Woo! Ireland! And the Sons' international field trip gets off to a rough start, as some Irish police pull the boys over, check their IDs, and try and detain them for skipping bail back in California. It's a good thing Gemma decided to come along, because it's only through her quick-thinking that Jax, Clay, and the others don't spend the next few days waiting in a jail cell, or worse. After she orders her driver to ram the police van with his truck, there's a quick scuffle, most of the cops are beaten down or scared off, and we learn that the officers were paid off by a nameless informant who wanted the American members of SAMCRO off the island as soon as possible. This isn't a surprise, given what happened at the end of last episode, and we already know who's responsible. Jimmy's not happy to see Jax and the others, and he's going to do everything in his power to make their stay an unpleasant one.
So Belfast is here, and while it's a charge to see familiar faces stuck in a new setting, it's not an immediate game-changer: there's more green here, and the theme song has a certain added lilt, but from what we see, it's mostly business as usual, with drinking and card-playing and fist fights. There's more chance of gunfire, and there's also more chance of having sex with your half-sister, but generally speaking, this is stuff we've seen before.
That makes sense. One of the problems with this season has been its curious structure; it began with Abel's kidnapping as the driving force for the action, and it established Abel's presence in Belfast within an episode or two. Then we spent weeks dealing with Gemma's dad, the Mayans, and Jax's efforts to track down information we already knew. This could've been a build up to "Lochan Mor," and to the storyline it almost certainly kicks off—I'm guessing we've got at least another couple episodes before somebody takes Jimmy out, and before Jax either gets his son back, or else learns that the cost of his way of life is losing what's most precious to him. (It could happen, too. I don't think Abel will die, but there's a very real chance that he gets adopted and disappears into the system.) But it doesn't feel like a build-up. It feels more like our main characters are constantly trying to make strong choices, and then finding themselves hemmed in even worse than before. "Lochan" opens with a triumphant procession which almost immediately turns into squabbling chaos. Nobody dies, but it's not a good sign of things to come.
Back home, there's trouble brewing, although it's tough to say exactly what shape it will take. We do learn that Jacob Hale is working with whomever's buying property in town; he hires Darby to scare away the gym owner from a couple episodes back, and when Darby refuses to do it, Jacob turns to Hector Salazar, the man who's been rubbing upside the wrong of the Sons the whole season. Hector tears up the place, injuring Lumpy (maybe even fatally) and scaring off the prospect the Sons had left to guard it. Which seems pretty dumb on their part—one prospect against who knows what—and he repays their trust by ditching his cut and gun and running off into the night. Maybe Tig's just distracted by the guy he keeps punching; and it's not like Tara can really step up, since she's too busy helping Opie's girlfriend get an abortion, and then scheduling one for herself. (Well, that's why it looked like she was going to dump him last week, then. Not breaking up, just not ready to have his kid because he's still screwed up about Donna.)
In Belfast, Jax finally finds out the terms for getting Abel back: he's got to take care of Jimmy. We've seen the Sons kill for others before (hell, we've seen it already this season), but there's a certain moral component here that isn't always there. Jimmy is clearly bad news, even if he wasn't the one responsible for keeping Abel away from home—it's like Father Ashby is outsourcing justice. Now that's a potentially gross over-simplification. Ashby is a man of somewhat questionable morals, given that he's willing to murder and kidnap in order to achieve his goals, but so far, at least, Jimmy is looking like the greater of two evils. (It helps that Maureen is on Ashby's side, because she seems to be the sanest one in the bunch.) So here we have the Sons being dragged into some else's fight to clean up someone else's mess, while back home their losing ground to anonymous investors (I'm still thinking Zobelle is involved somehow), and Jax is in danger of losing the only sensible girlfriend he's ever had.
This is turning out to be the sort of season that depends so much on the resolution that it's difficult to judge the steps leading up to the end. Right now, it's very possible that this could all tie together, but it also feels like there's some central piece we're still missing. This late in the season, that's a lot of weight to put on a few episodes. There've been odd notes lately that don't work whatever the context, but even with those, there's that hope that Kurt Sutter and the writers have a plan beyond just throwing out as many strands as possible and seeing what sticks. So far, there's been some great moments (Gemma's time with her father, while not exactly plot relevant, had an emotional complexity and weight that much of the rest of the season has lacked), but we're not getting the concentrated impact the show had in the second season. If that's intentional, I hope the show will let me in on the secret soon.
- Maureen and Gemma make quite the pair. Seeing as how all the time we've spent with Gemma on the show, she's been with Clay, and she's been trying to keep her son from being unduly influenced by the wishes of his dead father—well, I'm not sure why Gemma is so upset to learn that Trinity is John's daughter. It's a plotline that's still developing, and I'm curious to see where it goes. (I'm surprised Gemma isn't more worried that Jax and Trinity will hook up, as they were both obviously flirting with each other by the end of the episode. Maybe she figures, if it happens, it's Maureen's fault?)
- "I'm not sure, but judging by their level of malevolence, there's gotta be at least one vagina involved."