Sons of Anarchy Review: "Laying Pipe" – The End of the Innocence
Sons of Anarchy Review: S5E3 “Laying Pipe”
Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap, holy crap. That’s about all my brain can muster after just watching the latest episode of FX’s Sons of Anarchy (S5E3, “Laying Pipe”). There was hype beforehand that this would be big, with one main cast member getting offed. This hype was amped up even more when I started getting text messages from people who watched the earlier East coast feed, all saying the same thing. As my sister said, “You gotta text me later. I can’t even handle it.” I now know what she meant.
First off, I’m not going to bother with too much of a recap. Frankly, if you are not caught up with SoA at this point, you need to stop reading this review, go either get Netflix or buy the DVD’s, watch the entire four seasons in two days (if you can wait that long), and then come back and keep reading. There’s just no way to give ample backstory, even if I wanted to. Let’s just suffice by saying this: Opie is dead. Killed in one of the hardest ways I’ve seen on TV. While Jax, Chibs, and Tig all watched behind plated glass, with no way to help their brother. It was emotional. It was cathartic. And it included the most suspenseful build up of anything I can remember since…well, the last season of SoA.
“And those areas that most writers will not touch? That’s Sutter’s playpen.”
Now that the recap (or what you are going to get) is done, let’s move on to what really matters–what it all represents. The death of Opie was not merely the death of a fellow biker, or even of Jax’s best friend. It was the death of the person who kept Jax on the “John Teller” side of the line. The entire show has been centered on Jax’s decision to follow in the footsteps of his father John, who wanted a more peaceful, collective-type club. Or he could follow the path of step-father Clay, who chose violence, money, and power. And here is where Sutter’s brilliance shines, because for the longest time I thought Tara was the person keeping Jax on the John-side and away from the Clay-side. It made sense. She was a respected doctor, and the love of his life. It follows the standard path to have the love interest save the hero’s soul from temptation.
It was not until last night that I realized that @SutterInk was playing with a flipped script the entire time. Tara, while still Jax’s love, was not the person keeping Jax on the line. This point was made abundantly clear during the subplot of this episode. When Gemma tries to manipulate Tara yet again, Tara does not back down or run to Jax. She simply tells Gemma that if she messes with her family again, she’ll have her husband, Gemma’s own son, kill her for it. Tara has learned to be hard. Whatever she was in the beginning, she no longer has the innocence to be the one that keeps Jax straight. In fact, she may be leading him in the other direction soon enough.
So, who is the one keeping Jax on the John-side of things? That person was his best friend from childhood, Opie. Who better to keep Jax in a more innocent and peaceful state than a childhood friend, someone who he actually was innocent with, and who knows him in that deep, real way? It was Opie that Jax wanted to run the club with. It was Opie who could bring Jax down from rage, even when Tara could not. And it was Opie who Jax let down by letting Clay live. When Jax tells Opie that he had to make a choice to either kill Clay or save the club, Opie replies “You made the wrong choice.” He then lets himself die so that Jax can live, giving that wrong choice serious repercussions that Jax now has to deal with.
“…it’s not until you step away…that you realize how knee deep in s**t they all are.”
So, where does Jax go now? It would seem (though, with Sutter at the helm, “seeming” does not matter a whole lot) that Jax’s decision is now amplified by the two new cast members: Nero, who makes his money in the relatively peaceful business of running a brothel; and Pope, a big time gangster responsible for Opie’s death. And this is where Sutter shines. In most shows, I would figure Jax would do the obvious, and go against Pope for what happened. But that’s not the way it always works. When tragedy strikes, and it hardens someone, more often than not, they turn into the thing they hate. It’s a complex psychological game that most writers would not touch. And those areas that most writers will not touch? That’s Sutter’s playpen. Don’t believe me? Go watch his work on the Shield, and tell me that I’m wrong.
There is so much more to discuss: the remorseful psychotic known as Tig, the web of deceit that led to the death of Opie and his wife, Gemma getting arrested in Nero’s brothel, Juice’s betrayal from last season, etc etc. It’s one of the shows where so much goes on that it’s overwhelming to delve into. One scene, in particular, reflected this fact. Closer to the end of the episode, Jax outlines for Opie everything going on regarding the club’s affairs with the Gallindo cartel, the CIA, the IRA, Clay, and RICO…and it was a lot to take in. It was reminiscent of Vic Mackey giving his list of crimes at the end of The Shield. And like that scene, it’s not until you step away and look at it from a wider angle like this that you realize just how knee deep in s**t they all are. Now, we get the see if they can find a way out.
Geek Smash Rating: 100/100 Suspenseful, philosophical, and emotional: “Laying Pipe” was probably the most important episode in the entire series–straight up.