TV Squad
October 27, 2010
'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 8 Recap

'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 8 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 27th 2010 12:15PM

['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Lochan Mor']

'Sons of Anarchy' looks unapologetically at violent lives. Whether the sons are in Belfast or California, fisticuffs and bullets are never far away.

But what struck me about 'Lochan Mor' is that it was really about children -- how beloved they are, how fiercely they are protected (and how they protect their elders). But what may be most striking about this super-sized episode is how it dwelled on the idea that their very existence can be dangerous.

We had Tara and Lyla deciding what to do about unplanned pregnancies. We had Maureen Ashby looked after by her daughter Trinity, who is shaping up to be another one of the show's very cool, very tough chicks. We saw Chibs finally reunited with his wife and child -- a child who hasn't known anything but violence and fear for quite a long time. There was Jax still looking for his son but facing possible death twice in one day in his quest to reclaim him.

And of course there's Gemma, the mother hen of the whole Charming chapter, following her instincts and getting the Sons out of a jam with Northern Ireland law enforcement. But much worse is coming.

Without getting too pretentious about it, these are all people who, as Yeats' poem has it, are "vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle."

No wonder Tara thinks being a parent in this world is just too scary. She's done well in her lessons at the Gemma Teller-Morrow Charm School, but the Sons willingly live in a frightening, unpredictable world. Their bonds to each other are strong, and family means everything to them. But those family ties aren't enough to protect the people Jax, Gemma and Clay care about. If anything, the lives they've chosen put them and their loved ones in even more danger.

Will Tara abort her baby, or will she become one of the mothers who finally says "enough" to all the testosterone-fueled equipment-measuring that's going on among the men? The sense I get is that there will certainly be more hell to pay, as Kellan Ashby and Jimmy O fight a proxy war with the Sons in the middle and as Jacob Hale uses his own set of patsies to fight his Charming war for him. But I also think that the women might be the ones to rise up and put a stop to all the bloody conflict. Maybe.

What's clear is that the Sons, and the sons (especially Jax and Abel), are being used. If they don't take the situation into their own hands and take back some control, they're sunk. But their reception in Belfast proved that they have only each other to rely on. And can Jax trust Gemma and Clay, given the lies they appear to have told him about his father?

Perhaps Gemma and Mo will form some kind of tentative alliance, but then again, maybe not. There's clearly some kind of tortured history between them. The part we know -- that John Teller had a kid with Mo and Gemma never knew that -- is painful enough. As for the other secrets in John's history, I hope we and/or Jax learn them soon. Vague hints are fine up to a point, but I think there's been enough of a prelude to this particular secret. We need to find out what it is soon, or the hints about John's past could grow irksome.

Not irksome at all: That sensational opening scenes of the Sons arriving in Northern Ireland. The show has always been really great at three things: Wordless sequences that set up stories and settings; song choices; and road sequences featuring the crew on their motorcycles.

This may be my favorite 'Sons' road sequence yet. It managed to be graceful and exciting at the same time, and the episode's editor and director did a fabulous job of integrating Black 47's "Big Fellah" into the sweeping shots of the crew rolling through the countryside and into the city.

The song choice was particularly apt; the "Big Fellah" refers to Michael Collins, an Irish revolutionary hero who died in 1922. The song laments a loss, an ache, a longing for leadership and someone to provide hope. Nothing could have been more appropriate as Jax, the great hope of the Sons, who's on alien turf and wary of possible betrayal from every corner, rode into Belfast. It was a stirring song about painful history and loss, an excellent choice for a man with Irish roots riding into battle in order to put his family back together.

But is that possible? I must confess, the final image of the episode left me scratching my head. I know it was meant to be one of those big "SOA" twists, but I don't think it worked. Of course, it's terrible if Abel was adopted and possibly lost to Jax forever. Yet I'm wondering: What does Father Ashby know about Abel's adoption?

I noticed that when Ashby visited the orphanage, there was a nun with him (and was it me, or did that nun have a gun? It wouldn't surprise me -- that Ashby would hang with a nun with a gun). In any case, that same nun was in the scene with the couple taking home Abel. Does that mean Ashby was in on that adoption and even arranged it? I'm not sure.

There are two possibilities. The first one: Asbhy is double-crossing Jax, and has no intention of giving Abel back to his father. Recall that Ashby only promised that Abel would go "home in the arms of his loving family." He didn't say whose family. But riddle me this: What does the priest gain from pissing off SAMCRO? Does he expect Jax to die in the war against Jimmy O, and thus an angry Jax is not his problem? Or does Ashby have a further use for the child, therefore he needs to make Abel even more inaccessible to both Jimmy and Jax?

This is one devious priest, and I wouldn't put much past him. Then again, I suppose there a second possibility: Abel is being adopted without Ashby's knowledge. Perhaps Jimmy's spies have figured out where the child is, or perhaps the people running that orphanage just wanted to make a fast buck off a cute blonde baby. In any case, I wish there'd been less ambiguity about that last scene, in terms of what Ashby did or didn't know. But we may get answers quickly about that next week -- I hope that's the case.

The overall impression I'm left with is of two factions putting the Sons in the middle -- and neither side can be fully trusted. Ashby and Jimmy have their own agendas, and they're basically using SAMBELL and SAMCRO to fight their war for them. But the Sons and Jax have their own agenda -- to get Abel and get out of Belfast alive. That is not going to be easy, not when their own hosts in the Belfast charter can't be trusted.

More importantly, Jax's dilemma just got a lot more complicated. Should he do as Father Kellan Ashby asked and kill Jimmy, or should he fulfill his deal with Stahl and deliver a live, very guilty Jimmy to the Feds? And he can't confide in anyone about this impossible choice; both of the deals Jax struck are secret.

Jax's secrets are, to me, the most interesting ones of the season. Given that I'm invested in Jax as a character, and interested by the journey he's gone on as a father and an increasingly ruthless leader, I'm eager to see how these backroom deals will play out for him. The whole "secrets of John Teller" thread is too vague at this point to be a big draw for me; those skeletons in the closet are likely to be more interesting when we see how they affect Jax.

In any event, let's hope he finds out soon that Trinity is his half-sister. Ye gods! Raise your hand if you spent half the episode thinking, "Jax! Don't tap your sister!" And maybe that's how the secrets will start coming out -- if Jax and Trinity's flirting goes any further, I can see Maureen or Gemma flipping out and explaining why those two should just remain friends.

Jax may find out more than he bargained for when it comes to his blood relations, but I have the strange feeling that he'll end up with a diminished family in the end. A frequent 'Sons' theme is how the people you trust most can betray you in the most devastating ways possible. If Jax emerges from Belfast with his kid, what will he have lost in the bargain?

Can Jax trust Gemma or Clay or will he find out something that makes him reconsider his entire relationships with them? More importantly, will he end up with any children at all? Abel himself isn't really a person we can invest in yet; he's more of an adorable MacGuffin at this point. But he matters deeply to Jax; he was raised in a culture where protecting family is the only job that matters. And obviously Tara's a long way from being a mother, if that actually happens, but he probably would have died to protect her before. If he knew she was pregnant, he'd be even more committed to her.

But as people have suggested in comments and emails, it's hard to imagine how Jax could emerge from this whole experience with two healthy, happy, safe kids. This is the kind of world that exacts a price for all that violence. There was a sense of foreboding infused into 'Lochan Mor,' a feeling that someone would die, if not now, then soon. Sure, we had the violence of the roadside stop and in the loyalists' shootout, but those were just preludes.

Episode titles from this season of 'Sons' have referenced Yeats' 'The Second Coming,' and here's a passage that comes to mind:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

"Surely some revelation is at hand..."


A few final notes:

* I think for some 'SOA' fans, the reaction to this episode will consist of "Shirtless Jax!!" It may have taken a long time for the club to get to Belfast, but I'm betting that for some, that scene makes it worth the trip, eh?

* From what I understand from this interview with Kurt Sutter, none of the cast members or guest actors from 'Sons of Anarchy' shot their scenes in Ireland. Scenes of the club on the road and in the city were shot by a second-unit crew that flew to Belfast (the guys on bikes on those scenes were locally recruited extras). Any scenes with dialogue or recognizable characters were shot in California, on locations that matched the Irish countryside and city. The scenes inside and outside the SAMBELL clubhouse were shot on sets that were built on or near the show's Los Angeles-area sets. All in all, the show's crew and directors did a simply outstanding job of making California look like Northern Ireland (which I've only visited once, but the countryside south and west of Belfast has some of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever seen).

* Nice job on the soundtrack throughout, and the Irish-inflected theme song was a nice touch.

* My favorite Clay line, "I don't recognize your bullshit MC," is gone from the previouslies. They do this just to hurt me. Ah well, my friend Marina created this desktop wallpaper for those of us who wanted it immortalized visually (scroll down to the end of the post, where you'll find the Clay image, right-click to save it to your computer).

* So the Kozik-Tig beef -- which continues to be amusing -- has to do with "her." Hmmmm....

* Will the club take the bait that Alvarez left and attribute the attack on Lumpy's gym as something the Mayans did? That's assuming Kozik or Tig can track down the freaked-out prospect and get him to tell them what he saw and heard. I have to think that the SOA members left in Charming wouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion that the Mayans are up something. They've got a truce with that crew, and clearly something bigger is happening with the real estate in town.

* Favorite line of the episode: Happy saying "Oh yes, I will!" when ordered to kill someone by Tig. Crew members like Happy haven't gotten as much to do this season, given how much time we've spent on the Irish, but David Labrava delivered that line with beautiful menace.

'Sons of Anarchy' airs 10PM ET Tuesdays on FX.



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