An episode so big, it needs ninety-minutes to contain everything!
"Crazy shit, man. It's all coming to a head."
This are really ugly right now in the lives of SAMCRO. The club has been through some shit before, but nothing as outright difficult and fucked-up as what they're slogging through now.
There is a lot going on, and so this week, Sons of Anarchy adds an extra half hour to its running time in order to advance every single storyline it's been juggling this season. Picking up where last episode ended, and with Gemma's words about how Clay "has to die by the hand of the son" echoing in our heads, Gemma shows her facial bruises to Jax, who reacts accordingly. Gemma, who's playing the long game here and doesn't want Jax to fly off the handle too soon, puts up a "it's my fault, I crossed the line" type of speech, which makes Jax openly repent the way things have gone since the club got out of jail. He comes clean to Gemma about his plans to leave the club, and Gemma doesn't really have much to say. It seems at first that things are going to go well for Tara, despite her worst fears, which she expressed last episode. According to her boss Margaret, the hospital in Oregon wants Tara on their staff so badly that they're willing to wait for her recuperation. Considering this bit of news, which Gemma hears about from Margaret, and Jax' reassurances that the plan to leave Charming will be carried out, things might start to lighten up for Tara...until Wendy shows up. In true Sons of Anarchy fashion, things always pile up, especially for the innocent. Wendy, Jax' first wife and biological mother to his older son Abel, shows up wanting to be in Abel's life. Tara is so distraught by Wendy's presence and so overwhelmed by the chaos of the last several weeks that she lashes out and re-smashes her hand, getting her placed under psychiatric observation. When Gemma finds out about Wendy being there, she confronts her and tries to get her to back off. Wendy, who is now clean and working as a substance abuse counselor, not far from Charming, gets aggressive and threatens to bring a lawyer into the proceedings ("If you thought I was dangerous loaded, wait till you see me sober").
Jax doesn't know about Wendy's reappearance, as he's too busy dealing with the cartel business. After briefly confronting Clay about beating Gemma, he decides to focus on one problem at a time, so the club teams up with Romeo, Luis, and the rest of the Galindo gang to basically do battle with the Lobas Sontaras in the area. They get into a firefight in a minefield, and Kozig gets blown up (with burned up chunks landing on Juice). SAMCRO and the Galindos win the battle with some help from rocket launchers supplied by the Irish. While this is going on, Bobby, Tig, and Opie track down George (with some help from Lila, who gets into a tense confrontation with Opie), wondering why his Asian investors, who George was supposed to string along, have decided to go ahead and invest in Charming Heights.
As for Juice and his issues, at the end of the firefight with the Lobas, he traipses casually back through the minefield, not even trying to avoid them. Although he gets through it without incident, Chibs and Jax know exactly what's going on; they just witnessed what basically amounted to another suicide attempt. Chibs confront Juice, who breaks down and finally comes (almost) clean about what's been weighing on him. Chibs eases his mind by telling him that as long as his birth certificate says "Hispanic" on it, Juice has nothing to worry about. It all seems pretty arbitrary, and this bit of advice kind of brings us back to why this storyline has been so problematic (they're ok with having Hispanic dudes in their club, but not black guys?) The Juice storyline started out terrible before leading to some great drama, and now coming clean to Chibs seems like it's going to take its next step. The question here is, does AUSA Potter still have a scared mole inside the gang? If Juice really doesn't feel like he has anything to fear from the club, maybe he doesn't want to inform on them anymore. That doesn't seem to be much of problem for Potter, though, as he has someone else to lean on. Potter is able to turn Otto against the club, and it looks like he's going to be talking about everything he knows about them as retribution for lying to him about killing George (which they finally do in this episode. Oops).
The last bit of the episode mainly deals with fallout. Jax learns about Tara breaking her cast and needing another operation, and Tig takes a gander at Gemma's face. He is of course taken aback by it, and responds by...quitting the club. Earlier in the episode, Tig, who has been an absolute Clay loyalist, confronts Clay about the way he's been handling business, and the fact that he's basically stopped communicating with anyone, other than barking orders and expecting them to be followed. After seeing Gemma's face, right when you'd expect him to fly off the handle, he does the most rational thing he's probably ever done in this show by ripping off his patch, handing it to Clay, and riding off.
The last subplot addressed in "Call of Duty" is that of Piney's death. Opie finally takes a ride up to the cabin, only to find his pops dead and definitely smelling pretty funky by this point. Ryan Hurst has a great "I just found my dad's corpse and I'm both shocked and sad" act here, but he doesn't get to display it for too long before Wayne Unser, who earlier had a bit of a face-to-face with Clay wherein he threatened to kill him should he hurt Gemma again, shows up and tells Opie everything. He tells Opie that Clay killed Piney (without going into too many details, such as the John Teller Letters) and also beat down Gemma. He also reminds Opie that Clay killed the latter's first wife Donna back in the first season, and comes right out and says that Clay must be stopped.
"Call of Duty" was kind of an odd episode in that it eschewed the usual hard-driving pace of a Sons of Anarchy and instead checked in with each plot line set up in order to make sure each one got goosed a little bit. It's really a consequence of having set up such a sprawling story that the show needed a longer-than-usual episode to make sure all the balls in the air get juggled. This season is the biggest and most ambitious the show has had yet, which is probably why it's also been the best, but "Call of Duty" felt a bit unfocused. It was almost more like checking off destinations on a vacation map than an organically-produced piece of television. There was, however, a lot accomplished that was important. By hitting every story in one episode, Sons of Anarchy can do what it does so well, which is to tie together disparate strands and create a finely-tuned narrative. It's been said here before, but it bears repeating that this is a show that is great at having different storylines converge into one, and episodes like "Call of Duty" are a good way to get that process started. From here, the show can pick up momentum on everything that it has going on as it marches towards what's promising to be an epic season finale.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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