What do we really know about Clay? We know he has arthritis in his hands that’s making it increasingly difficult for him to drive a motorcycle (a symptom which both literally and symbolically threatens his role as president of SAMCRO); we know he’s been with Gemma ever since J.T.’s death, serving as a sort of surrogate father to Jax over the years, with mixed results; and we know he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty when he decides it’s necessary. We suspect he may have had something to do with J.T.’s death, although this has yet to be officially confirmed. But how far will he go, to protect what he feels needs protecting? And just how smart is he? Gemma’s a little on the crazy side, but at least it’s possible to get what’s driving her—a desire to protect her “family” which mixes with a selfish need to get her way—and to know even she has her limits. But with Clay, it’s more difficult to tell. He’s not connected to Jax and Gemma by blood, and we don’t really know what brought him to the Sons in the first place, although we do know he’s at least partly responsible for bringing them to the position they’re in now: tied to guns, running drugs, and under increased scrutiny on all sides. When Sons started, one of the driving forces of the show was (or at least seemed to be) Jax’s spiritual awakening, so to speak, his slow discovery of what SAMCRO was, and what it could have been. Jax’s goals have changed since then (although he obviously won’t be leaving the club any time soon, so we can expect those goals to shift once more before the end of the season), but any effort to pull the Sons back in the direction of a righteous path will involve going against Clay. And, as tonight’s episode showed, that’s not going to be an easy fight.
“Dorylus” was at its best when it showed Clay pushing at the edges, but large parts of the episode were given over to place-holding and piece moving. Gemma’s continued efforts to get into Tara’s drawer weren’t the most dramatically effective use of our time, and the mini-arc revolving around the stolen truck of gun had only the weakest justifications for existing, even if it did give the episode some of its best action beats. As well, Linc introduced Sheriff Roosevelt to the mysterious “Plan B,” which led to Juice getting arrested, which led to us finding out that Juice’s father was black, which would upset the Sons if they knew (according to Roosevelt). While it’s good to see SAMCRO’s legal adversaries tightening the noose, of all the ways they could’ve gotten started, sowing dissension via race seems like a step in the wrong direction. We spent all of the second season dealing with a group of White Power assholes, and while Clay and the others aren’t the most politically enlightened folks around, I can’t imagine them getting too worked up if Juice’s heritage became known. And it’s odd that Juice would start to crumble under Roosevelt’s pressure, unless this is some kind of play he’s making. I suppose you could argue that the Sons aren’t perfect, they have their prejudices, and that race and identity is one of the foundations of the club; but even if you could justify them kicking Juice out, there’s no way a scenario like that could play that doesn’t make SAMCRO come off as a bunch of creeps. And while Sons can work if its protagonists are anti-heroes—if they’re just shady enough that we know we can’t ever completely trust them—it can’t work if they turn unequivocally bad. So I doubt Juice will get ejected, and that makes the threat Roosevelt introduces seem almost inane. It could still work out—Juice doesn’t seem like the sharpest tack on the chair, so maybe this will make him turn rat, which will then make it completely possible that the Sons would turn on him—but until I know where this is going, I have reservations.
I also have reservations about the Gemma storyline, which, quite frankly, is a road we’ve been down too many times for it to have much impact right now. Oh no, Gemma is worried because someone might be reading something that could potentially incriminate her. That she returns to the hospital for a second run through Tara’s office is just plain odd, unless I missed something obvious (always possible). It was fun seeing Unser again, even if I’m not sure “mediocre lookout” is the best use of his character, and it’s great to be reminded once again that Tara’s boss is no longer the two-dimensional shrew she was in her initial appearances. (Honestly, she seems like one of the sanest characters on the show now.) But the only really worthwhile moment out of all of this was Gemma’s speech to Tara trying to justify why the letters should stay hidden. It’s a sort of half-lie, half-justification for what happened; Gemma admits that she was close to Clay before J.T.’s death, and says that J.T. basically gave up on her when he went to Belfast, and she’s worried that the letters might reopen old wounds between Jax and Clay. It’s a nice bit of acting, but, again, we still don’t know that much more than we used to. I don’t mind slow burns, but despite Tara’s half-terrified exhalation after Gemma finally leaves, there’s not much tension here. Gemma’s been throwing out stray threats and meaningful comments for a few seasons now, but she hasn’t been an active threat to anybody for a while (excluding money-grubbing housekeepers, of course). Hopefully this goes somewhere quickly.
In one of the dumber moments I’ve seen on this show in a while, Kozik decides to get in a little one-on-one with some neighborhood guys while he’s supposed to be watching out for the truck full of Romeo’s guns. The one-on-one is a ruse so the guys can knock Kozik out and steal the truck, and Jax and Opie and a few others spend most of the episode working to get the guns back before everything goes to hell. There are some fun moments here, and an interesting new character or two, but it’s a closed loop of a story, resolved almost before it begins. It largely exists to inspire Opie to change his mind on the drug vote—he thinks that Jax’s handling of the situation shows good leadership skills (like looking angry and being sarcastic), and assumes that once Clay steps down, then it’ll be Jax and Opie at the head of the table. Jax doesn’t correct him. I understand the need to find some way to bring Opie around (I’m not sure how it would work if the Sons had voted “No” on the drugs, although that definitely would’ve gotten the season going with a bang), but this is clumsy, and badly justified. The connection between Opie’s decision and the events which supposedly drive that decision barely exist, and I would’ve had an easier time believing it if he’d just gone over to Clay and Jax’s side after realizing last week how much they need the cartel’s protection.
Which leaves Clay, first heading out to deal with the Indians’ demands for more money for ammunition, and then dealing with Piney’s attempts to bring Gemma in on the drug vote. It was great seeing Ron Perlman get to do a little more than just act pained and/or snarky, and his shift towards a more violent approach to problem-solving is one of the better justified character shifts in the series. He’s near the end of his rope now, and the pain in his hands is threatening to take away the only real power and authority he has in his life. So now that he has a chance to make some big money before getting out, he’s going to go for it, because at least it’s something. Sons has managed some strikingly weird moments of violence in its run, and the sight of a Russian gangster buried nearly up to his shoulders and covered in flesh-eating ants has to be one of the weirdest (and maybe a bit desperate as well; not to question OWNAGE when I see it, but it almost felt like the writers were just throwing out something to make sure we were paying attention. But if that’s the case, I’ll take “random flesh-eating ants” over most anything else, I guess) yet. Less weird, but more telling, was Clay’s willingness to kill the Russian—now exhausted and out of his mind from pain—on the off chance he might gunk up Clay’s efforts to screw the Indians over on ammo pricing. (Bobby, who Clay brought along on this adventure to try and talk him into the drug-muling, is clearly not digging any of this.) Even more telling, when Gemma tries to confront Clay over the drugs, he snaps at her and, for the first time in the series, actually grabs her and threatens her with violence.
The episode ends up with the club vote on the drugs, and Clay and Jax pull out a win—but just barely. It’s a great scene at the end of a mixed episode, and the shots of everyone walking away, followed by Clay telling Piney, “If you ever try and do a runaround with Gemma on me again, I’ll cut your throat.” Things aren’t well in Charming, and it remains to be seen how any of this will pan out down the line. I have hopes it will pull together eventually, but we’ll just have to wait and see for now.
- Another point in favor of Clay’s shift: if J.T. was killed (and I’m almost positive he was), Clay had a more active hand in it than Gemma. Which means, despite his fervent speech to Tara about how important Jax is to him, Clay has always been willing to betray those closest to him to get what he wants.
- Point against: I could see this getting awful if Clay turns into a flat-out psycho.
- Roosevelt is married, and he and his wife are having trouble conceiving. I’m sure this will be relevant soon, but I honestly have no idea how.