Is this the end of SAMCRO as we know it? Also: Danny Trejo.
"This ain't about the club. This is about you cashing out."
Sons of Anarchy ultimately settles into its particular rhythms. The dynamics of Clay vs. Jax and Gemma vs. Tara persevere regardless of what happens around the edges. This season is no different, thus far, but things tend to take some turns as they continue onward.
The second day of freedom for SAMCRO starts with us checking in on some family relationships before heading out to the crime scene at the future site of Charming Heights, where Gemma tells Clay about finding Maureen's note amongst Tara's things, and her suspicion that Jax now knows the truth about what happened to his father. Clay blows it off, but he really knows that this could be trouble. Jax, Tara, Opie and Lyla continue to bask in their new family life when the news of four dead Russians turns up on the news. Jax is about to tell Tara exactly what his involvement was that in that bloody affair (Tara, to her credit, specifically tells him that she wants to know everything), while Opie dodges the truth when Lyla wants to know what happened.
The centerpiece of the episode comes early, when everything basically turns for the club. Clay brokers a big-money deal to sell the guns procured from the Russians to a Mexican drug cartel in exchange for SAMCRO muling the cartel's drugs for them. SAMCRO was never in the drug game, and this will bring a whole new level of stress for them. Clay is well aware that the club will be split on whether to proceed with the drug game, so he tries to get Jax to back him up when the matter goes to a vote. In exchange, Jax demands that once Clay gets his payoff, he allow Jax and Tara to walk away from the club life without any recompense. Clay is looking for a payday, as he knows his days as the head of the MC are coming to an end, and he and Gemma need some kind of nest egg. Jax knows it too, so he leverages the issue to buy his freedom. The Clay vs. Jax issue is put on the table with no double speak or hedging. It's a fantastic scene, with crackling dialogue and great editing. It really crystallizes one of the central conflicts of the season (and the show as a whole) and displays some of the best writing the show has ever had.
In fact, Booster uses its conversation scenes exceptionally well. The dialogue in the episode (with the exception of the cliché "Sounds like you're trying to convince yourself" line, that was both forced and kind of unearned) is so well crafted that it makes the most understated scenes look as kinetic as the action-packed ones.
Which brings us to the two major shows of force in the episode. Members of the Russian gang get the drop on Jax and Opie, demanding to get their guns back. Their gambit doesn't go too well for them as the two members of the cartel, Romeo and Luis Torres (Danny Trejo and Benito Martinez, respectively!!), show up to protect their investment. They barely break a sweat in freeing the SAMCRO boys and dispatching the Russians with deadly force. Soon afterwards, Sheriff Roosevelt shows up and gets right in Clay's face. This time, his pageantry gets physical, as he takes an axe to the clubhouse and just starts bashing away.
Elsewhere, Gemma gets a look at the package that Maureen meant for Jax (but Tara got a hold of). It's filled with letters and writing from John Teller (did this guy do anything but write while he was alive?) and even the police report of his death, once again recalling the mystery bear that the show has been nudging since the very beginning; namely what happened to John Teller, and what did Clay and Gemma have to do with it?
Also, the consequences of Clay's unilateral decision to deal with a Mexican cartel continue to be pondered by the rest of the MC. Opie in no uncertain terms tells Jax what he thinks, and Robbie Munson and Tig talk about how they are now "locked out," and can no longer provide Clay the balance he needs for leadership. The verbal fireworks are more exciting than the table smashing and the shootouts in Booster and goes a lot further to give us insight into these characters than the obvious and ineffective externalized quirkiness of AUSA Potter staring at the carton of milk he's drinking (see, he's weird! Because he drinks chocolate milk! Out of a carton! Isn't that WACKY!!). This is an episode that demonstrates what Sons of Anarchy is capable of at its best. Conflicts and relationships are both established and furthered, and the overall themes are effortlessly made apparent.
An aside: Show creator Kurt Sutter must have really made a lot of friends while working on The Shield. As if Jay Karnes and Kenneth Johnson weren't enough, we now add David Rees Snell and Benito Martinez as alumni from that show to make their way over to Sons. We are now a CCH Pounder, Walton Goggins, and of course a Michael Chiklis away from a Shield reunion happening on this show.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch