Well, that was fast. I liked Linc, the new DA bent on putting the Sons back behind bars. I liked that he was quirky, that he was smart, and that he was played by a good actor. And I liked that he was a decent guy. Given SAMCRO's criminal behavior, it makes sense that they'd have to deal with the law from time to time, and the easiest thing in the world would be to make the authorities who threaten Jax and the others just as morally compromised as any member of the biker gang. This would make our heroes look less villainous and make it easier to root against the cops. (We're going to root against the cops already, really, because this isn't their story, and protagonists, special cases aside, have an edge when it comes to audience sympathy. But if a cop is corrupt or crazy, then Jax and Clay turning the tables on them doesn't require any ethical gray areas.) But we've been down that road with Stahl, and that didn't end well. It was nice to think, briefly, that Linc might be legitimately clean. Of course he isn't, though. The Juice story arc has proved that; Linc lied to Sheriff Roosevelt to get what he wanted, and this week, he forced Roosevelt to entrap Juice, an action which led (in part) to the troubled biker's suicide attempt.
What's really disappointing me here is how familiar this plot feels. Linc's apparent addiction to playing games, his casual disregard for other people, the way his plans have led to death inside the Sons: We've seen this before, the last time an outsider came into Charming looking to make some arrests. I hope I'm wrong, but the Stahl-ification of Linc seems to be proceeding apace, and that's no fun at all. Fortunately, the rest of "Fruit for the Crows" was top notch, building off of threads from earlier episodes in the season without making the rising pressure too arbitrary or obviously manipulated. Whatever my reservations about last week's interrogation storyline, I respect the show for being willing to take some big chances this season, heightening tensions to a point where it seems impossible they'll be eased without bloodshed. By the end of "Crows," the club is in turmoil, Juice is (maybe) dead, Tara knows about the drug-running, and Clay is feeling trapped. We're past the halfway point, and there's nowhere left to go but down.
Last week, Unser's pinch death threat and Juice's complete inability to handle undercover work were the main cause for concern. This week, a new danger rears its ugly head, but thankfully, it has roots in an old cause: the Sons' deal with the Galinda Cartel. While visiting the Mayans to check out their drug-running operation, Jax, Clay and the others are caught in the middle of some cartel-on-cartel action. Clay's risky deal with Romeo (the one he made at the start of the season, not the help he was asking for re: Tara) is finally showing its downside, and while there aren't any immediate SAMCRO deaths, the danger is clear. They are swimming in choppy waters, and the club goes into immediate lock-down mode, pulling members and members' families back to the garage. There's some speculation that the other cartel may be responsible for the death threat on Tara, but nobody really buys that; it's not their style. Clay uses the new enemy as a way to try and ease Gemma's fears, but he realizes almost immediately that Unser was the one who left the note. So we get more shoving around, more Clay on the edge. It doesn't work. Unser, after a trip to the Sheriff doesn't pan out (Roosevelt offers Tara some help, but Tara claims everything is fine), goes to see Tara's boss at the hospital. (Aside: while Linc is compromised at this point, Roosevelt still strikes me as fairly clean, forced into a situation he's not happy about because of Linc's plotting.) I'm curious about what that will accomplish, but it's worth noting that, a couple of seasons ago, this would've made me shudder. Now, I'm hopeful. Tara's boss is cool.
So, a lot's going down, and that's not even getting into Lyla bolting, or Bobby noticing Ima's injuries. Bobby's arguably the stealth hero this episode, finally doing at the end what he's been working up to since he first realized just how far Clay was willing to go to get what he wanted. He calls a vote of no confidence, and it's a great scene, because it's not just some out-of-left-field reversal. He's been uneasy about drug-running from the start, he's not happy working with Romeo and his men, and the violence at the Mayan compound (which winds up with the Mayans' doctor getting shot and Alvarez taking a bullet in the shoulder) is just the final confirmation of what he's long suspected: The club is threatened, and for no better reason, really, than greed and desperation. Unlike Juice's quick transition from happy-go-lucky to tormented rat to tormented murderous rat to attempted suicide, Clay has been driving down the wrong roads since the very first season, and whatever happens, the no-confidence vote feels like it was earned. It may be a little sudden, and this season may be rough around the edges, but at its best, we're getting some pay-off to threads that have been running for years.
I've been hedging my bets about the last scene of "Crows," when Juice takes a length of chain and tries to hang himself from a tree branch. I watched a screener copy of the episode, and things can change between the screener and the aired version (for one, I get a lot of hilariously bad voice dubbing for unfinished ADR work), so you'll have to let me know if they changed this. But in what I saw, at the very end, right when the screen cuts to black and the Sons logo appears, it sounded like the tree branch broke. I'm not sure how that plays out. If Juice is dead, it was a goofy storyline, but at least it ended quickly. But if he isn't, well, the only way it makes sense dramatically to show all this is if falling from the tree knocks him out, and somebody finds him post-suicide-attempt. This would lead to a lot of tricky questions. I'm kind of hoping Juice is really gone, though. He was a fun character, but there is no end for him at this point that still involves breathing, and if he's going to go out, better he do so semi-quickly. And hey, the series needs an excuse to hold off on the Jax-Clay conflict (they barely seem at odds anymore); a suicided biker might give the club a reason to close ranks. Either way, though, life is getting worse in Charming. It's just a question of whose back gets stabbed next.
- Those gunmen at the beginning? Turns out they're legal immigrants who were ordered by the rival cartel to attack the Mayans; if they'd refused, the cartel would've killed their relatives who are still living in Mexico. They still wind up losing an innocent woman when the Sons track them down.
- Tara is, once again, upset at how much the outlaw biker club she married into is endangering her and her family. She knows about the drugs, which actually turned out a lot less dramatic a reveal than I was expecting. But we'll see what happens next.
- I'm rusty on my biker club lore. Is Clay patching Juice in during their scene together?
- "Your leadership is compromising this club."