Sons of Anarchy Recap: Piles of Bodies

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Photo: FX
Sons of Anarchy
Episode Title
What a Piece of Work Is Man
Season
4
Episode
5
Editor’s Rating
4/5

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.” —Hamlet, II.2

“This is just a Band-Aid. ‘Til I can fix it permanently,” Jax promises Loutreesha when he says that having Marks arrested is the only way to stop him. While Jax acts as if his grand plans are just now starting to unravel, his revenge-fueled journey has been fueled by misstep after bloody misstep as the Sons frantically attempt to put Band-Aids over the scars. And it’s not working.

When Jax meets Marks — both with their agreed-upon trades — Bobby is dragged out, barely able to walk after he’s been further beaten and broken. There’s no bandage over where his eye was, and the gaping socket is left bare to the air, an enormous, raw wound. When the Band-Aid comes off, the wound is still there.

“Easy, easy, easy,” Marks tells him. “You’re almost home.” Then he shoots Bobby in the head. In one of the most heartbreaking moments this season, Bobby is gone in a flash. The last of the old guard and, arguably, the last of the non-reactionaries (although it seems like Chibs is trying) is gone. Sweet, salty Bobby is gone. When the wound is revealed, all is lost.

Marks immediately points the gun and Jax’s head and says, “This is on you, Jackson. Your betrayal. Never lie to me again.” Instead, Jax puts the pieces together for the DA: Loutreesha’s signed statement and the location of the pastor’s body. In what may have been Jax’s most clever move this season, the body presented to Marks was the pastor’s head and parts of another dead man’s body (the mass grave in the forest: the gift that keeps on giving). The fact that most of the pastor was still on the construction site gave the Sons leverage that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. His commitment to Loutreesha and Grant helps Jax to convince himself he’s still a good man, although even he is not so sure about that anymore.

No sane viewer would ever see Jax as a blameless victim, as he is indeed a tragic antihero, led astray yet responsible. However, we also know whose betrayal and lies are at the root of this suffering — Gemma and Juice, both in their own prisons, literal and figurative.

When Gemma identifies a mug shot of Charlie Dunn (the man whom Gemma identified and Jax killed in the first episode of the season), Sheriff Jarry questions her about what she has shared with Juice, since he seems to know so much. “What’s that got to do with me?” Gemma snaps, as she asks or implies so often. “I’m just trying to connect the dots here,” Jarry replies.

She finds that Dunn had been arrested in another state the night the murder happened. When she presents Unser with this information, he immediately says to pull Juice’s deal and get him in solitary. He wants to isolate Juice to keep him from killing Lin, thus throwing off the Sons’ plans. Unser says that Gemma would just say she made a mistake, that “all Chinese look alike.” (Unser’s love for Gemma is cracking and fading as the story unfolds.) “Don’t let them know we’re on to the lie,” he says. “Let’s see where this leads us.”

Instead of taking the implicating evidence against Marks to District Attorney Patterson, Chibs suggests they take it to Jarry, to “keep it close.” In this moment, Jax is standing above the blood-stained ground, fresh from Bobby’s death. Bobby’s body is being loaded into the van, replacing the pieced-together body they gave Marks. Chibs is fighting tears, and appears to be losing the tenuous trust he’d had in Jax. It’s getting to be too much. “I don’t like this, Jackie,” he tells him as they meet Marks. Nor should he.

Chibs gives Jarry the evidence: “August Marks, heir to Pope. Killed a pastor. Threatening him and his family, using their church as a housing scheme.” Jax tells Gemma that Marks killed Bobby in retaliation for them going after the Chinese. Lie after lie.

Jax’s lie to Gemma, though — that Bobby is dead resulting from them going after the Chinese — may serve to push her over the edge. She stares ahead, more blood on her hands. At night, over Bobby’s body (before he’s buried near the cabin), she cries, “I’m so sorry, Bobby. I had no idea. I couldn’t see all this … please forgive me.” Abel — watched by no one — watches from afar as his grandmother confesses again.

As the elder Redwood Originals have died brutal deaths at the hands of one another or their enemies, a new, unstable guard rises. Jax has not proven himself as a reasonable leader — letting his revenge for Tara and his blind love and trust for his mother pull him off track. Ratboy is taking a more prominent role; when he hears Unser tell Gemma about Juice giving up Dunn, he says to her, sternly, “Jax is going to need you to identify Dunn.” He then snaps at Brooke and tells her to get out of the room.

“You don’t need details about Juice,” he says to Gemma. “Just know it’s to help the club.” It’s jarring to hear this young kid order Brooke and Gemma around — especially Gemma, the “aggressive matriarch” of the club, who takes orders from no one. She quickly corrects his treatment of Brooke. She says, “Don’t buy into the myth — that to wear the patch you gotta treat women like shit. When it comes to finding a good old lady, you don’t get what you want, Rat. You get what you are. Don’t be a dick.” 

In Sons of Anarchy — as in Shakespeare’s plays — one of the ways we can read characters is by how they treat women. If they are dicks, we are to mistrust them and see them as unsympathetic. Ratboy later tells Brooke that he’s trying. “I’m not a dick,” he promises, after explaining that he’s trying to figure out how to “do both — be SAMCRO and be in love with someone.” “I’m afraid I’m going to mess up both,” he adds. Foreshadowing? Brooke also reminds us in this scene that she struggles with bipolar disorder. Ratboy and Brooke, who represent next-generation Son and Old Lady, are on unstable ground; we mustn’t forget that the accident that killed John Teller also killed Brooke’s mother. It is rare for a daughter to avenge her mother’s death in drama, but the women of Sons of Anarchy have historically been powerful, complex characters. The attention given to Brooke and Ratboy in this episode is significant.

Jax and Chibs sit down with Indian Hills, and Jax confidently tells them that they don’t have all the intel. He explains that Jury had just reunited with his son, and “found him dead.” “Had to be the Chinese,” he says. The new Indian Hills president says he saw differently and needs to hold a forum. It’s refreshing to see a character not take Jax’s word for gospel; there are too many holes in his story about Jury. Chibs — who also seems to be doubtful of Jax — tells him when they are alone that he has to prove Jury spoke to Lin. It sounds as if the plan is to record Tulley talking with the “rat bastard.”

Juice has been passed a shiv inside, and he packs and secures the heroin Tulley sends him in the handle. It may have been intended for Lin, but as he’s locked into solitary, we are unsure of its future. (Certainly, we are reminded of Laertes’s poisoned sword, which kills Hamlet and himself.) Juice could very well be the next Otto: imprisoned and tortured. But how loyal is he? He attempted suicide in the past; will he again?

The Hamlet monologue from which the episode’s title is taken appears in Act II, Scene 2, as Hamlet plots to expose Claudius. Written in prose instead of the more formal, structured verse, it suggests a sort of chaos, as we are seeing in Jax and the Sons. Their plans — all built on fallacies — cannot stand. But what will undo that faulty cornerstone, Gemma? In Hamlet, “the play’s the thing,” as Hamlet sets up a situation that fills Claudius with guilt. In Sons of Anarchy, Gemma is being pushed further and further into a guilt from her actions that can only be justified for so long. Her frequent audience, Abel, is on the edge. The drama he’s seeing is the drama he will likely repeat or expose, or both.

Imagine the iconic image of Hamlet holding “poor Yorick’s” skull, contemplating life and death. This skull — modernized in the SAMCRO reaper — provides a visual reminder of the Latin phrase "memento mori" (“Remember you are mortal,” or “Remember you will die”), which has been associated with skulls and Grim Repears throughout history.

The piles of bodies that Jax is leaving behind him leave little room for contemplation. He just keeps riding on.

Nomad Cuts

  • Shakespeare’s fools often served as more than comic relief, providing wisdom and truth. Unser is often not taken seriously by those around him. He’s a pitiful character, but he is sharp. Gemma is sarcastic with him in this episode and takes for granted that he loves her and will do anything for her. However, Unser is the best detective and continues to put the pieces together before anyone else. Chuckie has typically provided comic relief, but he wants to be taken seriously. His historic ties to Lin could be useful in the future.
  • Gemma doesn’t want Nero to take the birdcage out of her room. She closes the door and says that it’s where it belongs. Does she want a reminder of her prison and her fate?
  • So, that sex scene between Chibs and Jarry. The “romance” between them seems forced, and the sex scene was out of place. As someone who has always appreciated the raw female gaze of Sons of Anarchy, seeing the sheriff strip down to her underwear in broad daylight in a parking garage … really? I can easily suspend disbelief about some aspects of the plot, but for some reason, this scene made me roll my eyes. There’s no time for romance here.
  • Nero is exhausted and has resorted to shrugging his shoulders and rolling his eyes at Gemma. Nero is ready to go; he’s ready to sell his share of Diosa (although he hasn’t told Jax yet) and wants Gemma and the kids to go with him. He seems tired, though.
  • Wendy is Abel’s mother. When Gemma tells Wendy at the beginning of the episode that she needs to “raise his kids his way,” it just gives us one more reason to scowl at her and root for Wendy, especially since she’s the only one who seems to care about Abel going to school and getting help. Hopefully she can stay strong herself.
  • Jax rides away when his men are lifting Bobby out of the van. Jax should have to carry, dig, bury, and suffer for what has happened on his watch.
  • Would it have been too much to ask for Katey Sagal to cover this?