“Light thickens; and the crow / Makes wing to the rooky wood: / Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; / While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.” —Macbeth, 3.2.53.
In the first scene of the pilot episode of Sons of Anarchy, two crows stand on a road in the night, chewing on garbage, as they move aside to let Jax Teller ride by. As the show heads into its final act, Gemma’s crows — crows are often a bad omen — have been slain and are bloodying her bed. Her caged birds were never free; they went from captivity to death, their presence a message of foreboding death and destruction.
This week’s episode, “The Separation of Crows,” begins at dawn, Jax on the roof alone. The sun is rising, and an instrumental “All Along the Watchtower” plays in the background. This time, Jax is without the insight of his father’s journal (The Life and Death of Sam Crow: How the Sons of Anarchy Lost Their Way), which guided his steps in early seasons. That’s no more. Jax is alone, and those shiny white sneakers are about to get spattered with blood.
Morning signifies a new start; Gemma is helping Letitia detox, Wendy tends to Abel and Thomas, Juice gets breakfast in his cell, Bobby gets breakfast in his torture chamber. The Mothers of Anarchy and Sons of Anarchy are tending to the destruction they have caused (Gemma and Juice) and are victims of (Wendy and Bobby). By nightfall, however, all is darkened, and hope is lost.
At the beginning of the episode, Jax is struggling, and our sympathies bubble to the surface as he clearly feels guilt and remorse. Chibs joins him on the roof and reassures him: “It’s not on you, Jackie … The guys need you focused and strong.” Jax says, “I’ve done that.” (Really?) Jax hasn’t been focused and strong — he’s trusted those he shouldn’t have and acted irrationally. He’s been sloppy and cocky, and it’s all landing at his feet. Chibs keeps on, though: “… We need our goddamn leader.” Their goddamn leader is leading them farther away, though, and the death knell of John Teller’s Sam Crow sounds.
Back at Red Woody, Tyler fills them in on Moses. He’s “ex-military, special ops, Blackwater graduate, so is his team.” It is, as Tig says, a “serious résumé.” Every 24 hours that Moses has to wait for information on where the pastor’s body is buried and the family’s whereabouts, Bobby loses another body part. Tyler expresses reasonable trepidation at going forward as a double agent, but Jax talks him into being all in. Jax is clearly the master of going all in without rational thought at this point.
Proving that further, Jax tries to put off hearing any intel about the guy who worked with them during the Triad massacre (Gib). Tig and Chibs convince him to deal with it today. Sergio Coletti fills them in: The kid, Gib O’Leary, fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “He was a vet?” Jax asks with a tinge of guilt in his voice as he quickly makes eye contact with Chibs.
Meanwhile, Moses sits down with Bobby. Bobby tells him that they might as well kill him because the “club ain’t gonna give you shit.” (Bobby won’t give them shit, either, and his blind loyalty to the club certainly conjures images of Otto and Otto’s fate.) “Due process,” Moses promises. He threatens to cut off Bobby’s clutch hand if he doesn’t share information, threatening his ability to ride.
Gib’s mother, Renee, and stepfather (an arms runner) are off the grid, but Google Earth found them. When the Sons visit the compound, hundreds of poorly aimed semiautomatic rounds are fired at them, and they only get the shots to stop when they aim their guns at Renee’s son. Jax questions Renee, and she says that Gib’s “dad is a member of your club. Called last week … I didn’t get to say good-bye to my boy.”
His father is identified: Jury White. Rat Boy quickly speaks up and lies, saying he was a friend of Gib’s and that they were in boot camp together. “Do me a favor,” Jax says. “Don’t tell Jury we were here. I want to pay my respects.”
Jax calls an urgent meeting with Jury and quickly accuses him of ratting. Jury focuses in on Gib’s death first; he tells Jax that he hadn’t raised Gib, but that he’d called when he got back from Iraq. “We were just getting to know each other,” Jury says. He acknowledges that he wanted Jax dead, but that he didn’t tell Lin anything.
Jax doesn’t believe him — Jax doesn’t want to believe him, and Jax believes what he wants to believe. In an intense exchange, Jury tells Jax that he’d had a chance to turn the club into something his father had wanted, “But you turned into everything he hated. You became the poison, the reason he checked out.” Jury then suggests that John had committed suicide as a sacrifice. “It doesn’t matter,” Jury spits back. “As long as he’s not here to see what’s become of you.”
Jax punches him and shoots him, killing him at point-blank range. He yells out the lie that Jury admitted to ratting them out to Lin. We know Jury was right about how far Jax has taken the club away from what his father — and he, at one point — wanted. Seeing Jax murder Jury (“Jury White,” this just, pure character) signifies a clear shift in his character. He kills one of his one and immediately lies to his club. There’s blood — Sons of Anarchy blood — on his white shoes. He’s changed, and the Jury is out, never to return.
“NO SON IS SAFE” is scrawled on Abel and Thomas’s wall. There’s been a break-in (presumably Marks, although it seems too gauche for him, and the rat is still at large). Jax has killed Jury’s son and held a gun to Renee’s other son. Abel is increasingly violent — he hit another child in the face with a metal lunchbox — a son in Sons’ footsteps. Jax’s role is shifting violently from John Teller’s son to Clay Morrow’s stepson. In Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth (Hero’s Journey), atonement with the father is a crucial step. Jax is, it seems, choosing to be initiated into the wrong father’s journey. Perhaps if Hamlet had outlived Claudius, he would have done the same.
Gemma’s birdcage has also been broken into — the crows are tucked neatly into her bed, murdered and bloody. Gemma cries, “They killed my birds!” Meanwhile, threatening graffiti and a knifed teddy bear are in her grandsons’ room, and for a moment, Thomas is missing. But her birds. She’s continuing to come unglued, like Lady Macbeth, whom she so resembles. When Nero tells Wendy he wants Gemma, Wendy, and the boys to come with him to the farm, she gets excited but says that Jax and Gemma won’t ever let the boys leave. “After today, how could they let them stay?” Nero asks. Nero hangs onto a kind of optimism that we can’t share as we watch Jax and Gemma both spiral out of any semblance of control they’d had left.
Juice talks to Jarry and Unser, and with a confidence and strength that seems unfamiliar, says he’ll give the name of the other killer (he sticks with the story that two Chinese men killed Tara and Eli) and the location of the weapon if he can get guaranteed isolation. Jarry accepts. She acknowledges that what Juice is saying probably isn’t true, and Unser says he thinks Juice knows. Unser continues to be skeptical: “Gemma and Juice … there’s a piece missing,” he tells Jarry. “Maybe you’re too close,” Jarry tells him, which is exactly correct, but not in the way she thinks. By the end of the episode, Unser and Eglee are playing Scrabble, putting the pieces together.
Jax agrees to give Marks the pastor’s location, but he won’t hand over the mother and kid. But Marks’s terms aren’t negotiable. Bobby is held down, the fingers of his left hand brutally cut off. His clutch hand is ruined. The box is delivered, but Jax doesn’t open it this time. No one does.
While the night closes in, Jax is the one assuring Chibs back on their watch on the roof. He says he’s ready for the heat that he will surely get from Indian Hills. Chibs is as critical as he can be, but in one day, Jax’s guilt and trepidation has disappeared into the night, negating the hopeful light of morning.
A lovely Forest Rangers cover of “All Along the Watchtower” rounds out the episode: “All along the watchtower, princes kept the view.” Bob Dylan’s classic title is often connected to the Book of Isaiah: “Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise ye princes, and prepare the shield. /… And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.”
The Sons end all along the watchtower; it’s night again, and the birds of prey are roused.
- Gemma: “Do you understand what an accident is?” Abel: “Do you?” Awesome.
- The cinematography in this episode is gorgeous, from the noir-esque scenes between Moses and Bobby and the rooftop moments with the Sons. The camera pans at the end, closing in on each member’s face as remnants of Bobby sit in front of them.
- “We’re at war, you and me”: Moses’s words to Bobby echo the multiple combat references in this episode. We’ve grown accustomed to the war imagery between the gangs, clubs, and criminal organizations, but veteran status stands out with added reverence.
- Gemma and Letitia have a poignant conversation as Gemma nurses her. “You must think I’m an awful mother,” Letitia says to her. Gemma says, “It’s not my place to judge.” Gemma justifies it by saying that what we do for family — why we do it — is what “counts.” Letitia serves as a foil to Gemma, literally and figuratively cleansing herself as Gemma continues to try to justify her own actions.
- Nero’s buying the farm; hopefully, this means he’s simply purchasing real estate. His moments of support and compassion are getting sadder and more hopeless. He tells Wendy that he needs to work out services for Lucius, and Wendy says she’ll check with her occupational therapy friends. It all sounds so nice. Meanwhile, Gemma is frantically burying her birds, her sole focus.
- Courtney Love is back as Abel’s teacher. Gemma confronts her (wishing upon her Abel’s violence), and they argue about Abel’s need for help. Gemma brushes it off and insists he was provoked. He wasn’t. The cycle continues.
- The break-in — the dead crows and the graffiti threat — does not seem like Marks’s M.O., although that’s what Jax assumes. Brooke was with Thomas and has access to the house, and Rat Boy could have shared information with her. Some pieces are missing here.
- “The crow flies straight, a perfect line. On the devil’s path, until you die.”