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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iSons Of Anarchy/i: Widening Gyre
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Well, I've been getting some names wrong. For a while, I thought the biker gang the Sons were having trouble with, the ones that stole Juice's cut and were responsible for the drive-by at the start of the season, were called the Calazar, but I think it's actually Salazar. And there's a guy named Calvarez. There's also a guy named Alvarez, but he's head of the Mayan's, so at least him, I recognize. Tonight, we find out that one of the Salazars killed a Grim Bastard, threatening to disrupt the Sons/Mayan peace before it even really got going, but Clay and Jax and the others took the hardline and made sure everything worked out okay. Except that guy who got the crap kicked out of him earlier in the season, the one who spent a brief but terrifying moment tonight with two guns pointed at his head, is pissed. He tracked Jax down to his house just in time to watch Tara driving off. That's gonna have consequences.

"Widening Gyre" finally, finally has our heroes headed to Belfast, although it takes a lot of maneuvering to get there. It's a relief to finally get into what has presumably been the season's most important plot—all that stalling and chaos had great thematic resonance, and was generally entertaining to watch, but it got old. The glimpses we've got of what's going on overseas are promising, and I want to see those character mixing it up with the members of SAMCRO in earnest, and not just answering phone calls or discussing familiar names in hushed tones. So that is a definite positive here. Getting to that positive, however, required a lot of awkward gambits, a lot of clunky dialog, and a lot of baffling behavior. I'm starting to wonder if I'm losing sympathy with the show in a way that will make it difficult for me to enjoy it. I've never really related to the biker culture on display here, but I could respect it, and I could get a kick out of seeing it in action. "Gyre," though, just has a lot of stupid people acting selfish, and we're supposed to be cheering.


The weirdness starts with the episode's opening scenes. Jax screwing a porn star after trying to break up with Tara? That makes sense. Tara coming by the club the next day to find him? Also makes sense. What doesn't make sense is Opie bizarrely snapping at his girlfriend when Tara finds Jax and the starlet together. ("But if you didn't eat pussy for a living, you might have a different set of friends.") The hell? Look, I get that Opie's having some difficulties lately over his girl's career, but this comes out of nowhere. If we'd seen him more upset over the Jax/Tara split, or if he'd made similar comments in the past, I could've bought it, but the venom here comes straight out of left field. It doesn't help that of the two people who get slapped in the scene, none of them are Jax, the one who probably deserves it the most.

Later in the episode, Tara and Gemma had a chat about the break-up, and Gemma played the usual card about Jax being under a lot of pressure, and being desperate to protect Tara, and so on. It makes sense that she'd say it; true or not, it doesn't matter, she'll say anything to keep her family together. (One of things I unequivocally like about this season is that Tara and Gemma have the closest bond out of the any of the characters. Big change from season one, when Gemma was doing her best to break Tara and her son up, but it's an evolution that makes perfect sense.) What's troubling is that the rest of the show seems to buy into her logic as well. It's tricky to try and understand a series' perspective on its characters sometimes, but it would be nice here if people would a.) stop calling Jax a "prince," even if they are doing it sarcastically and b.) realize the golden boy is acting like a moron at least fifty percent of the time.

There was a great deal of loose end-shuffling before the climax—Gemma made another call to Maureen, and we learned that Maureen's daughter is Jax's half-sister. Gemma's shock at this seemed odd, considering the information pales in comparison to just about every other aspect of her life right now, but she'd been under a lot of pressure, so I'll let it pass. We already talked about the confrontation with the Mayans; it was a decent sequence, even if casual violence on the show has lost much of its power to shock. (Remember in the first season when they burned a guy's back skin off to get rid of his Sons' tattoo?) And obviously it was setting up some retribution down the road, but it still seemed superfluous. The Sons tormented the hell out of whats-his-face already, and while taking his cut was a fine final straw, I would've accepted it if he'd just gone mental before. Looks like Tara is going to be in danger again, most likely while Jax is out of town, so I guess we have that to look forward to?

In "Gyre"'s grand finale, Gemma and Tara held an impromptu jail-break from the hospital, because come hell or high water, there was no way Gemma was letting Jax go to Belfast without her. It's a sequence that's clearly supposed to be thrilling, gleeful in the way it thumbs its nose at the law, a Creedence cover rocking on the soundtrack. But that cover was too over the top even for this show, and the tonal shift didn't work; there was no relief when Gemma gets away, no real satisfaction that she's on the road again. Instead, everyone just looked stupid and short-sighted. Unser's attempts to stop the escape were pathetic, and it's disappointing to see the show forget how complex a figure he was last season, reducing him to an easily thwarting joke. And what the hell was going on with Tara's boss? It's as though in attempting to redeem a one-note caricature, the show just keeps throwing generic positive actions her way without bothering to motivate them. Apart from some vague need to "do what's best for the hospital," Boss Lady is a plot facilitator in sensible shoes. I appreciate the effort to bring more strong women on the series, but this isn't working at all.


Thankfully, the gang should arrive in Ireland next week, and from the final scenes of tonight's episode, we can expect some ass-kicking in the near future. So there's that. I had high hopes for this season at the start; the lack of a clear Big Bad meant a chance to finally deal with lingering character issues and buried plots. Gemma's father gave those first few episodes a new emotional edge, and Jax's unhinged desperation made it more difficult for SAMCRO to keep going on business as usual. But now, I don't know. There were good moments here, but overall, this was a weak hour, in a way that pointed to some of the season's growing flaws. Finger's crossed that the gang's Irish vacation gets us back on point.

Stray Observations:

  • I am sad that Tig won't be going on the trip. "You do realize that every Latina you bone ends up dead?" "This comes with a price."
  • It almost seemed like Opie's girlfriend was going to break up with him for a second there, and then he distracted her with a hug.

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