When bad things happen, the earth moves. It doesn't matter if it's missing rent or watching a loved one die—things change, the ground beneath our feet shifts, and the only difference between hangnail and holocaust is a matter of degrees. And whatever the degree, our first impulse is to try and get ourselves back to the way life was before the world changed for the worse. Whatever our ambitions, whatever our stated beliefs, deep down, what most of us really want is an illusion of home that cannot be broken no matter how much it cracks. We'll overlook anything, and we'll tell ourselves any lie, if we can just hold on for a few seconds longer to a permanence that wasn't much more than dust to begin with.
At the end of last season, great changes seemed to be coming for the Sons. Jax had discovered that Clay and Tig were responsible for Donna's death, and for the first time, he went against the will of the club and saved the life of a witness Clay wanted killed. The finale ended with him at his father's grave, holding a new copy of the dead man's manifesto, while his mother and Clay watched nervously from the sidelines. The decision he'd spent the last thirteen episodes coming to seem to've finally come to pass. Jax was going to step into the dream his old man left behind, and that would mean going against Clay and Gemma and god only knew who else in the club; and who the hell wasn't stoked to see that battle come to pass?
So it's a little surprising that "Albification," the first episode of season two, opens with Jax and the rest of the club testing out some new guns from Cameron, their IRA-funding connection, as if nothing happened. And, yeah, it's a little disappointing too, as great as it is to see everybody screwing with club flunky Half-Sack and grumbling about the new arrangements. But it quickly becomes clear that there are tensions here that everyone is doing their level best to play around. When Jax takes control of the negotiations, Clay supports his decision, but the eye contact between them goes on longer than it should. During the first montage, we see that things are largely as we left them last summer. Tara is still in town, staying over at Jax's regularly; Gemma is still doing a lot of the leg work taking care of Jax's baby son Abel; and Opie still doesn't know who really shot his wife in the back of the head. Change is coming, though. It's just that everybody's trying to pretend otherwise.
The biggest sign of problems to come arrives in the form of Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins, the Jekyll and Hyde faces of white power. A pair of assholes that make the local skinhead leader, Darby, look infantile, Zobelle (Arkin) and Weston (Rollins) get invited into Charming by good-guy Officer Hale's brother, Jacob. Zobelle runs cigar shops, and hands out cards for the League of American Nationalists, while Weston glowers and gives speeches about how sick it made him to find out the little league his kid was in gave medals to all the kids. This is a new kind of threat for the town, and even if Hale sees through them, the invitation has been made, and the damage is already beginning. These guys are organized, and they have a plan. A polite visit to the SAMCRO clubhouse gives the statement of intent, but it's only when Gemma gets kidnapped and raped by Weston and his men (wearing bald Michael Meyers masks; Weston's tattoo is a give-away) that the seriousness of the problem becomes clear. These are men who are organized, well-funded, and without reservation about getting what they want.
SAMCRO isn't in the best shape to deal with external woes. Jax is doing his best to hold on to shaky ground, keeping the true about Donna's killers from Opie when he comes home from his walkabout; he tells Hale and Piney he's doing it to protect Opie, and while his reasoning is sound, you have to wonder how much he's doing this for himself. He says he can't take Opie away from the only family he has, but that's at least a little true of Jax himself. A great scene between Jax and Clay, where Jax lays it all out on the table, establishes a temporary fix between the two, and Jax spends the rest of the episode making sure that fix stays in place, helping to pin Donna's murder on a Mayan, and then destroying the mark Opie tries to leave on the body in the hopes that the killing might not get laid at the Sons feet. But all this desperate covering up can't hold together for long. Opie's not going to be happy when he finds out he's being lied to, and it's easy to see, the first trouble that comes up between Jax and the others, this is what'll hit the table.
Probably the most positive thing in the episode is the advice Gemma gives Tara about her relationship with Jax: "total disclosure." After having to play the heavy for so long, it's good to finally see that Gemma's reservations about Jax and Tara weren't entirely unreasonable. The dynamic we're expecting—Jax does horrible things, Tara suspects them, Jax lies, Tara suspects him, and then it all goes sour—gets undone when Tara, finding proof of Jax's evening activities in his clothes, finally demands he tell her the truth. He almost does, explaining how he helped Opie kill the man who killed Donna. It's a step closer to the facts, at least, even if Jax is still holding back.
The episode title, "Albification" means "the process of making white." On the one hand, we've got Zobelle and Weston doing their level best to purify the races, preaching "separatism," and demanding Clay stop selling guns to the Niners and the Mayans (a bad demand even in the best of times, but given the financial pressure the club is under, it's not a request that goes over too well). But there's also the way Jax, Clay, and Tig just want to pretend everything's clean when it clearly isn't. Some stains won't stay gone, no matter how many times you paint them over.
- Clay to the White Power Twins: "So why don't you just climb back into your little clown car and drive back to Nazi town?"
- Bobby's back home! And Stahl even rode with him to the clubhouse.
- It's interesting how Clay and the others view Zobelle and his men with contempt, while their own views on race aren't exactly what you'd call enlightened. Wonder if that'll get played up down the line.
- Great contrast with Tara calling Jax while he's standing over the dead gangbanger's body. She tells him his son is strong just as the camera cuts to the "A" carved into the corpse; as if to say, he better be strong, if he's going to grow up with this on his back.