moppet. I know many people were reporting that a young Jax Teller would feature in this episode and the dissolve from the kid’s face to Hunnam’s only reinforced that impression. But that kid, that angelic-looking kid, was actually the son of Primo’s old lady. Who’s Primo? Who is his old lady? Good questions. Primo is played by Dave Navarro and he showed up in the last two episodes of season five. He’s one of Nero’s men. His old lady was only seen briefly in this episode and was played by Samaire Armstrong (The O.C.). How do we know? In an early scene, the kid leaves his mother’s house and is greeted by Primo who ruffles his hair and calls him “mijo” or "mi hijo" (son). I have other theories as to the symbolic nature of that kid, but that’s the literal explanation. It can only mean trouble for Nero when the cops start investigating that gun.

Persia Hasn’t Been a Country Since 637 A.D. 
Peter Weller, a.k.a. Robocop, has joined the cast as Charlie, a port boss from Stockton. I loved that line of his about Persia because it nicely undercut some of the casual racism (“Zero Dark Sh*thead”) that often runs through Sons. (And was a nice subtle shout-out to Weller's real-life art history Ph.D.) Charlie is a shot caller and I’m sure will have his fingers in a lot of different doughnuts this season, but chiefly, in this episode, he helps draw Nero further into the world of criminal activity and introduces both Jax and Nero to a Stockton madame.

Oh, Man, Joanie Finally Got Her Own Whorehouse
The other important new character we met this episode was Colette, played by Kim Dickens (Deadwood, Friday Night Lights, Treme). It looks like she’ll be engaging in business with Jax and Nero and, well, pleasure with Jax. I have to wonder if this whorehouse plotline will draw in Opie’s ex Lyla Winston, who was brutally beaten in this episode and obviously desperate for work. I could see her fitting into Colette’s world quite nicely. (Not you, Irma, nobody likes you.) I also want to give a brief nod to the character name of Colette. Kurt Sutter has shown a fondness for classical names (Pope, Nero, Dante) and naming his madame after the turn-of-the-century author of books about courtesans (Gigi, Cheri, etc.) is pretty cute.   

Nothing’s Going to Stop Lee Toric
Donal Logue is back, as promised, and looks to be the biggest threat to the MC. Driven by his desire for vengeance over the death of his sister, Toric is, at the moment, the most Shakesperean character on the show. Note the composition of the scene between Clay and Toric. Donal Logue’s face is bathed in a ghostly light, giving him a spectral appearance. But though we should be sympathetic to Toric, it’s hard to back a man who engineers prison rape (oh, Otto, will it ever end?), threatens innocent women, and has such an unstable relationship with narcotics. As much as I adore Logue, I was not prepared for that final shot.

Bobby Elvis Is Trying to Get the Nomad Band Back Together
Last season Bobby Elvis patched out of SAMCRO in protest over what went down with Clay and, according to Juice, he’s trying to resurrect the Nomad crew. It looks like Chibs is relishing his newfound position as VP in Bobby’s absence, but what would a rival MC led by Bobby mean for SAMCRO? Would he win Juice over to his side?

Tig Is Still Working Through His Daddy Issues
Listen, don’t pull on Superman’s cape, don’t call Marty McFly a chicken, and don’t mention “daughters” to Tig. Because you’re liable to be drowned in a vat of piss and vinegar. That’s certainly the fate that befell that Jean Ralphio–looking Ghanezi brother. I don’t know about you, but I too enjoy singing some Otis Redding after dumping a body in the bay. He may have disposed of the body, but Tig isn’t out of the woods. August Marks made it clear to Jax that once they had handled the Clay problem, he still expected to take out Tig “for Pope’s family.” I hope not, man, because Kim Coates is an absolute treasure.  

Rat Patrol
And so, because of Lee Toric’s influence, we get to see the true measure of both Tara and Clay. Both have been ingrained with this philosophy, this mandate that you do not rat. No matter what. And despite being offered WITSEC and a chance to be reunited with her boys, Tara stays firm. (Though good job admitting to a felony on-camera, Tara.) Clay, of course, has less reason to feel loyal to the MC. They framed him for murder and he was not only betrayed by Jax, but also by Juice and Gemma, the two people he was closest to. Because of August Marks, Clay also faces more danger in County than Tara. (“Black rook takes white pawn.”) But it looks an awful lot like he’s going to rat on SAMCRO. Or is this a long con? We’ll see.

Religious Imagery
Kurt Sutter has always relied on religious iconography and this episode was no different. From the revenant Gregorian chants that accompanied Lee Toric shooting up to Colette in Mary Magdalene’s iconic pose, bent over Jax’s feet to, well, the climactic sequence at a Catholic school. What’s the meaning behind all this imagery? Devotion, faith, zealotry take many forms. For some, it’s Biblical; for others, it’s addiction, prostitution, violence. This is the world we’re in. The world of Anarchy.

The Mothers of Anarchy
Family has always been such a strong theme in this show. But in this episode, the mothers were a highlight. (And no wonder, given the ending.) While it’s a relief to discover that it wasn’t Gemma who turned Tara in, you can’t argue with Ally Lowen’s assessment that there’s very little Jax’s mother “wouldn’t do to keep those boys.” (Side note: How wonderful is Robin Weigert as the MC’s lawyer?) And, of course, Gemma isn’t just a mother to Jax and a grandmother to Tommy and Abel, she’s also the figurative mother of the MC.

What kind of mother is she? The kind who looks away when Chibs is beating the stuffing out of Juice. Boys will be boys. Tara’s primary anguish stems from her separation from her children, and we even got a visit from Wendy who relinquished any claim over the boys in order to protect herself. Is that the end of Drea De Matteo? What an unsatisfactory exit. Finally, we got, in Colette, the most maternal sex figure in the show’s history. Jax is turned on by watching her do laundry and making the bed and, if you had any doubt, look for the classy mirrored utterance of “suck dick” by both Gemma and Colette.

The Sons of Anarchy
But even if mothers were highlighted in this episode, it was the sons who mattered most. Most of the action whirled around Abel and Tommy Teller, Nero’s kid, Jax himself and his double, that little angelic devil. The constant concern driving much of the show is the taking up of a father’s violent mantle. Jax didn’t want to become his father or, rather, his stepfather. But here he his. Tara is desperate to protect her sons from repeating their father's mistake. And even Nero looks askance at that seemingly harmless toy gun. But it’s that BlondBoy who demonstrates the true corruptive force of this anarchic world.

Some are calling this the most violent episode in the history of Sons of Anarchy and even more people are claiming that Kurt Sutter has crossed a line and they're done with the show. But in an un-Sutter move, the action of the school shooting takes place off-camera. Distant screams, a spatter of blood, and flashes of gunfire are our only indication. In fact, the graphic images of the Stockton torture porn set were more objectively upsetting. And for a show that revels in turning our stomachs for fun and for profit, this seemed like a very different kind of violent intention. Kurt Sutter has said over and over that he wants to show the consequences of the life the MC has chosen. Opie’s death and Tara’s imprisonment? Those stakes aren’t high enough, apparently. How will the MC react to this event? Sutter has also stated that this is the moment that sets in motion the final two seasons. Will this be enough to stop the brothers in their tracks? They’ve seen so much, they must be inured to violence by now. We’ve seen so much, why would flashes, spatters, and screams be a deal-breaker for us, the viewer? Well in a post- Columbine, post–Sandy Hook world, a distant scream is all it takes.

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX