Sons of Anarchy Recap: You Do Not Ride Alone

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Photo: FX
Sons of Anarchy
Episode Title
Some Strange Eruption
Season
7
Episode
5
Editor’s Rating
4/5

In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Horatio visits with watchmen in the middle of the night, waiting to see the ghost of the king that the watchmen have reported. He does, and says with shock, “… in the gross and scope of my opinion, / This bodes some strange eruption to our state.”

It’s nighttime in Charming. The prince has become the king, and war is underway. “Some Strange Eruption” shows Jax continuing to see what he wants, blinded by misplaced rage. By the end of the episode, it’s night — dark and mysterious — and everyone is on the edge of a waking hour that’s certain to conjure ghosts and more revenge.

As “Some Strange Eruption” opens, the carnage from the massacre at Diosa is still fresh. Jax sits on a couch, eyes cold, dragging on a cigarette. Dead bodies surround him. Jax’s apparent calm at the blood on his hands is palpable, but we still know that this — even though this calm turns into “calculated” rage and violence — is still just the relative calm before the real storm hits, when he finds out the truth, whenever that might be. While I had hoped that this was all a plan and he’d actually known it was Gemma all along, “Some Strange Eruption” makes it clear that Jax is confident that the Chinese killed Tara. So confident, he finally tells Nero that it was the Chinese who killed Tara, and that’s why he’s “going to destroy Lin.”

Nero questions him, saying that he can’t be sure that it was the Chinese. Jax says, “Gemma saw two of his guys leaving my house that night. She I.D.’d one of them at the party … Lin ordered the hit on my wife.” Nero immediately utters, “Jesus Christ,” taking Gemma’s word for gospel, just as Jax obviously has. Jax tells him that he’s going to have to decide which side he’s going to fight on, and Nero says, “I’m tired of fighting.” He’s not tired enough, though; he chooses the Sons. He’s exhausted and afraid, but his connection to Gemma — and in turn, Jax — keeps him coming back to SAMCRO.

Later, Sheriff Jarry says to Unser, “It’s time for you to make a choice. Which side of the table are you sitting on?” We’re still not sure, and it seems like Unser isn’t, either. Like Nero, his love for Gemma keeps him pulled in with the outlaws.

Unser starts piecing together recent events. (For Jarry? For himself? For SAMCRO?) Wendy tells him about getting a ride with Nero when “a Chinese guy pulled us over … He was looking for Jax, pissed, said they stole his guns … Do you think that has something to do with what happened at Diosa?” We know that Wendy’s not a Gemma-level war criminal, but it’s disappointing that she hadn’t put those pieces together yet. 

As the Chinese/Diosa pieces are being put together, Juice is still falling apart. He ventures out of his hotel room to get a candy bar (again, so cleverly disguised in a black hoodie and hat, even though an APB is out on him), and an Asian man follows him back to his room. When the man comes into Juice’s room later (he has a key), Juice hits him in the head, and as the man is running away, Juice shoots him, and shoots him some more when his dead eyes are “staring” at him. “Don’t look at me,” he says as he shoots the dead body. Gemma and Unser come in and see the bloody mess.

Unser says, “Oh, God help us.” Much like Nero’s earlier “Jesus Christ,” these utterances of sacred desperation signal that Unser and Nero are struggling with the world that they’re finding themselves in. Unser sees that the man had a set of master keys because he worked at the hotel and thought Juice had checked out (the room was only paid through the day before). Juice looks at the body with no remorse.

Unser asks Gemma, “Why’s he scared of the Chinese, Gem? What did he mean by ‘We did this’?” Gemma tells Unser that the Chinese killed Tara, and Unser offers to stay behind and clean up the mess. He’s left in a bloody room with a dead body. Between Wendy and Gemma’s admissions, Unser is left with new information about the SAMCRO/Triad war. However, the “We did this” should also tell him something more.

“I’m just here to help,” Unser later tells Sheriff Jarry after she thanks him for giving her the heads up about about the club’s vengeance against the Chinese. Unser is still trying to help everyone, but certainly, he can’t do that forever. He’s a dying man in love with a killer. What does he have to lose?

Nero sets up the Chinese, leading them to the warehouse where Jax and Chibs wait with heroin, and assure Lin — with guns pointed at their heads — that Marks was the one who had ordered all of the hits. Lin and his crew (a whole “army” of them, as Nero warned him he’d need one) take Jax and Chibs, as Jax promises that they can all find a way to work together.

Dirty Stockton cops come to the Sons’ rescue. They tie up everyone except Lin, whom Jax wants to deal with. He kicks him and says that killing his wife was a big mistake: “This isn’t the way I wanted to do this, Henry. I wanted it to be much slower, much smarter …” Lin denies everything, but jackets come off, and he and Jax fight. The hopes we had at the beginning of the season — that Jax was smarter than this — are crushed.

Perhaps tired of the revenge games, Bobby says,“We don’t have time for this.” Jarry tips Chibs off that the “real” cops are on their way. They pull Jax — who has clearly lost control — away.

The Sons ride away, and Lin, confused, asks, “What the hell was that?” The “real” cops come, and there’s enough heroin and guns to arrest Lin and his men. Jax and his crew aren’t satisfied, though; they drive by and shoot some of Lin’s other men in the middle of the street. It’s night now, and nothing is smart or slow.

Gemma has taken Juice away. He sleeps most of the ride, and Gemma starts heading south, her gun in her purse. When Juice wakes up and wonders about the direction, Gemma says that there’s been a change of plans: “Nero will be helping us. We can trust him.” She says that he’s set them up with a former coyote who can get Juice into Mexico.

Juice immediately knows she’s lying and slowly unfolds his realization to Gemma: “Remember Darvany? I’m the one who killed her … Jax’s order.” He says that he’d confessed to Nero when he almost overdosed, and that is why the club wants him dead. “I betrayed our king.”

He knows Nero wouldn’t help him, and as Gemma goes for her gun, he fights her, and her SUV runs off the road in a familiar scene. They struggle out of the vehicle, and Juice points a gun at her. On her knees in the woods, Gemma cries, admitting she didn’t know what else to do besides kill him, because she couldn’t trust him. She begs and cries as he holds a gun to her head. 

The Forest Rangers’ “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” plays hopefully in the background. The Age of Aquarius, ostensibly ushered in during Hair, is “dawning” in Sons of Anarchy; while the astrological age promises “love, brotherhood, unity, and integrity,” the current system must fall apart — even chaotically — to bring in a new age. But it’s dark outside, and the promise of sunshine coming in seems false. 

At Red Woody’s, kids and pornographers play checkers and drink soda-pop, laughing and hiding from the threats on the outside. The women at Diosa felt safe too, though.

Jax is outside slaughtering and continuing to set up wars, riding back into Charming with his boys. Gemma is on her knees, threatened by the one who knows her secret, the one who is unhinged. The guilt of the mother and the guilt of the son are destructive forces, leaving piles of dead bodies in a true Shakespearean denouement.

In his essay “Hamlet and His Problems,” T.S. Eliot agrees that “the essential emotion of the play is the feeling of a son towards a guilty mother.” It’s only a matter of time before Gemma’s truth is unwound and the emptiness of Jax’s destructive revenge is revealed.

Like Horatio, we sense the pending eruption. This episode does well in keeping our tensions rising and creating frustration as we wait for the truth to be revealed (much like the frustration we feel as Hamlet whines and dawdles). Jax — prince and king, father and child — has quit brooding and started acting.

Toward the beginning of the episode, Jax says to Bobby, “The rest of you should split. I got this.”

Bobby replies, “You do not ride alone.”

However, Jax has been riding alone this whole time, compelled by ghosts and a guilty mother, riding toward the dark, riding toward a Charming that he’s quickly destroying.

Nomad Cuts

• Oh, Abel. I’ve chosen to believe that Abel is a sociopath with a flat affect and therefore is being played perfectly. This episode shows Abel at a breaking point, wielding a hammer and hitting a wall, saying that he’s protecting his brother and demanding to go home. His violent outburst mirrors his father’s.

• Tig’s threat of an un-lubed flute squeaks out a confession from a pawnshop owner whom Barosky had working overnights at the dock (he left his post and West was killed). “Sorry, boys, it’s just really hard to find people you trust these days,” Barosky says after he shoots the “greedy shithead” in the forehead.

• Chibs and Jarry have taken their relationship to the next level. It’s unclear whether it’s real or simply mutually beneficial, but sweet nothings on the docks (“I don’t want you hurt by this”; “Be safe”) are a bit too soap-opera for these two hardened characters.

• There are multiple times in this episode where Jax appears as a child — whether he’s being scolded by Nero or questioned by Jarry, he avoids eye contact and takes petulant drags on his cigarette. Like Abel, Jax is just swinging his hammer recklessly, and has seemed to abandon hopes of being “smart and slow” like he might have started out wanting.

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