It's a domestic drama, Sons of Anarchy style.
When the "Hamlet on bikes" logline made the rounds in the promotion of Sons of Anarchy four years ago, it denoted that the series would be as much about family, specifically a dysfuntional one, as anything. It's even built right into the biker lingo itself: the patched in members refer to each other as "brother," and the role of women is a matriarchal one. The club is a family to its members, but sometimes the family theme takes on a more literal shape.
There's family drama all over "With an X," starting with the source of the episode's title, that being Tig's daughter, "Margeux with an 'X'," who shows up looking for money. She floats a story about her sister needing treatment for bulimia, and a high class rehab facility in Orange County willing to take her on for $12,000. Gemma and Bobby find out that the story is bullshit, but Tig has an obvious soft spot for the girl and hands her the money anyway. Family: what can you do?
All families are a pain in the ass, but for Opie it's more than that. He says he wants kids with new bride Lila, but when he finds she's been taking birth control behind his back, he hops into bed with the same skanky porn slut that at some point became the go-to girl for consolation when it came to girl trouble. When she's spotted it causes all kinds of strife. Lila is beside herself and through her tears confesses to Opie about the abortion she got last season. Needless to say, the marriage that this season started off with is pretty much over (mind you, this is Opie's second marriage, after his first wife Donna was killed by Tig under Clay's orders, and who thought Donna was Opie, and that Opie was informing on the club to the ATF. Opie decided to stick around anyway). This doesn't sit too well with Piney, who's disgusted at his son's actions and gives him a "I don't know who you are anymore" guilt trip. Also, the whole affair, so to speak, brings back some bad memories for Tara, who had to deal with Jax' infidelity (with the same girl!) last season while he was trying to push her away in an effort to keep her safe. Jax and Gemma decide that they can't deal with this type of thing anymore, and Jax violently deals with the issue.
The biggest issue to be solved this episode is the case of the missing kilo of coke, better known as "How is Juice supposed to get out of this jam?" The Mayans give SAMCRO a deadline to figure out who pilfered the drugs and get them back. Juice is immediately not suspected by anyone, so the prospects immediately come under fire as they spent most of the previous night standing watch over the warehouse. They of course deny having done anything wrong and state that they didn't even know what they were guarding, but are put through the ringer anyway. In order to prove their loyalty to the club, they have to go through the lame Russian roulette routine that should have had a moratorium placed on it after The Deer Hunter. While he and Chibs wait for an answer from them (which of course they never get), Juice starts a discussion about following the rules, especially "The Black Thing," bringing up Fiona, Chibs' wife in Ireland, who is black. Chibs simply states that a lot of the by-laws of the club were originally written in a bygone age, but that picking and choosing which ones to follow will only undermine the sense of order they establish. The scene almost works as an explanation for the Juice storyline, but ultimately, it doesn't. It's still hard to buy the notion that SAMCRO would have a problem with Juice's father being black. Why would that be worse than him being Puerto Rican? This conversation establishes that the MC specifically has a law excluding black members, but bringing Fiona to the audience's attention only torpedoes that concept, especially since she's an Old Lady, as Chibs states. It explains why Juice believes the scenario that Sheriff Roosevelt uses to blackmail him, but considering what's been established about the club it just doesn't track.
Which is a shame, because this problem isn't going away. It can only grow and have grander implications. This week, it leads to the death of another member. Juice is caught by Miles trying to sneak the coke back into the warehouse, which results in an altercation and leads to Juice shooting Miles in the face multiple times. Panicked, he takes the opportunity to pass off the story that he's the one who caught Miles stealing the cocaine, and that Miles tried to kill him. The rest of the club buys the story, and Juice is in the clear (maybe not so much with his conscience, though). Of course, Chibs' curious glances towards him will no doubt continue. Despite the problems with the story arc, it does show how the SAMCRO family formed its relationships: through fear, intimidation, and violence. Miles' body is buried in a shallow grave somewhere, and his memory is basically disavowed. Although Jax immediately vouches for Juice's innocence, he and the rest of the club, immediately believe that Miles would betray the club, which basically carries a death sentence anyway.
Clay has that last point in mind, particularly when it comes to his own family. When the drug pick up is completed, he takes Romeo aside and fills him in on the situation with Tara, and all she ostensibly knows about his role in killing John Teller. He is pretty straight up with Romeo, telling him the truth about the fact that what she knows could destroy the club, and that he needs her silenced. Romeo knows who Tara is, and brings up that "she's your VP's Old Lady, right?" Clay doesn't even acknowledge that she's engaged to his son. Romeo all but assures Clay that it's a done deal. Tara will be dead in a few days. This is the way the club deals with family, as Clay Morrow sees it. Wayne Unser anticipates Clay taking that type of action, so he's basically following her around checking up on her. He even tries to tip off Roosevelt that she's in danger, but that's a non-starter because there's only so much information he's willing to give to the cops.
Unser has always had a familial bond with the club, despite not actually being a part of it. He treats Gemma as something of a daughter since he's known her her whole life, and even when he was butting heads with SAMCRO, it was much like an inter-family feud. Now he's worried about Tara, and by extension the club. Clay has a very different view on what a family is, though. To him, he's the authority on what this family of bikers is and does, while Unser is taking a much larger view.
We all have our experiences with family relationships, and our own feelings on what makes one a fruitful one. "With an X" shows that SAMCRO as dysfunctional unit extends beyond the club itself and into blood and marriage relationships. Things have never been all that stable in the club, at least for as long as we've been checking in on them, but it almost seems like everyone's efforts to serve the club are what's tearing the family apart.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch
As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well. You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
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