Man, there's a lot going on on this show.
If last week's tumultuous episode was dominated by one major storyline to the point of making all the other ones dim in comparison, "Stolen Huffy" manages to keep things evened out. It does go to show you, though: there's always a ton of stuff going on with these bikers. That much is true every season, but Sons of Anarchy is usually able to pull all the threads together by the end of a season. Until that point, it's good to expect a pretty stuffed hour.
"Stolen Huffy" uses Opie's death, and his impending wake, as its spine. Ultimately, everything connects to that event. Frankly, he gets a memorial fit for a warrior. Long the conscience of this cast, Opie had an effect on just about everyone in this club, and that much hits home nicely with that maudlin, ending scene where the Club sends Opie off to that clubhouse in the sky. Jax can't stop thinking about the time when he and Opie were kids, and he spend most of his few quiet moments staring at a photograph of the two of them as kids – a photograph he places in Opie's coffin, and which expands upon Jax' thinking when he passes by two kids on bicycles that he can't take his eye. It's because those kids remind him of his youth with Opie. It's a bit on the nose, and maybe even more manipulative than it has to be, but it's effective, and it feels emotionally truthful.
Jax is a busy guy this week, but that much is nothing new. Pretty much immediately after getting out of jail, he holds a meeting where he pushes through the measure to pay Damon Pope $50,000 per drug shipment. Clay and his new buddies,the former Nomads (who are apparently really responsible for the home invasions in Charming), raise some objections to paying Pope, but Jax convinces everyone that this needs to happen while they figure out how they can deal with "an OG who sits with judges, senators, CEO's." He's right to point out that SAMCRO has never gone up against anyone as seemingly omnipotent as Pope, so they need to plan things out carefully and get a full measure of what exactly they're dealing with. Not long after that meeting, Jax has to go help clean up Gemma's mess. Nero and his Girl Friday, Carla, are pretty sure that Emma Jean, the young prostitute solicited by Clay and subsequently beaten up by Gemma last week dropped the dime on Nero's operation (though she denies both events), causing the police raid. Nero's thugs are out for blood, so he recruits Jax and Chibs to find Emma Jean first and keep her safe while he gets her out of town. Their efforts to do that are impeded by Carla, who doesn't like anything about Nero's involvement with the Sons. Jax is able to diffuse the situation, and Nero is able to ferry Emma Jean out of California (or so he says. It's still a bit uncertain just how much this guy can be trusted).
Gemma's arc this season seems to be about justifying her existence. The absolute worst thing she can think of is being pushed away by Jax, and that's exactly what's happening. That's the thing that Clay really did wrong – he pushed her away, violently. In Nero, she found someone who was welcoming to her, and made her feel loved. She doesn't have that with Clay anymore (though she's obviously having more trouble letting go than she cares to admit), and now Jax is pulling away too. She sees the fact that her grandkids are in daycare as a personal affront, and she responds the only way she knows how: via manipulation of events in a way that would be beneficial to her. She seeks out Wendy to cause trouble, and when that backfires (Wendy decides to talk to Tara like an adult, and brings up the fact that young Abel will someday want to know about his birth mother, causing Tara to consider telling him the truth) she takes a more direct approach with Tara. Gemma uses Tara's rage and points it like a gun right at Carla (whom she refers to as "Dora the Whore-a"), engineering a knock-down, drag out fight between the two of them (Tara seems to win, considering she has a cast to use as a weapon). Carla was starting to come between her and Nero, so Gemma just had to do something to her. It's just how she works. Gemma seems to know that she's outlived her usefulness on this show, and she's fighting like hell to do something about it. Unfortunately for her, nothing she's trying is working. It gets worse for her near the end of this episode, when Nero loads up a beaten down Carla into his SUV and drives off, shooting a disappointed look at Gemma before he leaves (much to the barely-concealed delight of Carla).
What Gemma doesn't know is Nero's real reason for leaving her – because he promised Jax to do so as part of their new business arrangement. Jax pulls Nero aside and proposes a business partnership: Nero starts his business anew with girls from Cara Cara, the porn company formerly controlled by the Sons. Jax covers the startup costs, and the two of them split the profits 50-50. It's pretty icky, the Sons getting into the prostitution business, but this show has made clear many times that it just ain't easy being a woman in the sphere of influence of the Sons of Anarchy. Let's not forget the very unsettling moment back in the first season where Jax picked up a random girl at a roadside rest stop and pretty much just delivered her to another club like an object. No matter how much he wants out of the life, Jax is an absolute outlaw, through and through, and people who aren't his people are just objects to him, or at best just a means to an end. That probably extends to Nero himself. Does it apply to Lyla, Opie's widow, though? She's a Cara Cara girl, and Jax tells her that the Club (and the other porn chicks) are her family, and that if she needs anything, she should go to them. Is Jax going to have her turning tricks on Nero's sex-ranch after convincing her it's the only way for her to support three kids? Probably. Is he going to feel conflicted about it? maybe. In any case, this is an intriguing partnership, and Nero has been an equally intriguing presence on this show. Full marks to Jimmy Smits, who doesn't come off as wooden as he has in the past. Nero feels like an appropriately lived-in character who has an effortless, easy-going charm that he conveys very effectively.
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