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Sons of Anarchy Season 4: "Hands"

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Wednesday, November 09 2011 and posted in Reviews

When a family member loses his way, only another family member can put him down.

It's sometimes easy to overlook that at its heart Sons of Anarchy is a show about a family – an exceptionally dysfunctional and explosive family.  It's a family that just can't stay together the way things are going. 

It's obvious that things are coming to a head with Clay.  By the end of "Hands" even Gemma has turned on him, and she has big plans for him, which she's rather pithy about stating: "He's not going to go down by the law.  He's going to die by the hand of the son."  It's a provacative line and scene, one that not only sets up where the show will end up but encapsulates where it's been. Sons of Anarchy was always about the Clay vs. Jax tension, and with everything else the show has done, it always comes back to that.  We pretty much knew that the John Teller letters would cause the split between the two of them, but we could never be sure just how.  It's great to finally see the realization of that promise start to take shape. 

The fact is, although Jax has given up on JT's writings, it's Clay's obsession with the elder Teller's letters that's put things into motion.  He kills Piney while looking for them at his cabin, and then calls in a hit on Tara to ensure that she doesn't share any of the information she found in them.  This episode the hit goes down, but what Clay doesn't realize is that Jax and the kids are going up to Oregon with Tara.  Clay tries to call it off, but Romeo just tells him that once the wheels are in motion, there's no stopping them (which we know is bullshit, since Luis suggests calling the hitter off, but Tara's death is as beneficial to the Galindo cartel as it is to Clay, so Romeo doesn't try too hard). 

The hit is botched, since Jax is there with Tara (Though, she's able to fight back a bit on her own.  Also, it seemed like the guys who went after Tara weren't Mexican at all when they took off their masks, and the driver of their van asks in unaccented English if they're ok – another story development, or much ado about nothing?), and she comes out of it with a busted hand.  She has three broken metatarsals and some nerve damage, which could be permanent.  This puts Tara's career as a surgeon in jeopardy, and she's inconsolable.  Maggie Siff and Charlie Hunnam have a great scene together when Tara tears into Jax, telling him that his leaving the club, or Charming for that matter, was unrealistic because the club, the life itself, just won't let him.  "The only way we can be together is if I lose my only way out."  She can't be a surgeon in Oregon, or anywhere, anymore, and she recognizes that to be with Jax, she has to sacrifice everything 443290251_595she is to be there for him; that's what she believes has happened.  Tara's reaction feels so true here, since it's normal for people who undergo a grave injury to immediately go to the worst case scenario in their minds.  It's a fantastic and important scene for Tara's character, considering all that she's put up with since throwing in with Jax and the club, and it also serves as a heartbreaking bookend to the picnic she has with Jax and the kids earlier, where Jax tells her that he'll be ready to leave SAMCRO and Charming before Tara even reaches the end of her notice.  All the joy and sunny optimism of that picnic scene just shatters in the later scene in Tara's hospital room. 

Clay's actions this season affect more people than Tara and Jax, of course.  Opie has a lot of pain coming his way.  He still doesn't know that Clay killed his old man, and now he has to hear the truth of Jax's deal with Clay.  Jax had previously told Opie that the deal with the cartel was Clay's retirement plan, but he never told him before that it was Jax's own exit strategy as well.  Opie is suitably pissed to hear Jax come clean, since it was Jax who once convinced him to stay in the club after he got out of jail (way back in the early days of the series).  Jax acknowledged that he should have let Opie go, and that if he had Donna would still be alive.  Before walking away, he tells Opie to be with his wife and with his father ("Hold onto that shit."), despite the fact that he himself is planning to make a choice between his father figure and his fiancée. 

Another fracturing relationship is the one between Roosevelt and AUSA Potter.  After Potter keeps Juice overnight in an ATF cell, he sends him out with instructions to find out when the Sons will be brokering the firearm deal between the cartel and the IRA, promising that any club members at the meeting will be charged, though not under a federal statute.  Roosevelt finally stands up to Potter, saying that Potter only needed a "local scapegoat so you can keep your secret war room concealed"; Potter specifically recruited someone whose sense of law and order would make him jump headfirst into an agreement.  Roosevelt bemoans his role in the Juice affair while basically telling Potter to fuck off, before Potter reminds him that the document Roosevelt signed at the beginning of the investigation serves as an agreement that he would go along with everything.  Roosevelt then goes to Juice and apologizes for his role in upending Juice's life.  He then tells Juice to give him a call if he needs any help with Tara.  That's an interesting line, considering Roosevelt's minor involvement in investigating the plot against Tara, where he was looking into the death threats and received Unser's tip about her being in danger.  Other than that, the plot with Juice, although eye-roll inducing at first, ended up bringing some great drama into the story.  That's something that Sons has always done well – take a potentially weak storyline and turn it into a strong plot that feeds into the overall narrative. 

SoA_410_0027As to that final scene, where Gemma finally decides to turn on Clay, it comes about because of what happens when she confronts him over the hit on Tara.  Gemma knows exactly what's happened – the fact that Clay masterminded the attempt on Tara is easy enough to figure out from her vantage point, particularly when she finds that Clay has pretty much emptied their safe – and she curses him out before threatening to tell Jax.  He advances on her, and she pulls a gun.  It leads to fists thrown on both sides, but Clay gets the better of the confrontation and beats Gemma right there on the television screen.  It's brutal, uncompromising, and disturbing.  Gemma is left bloodied and in pain, but as angry she's ever been.  Gemma, when she's pissed off enough, which is often, is the most focused and vengeful woman on the planet, and now all of that hate and rage is pointed right at Clay, and in true Shakespearean fashion, she'll be using Jax as her weapon. 

The best part of this ending is how much it leaves us wanting to see where this goes and how it gets there.  Good thing FX added an extra episode to the season (which they announced a couple of days ago). 

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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