The title of this week's episode, "Turning and Turning," comes from the opening of William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming." It's a poem that's often quoted in movies and shows, because it's apocalyptic and spooky, and it's probably for the best that no one in Sons mentions it directly. I'm not sure "mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" would have the same bite here as it usually does, and I don't really know if I'd buy any of the characters on the series spouting poetry. (Maybe Stahl? She seems like that kind of crazy.) It makes sense, though, that title, because what we have here is a serious case of the center not holding. Gemma's heart incident puts her in the hospital, and into police custody. Someone's buying up property in town and driving away business owners. The Calazar crew is arrogant enough to jump one of the Sons and steal his symbolic manhood. Stahl's back, making life worse for just about everyone. And Abel is still in Belfast.
It feels like the crew has been planning a road trip for weeks now, doesn't it? The past few Son episodes have covered maybe three, four days in show time, which means the long-promised trip is still a fairly recent development; one that requires more planning than, "Ah screw it, let's go." It's a relief that with this episode, the show has managed to finally take Canada off the table. Maureen's phone call last week started the ball rolling, and now that it's been confirmed for Jax and Clay and the others (about as confirmed as it could be without having direct proof that Abel is overseas), there's only one destination left. Getting there, though, is going to take some more sacrifices. And money. Which has been in short supply lately, in case you haven't noticed.
Sons has been making some bold decisions lately, and "Turning" isn't afraid to take more risks. What's interesting now is that we're dealing with how the Sons' problems affect the town of Charming as a whole. For most of the series, the town has been more an ironic name than anything relevant; we deal with the Sons, and occasionally Unser and Hale, but we don't really get how the locals are affected by having their own biker gang. It's not a flaw in the show, because that's not really what the story is—even when the crew was facing off against Zobelle and his boys, our interest was in how they were affected. Thing is, like Piney said last week, our leads are supposed to be the good guys, and the only way they're good guys is if their outlaw behavior is a positive for the community. Otherwise, they're just a bunch of selfish, immature dickheads.
We're still not really dealing with Charming quite yet, but there are implications that the town may be in as much danger as the club. There's the property that's getting snatched up by somebody with deep pockets (I wonder if Zobelle is working some angle with the Calazars?), and there are Unser's apologetic but adamant admission to Gemma and Clay that he has to be a policeman for a while again. All of this depends on how it plays out over the rest of the season (and right now, it definitely feels like we're playing a long game; I can see Jax getting Abel back soon, but it almost looks like Sutter and co. are already setting up dominoes for season four), but for now, there's a subtle, slow-building sense of inevitably collapse that's building, right behind and beneath and around the edges of the more obvious doom of Gemma's incarceration and the babynapping Irish. Last year was about SAMCRO finding strength in adversity; this year is about finding out just how deep that strength goes, as well as seeing what kind of damage Gemma and Clay's direction for the club—the direction that John Teller objected to, the one that may have gotten him killed—may have done in the long run.
Speaking of Gemma, well, she got pretty screwed here. Her phone call to Stahl last week was, as suspected, to cut a deal: she'd turn herself in, in exchange for the death penalty getting taken off the table, and the right to visits with her family. But because Gemma collapsed and was brought to the hospital before she could see the cops, and thus was arrested without ever officially surrendering, Stahl says the DA wants to renege on the deal. (I would like to thank Terriers for explaining the proper use of the word "renege" last week. By the way, are you watching Terriers? You really should be.) It's an unsurprisingly meanspirited play on behalf of the agent (Stahl puts it on the DA's head, but the whole thing reeks of her manipulation, especially considering how far she's fallen lately), and, while Stahl herself is as tedious as ever, this does push Jax in a surprising direction. I'm not sure how plausible the plotting is—given that Gemma had returned to Charming, it does seem like they could prove she had intent to turn herself in before her heart gave out. But hey, it's Stahl, so who knows how much truth we're getting at any given moment.
What matters more here is what Jax does next. After taking down Stahl's license plate number (huh, wouldn't you know it, she's got a girlfriend now. This show's notion of gender politics is a little questionable sometimes), Jax grabs Jimmy Phalen's number one, and delivers him to Stahl's door with enough guns to put the guy away for a long time. His offer: he'll get her Jimmy's head on a plate, and all the IRA she can handle. In return, he wants his mom free, and he wants the charges against Sons dropped. It's deal with the devil time, and while Jax's boldness is admirable, it's hard to see this really working out well for him long term. He's just committed one of the unforgivable acts by turning rat. Oh sure, he's doing it in a totally badass fashion, but that doesn't change that it's a betrayal, and that if anybody in the club finds out, he's screwed.
So! We've got Jax making a choice which will most likely keep Gemma out of jail (and there's no way in hell she doesn't sniff out something's wrong). Everyone knows roughly where able is, and hopefully, with Stahl's help, the boys can leave the country without setting themselves up for prison time when they come back home. But the rival gangs are moving in; businesses are leaving Charming; Unser is concerned; Jimmy's got the weight of the IRA behind him; and Tara is carrying Jax's child. The Sons don't know what will fall on their heads next, and neither do we. But it's hard to doubt that bad news is coming.
- Tara is fast becoming the show's weakest link. Stahl is more annoying, but she's not a viewpoint character. In "Turning," Tara gets involved with the hospital again, endures a lecture from Gemma, and reveals her pregnancy, and none of this registered much beyond, "Eh, I guess that was going to happen eventually." (Of course she was going to get pregnant.) And her boss at the hospital doesn't make any sense at all anymore. I appreciate the attempt to rehabilitate the boss lady (she was basically just "generic twerp" last season), but I'm not buying her sudden investment in Tara's future, even if she does claim she's trying to do what's best for the hospital. I'm not sure what, exactly, needs to happen for Tara to become compelling, but whatever it is, I hope it happens soon. Right now, I'm just looking forward to the Belfast trip so she'll be off the radar again. (Although, at this point who knows.)