There's no better place to get married than in a brothel while wanted for murder.
"Charmed life, ain't it?"
It seems, more often than not, that Sons of Anarchy is a bit better at the quieter, more character-based episodes than they are at the over the top violent/action packed ones. This week, we weren't treated to any gruesome, fiery murders this time around, but we still get a lot of forward momentum. Sometimes, less is more.
The centerpiece in "Authority Vested" is the bonding session between Jax and Nero. They get some time together in Nero's car, where they get to compare criminal lifestyles (apparently, prostitution is a lot more lucrative than gun-running, and with a lot less "blood"). It's a pretty nice scene, one that helps ground the current SAMCRO situation in some semblance of reason. Hiding out from the cops in a whorehouse is a wonderfully pulpy plot point, but here we have some strides at making the whole thing more of a human story (while also balancing Jax with a possible glimpse at his future – the ex-con with some kind of respectable life, even if he is still a criminal. "No upside to management," he tells Jax). That takes a hit, though, when it turns out that Nero is not only the most helpful guy ever, but also able to do just about anything in the world. He's willing to offer up his place as a hideout, he demonstrates his love for his son who has spina bifida, he knows enough evasive automobile manuvers to get Jax away from 19ers, and he just happens to know a judge who can get Jax and Tara married (ok, so it's not so much of a stretch that a sitting judge would be in a brothel). He's perfect! Let's go ahead and wait for the other shoe to drop.
You can't help but believe Jax when he tells Tara "I'm all about the fairy tale," and the whorehouse wedding was sweet, in its own way, particularly Chibs' blessing. Gemma is initially insulted that she wasn't told about the wedding, but ultimately, she gets it. She does remind Tara, however, that "No one knows better than I do what you're going through." Sure it's a helpful reminder, but it's a pretty omnipresent one too. Gemma will acknowledge that she understands Tara's need for space, but deep down all she wants is to wedge herself into Jax' life as tightly as she can. Saying one thing and meaning another is just what Gemma does. Still, it was great not to see the two of them shout at each other yet again.
The other great character arc so far this season is that of Opie, the guy who just keeps getting screwed by his dickhead friends. He hears from Roosevelt about the warrants that are out there for Jax, Tig, and Chibs, and after a visit from Clay, he decides to return to the club by joining them when they turn themselves in (he does so via a punch to Roosevelt). Opie's need to stay away from the club is obvious, but his return is pretty plausible. It comes partly as fall out from Clay's manipulation. Clay goes to Opie a humbled, hobbled man, and in doing so kind of takes a bit of the air out of Opie's rage. Hating a man from a distance is easy, but seeing him at his most frail and human as he apologizes to you knocks that down a bit. Before long, Opie is going to jail with his brothers, looking to protect them on the inside. Speaking of which, Jax once again leans on CIA Agent Romeo for some jailhouse protection again, and even he's willing to admit that this plot point is getting worn thin. He tells Jax that there's only so much the CIA can do when it comes to local charges, but he'll see what he can do. After Jax walks away, Romeo and Luís wonder about formulating a Plan B if they can't keep the Sons alive in jail. Seeing that possibility put on the table may be the thing that really drives this season, and makes it as propulsive as we know the show can be. Without having the safety net of the CIA, what does SAMCRO do? How do they get out of their shit?
It's moments like these that really make the show work, more so than scenes like Tig being forced to watch his daughter get crispy fried. While that's an indelible and shocking image, and it sets up the ruthlessness of the new villain, it's also over the top and doesn't have much of an effect if it doesn't get propped up by the character drama. It's episodes like "Authority Vested" that make this show what it is. For all the machismo and gunplay, Sons of Anarchy is all about the relationships. Moments like Opie standing up for the Club after telling Jax that his biggest fear is turning into another version of Jax (too ingrained in the MC to ever be able to get away from it), are always the most effective ones.