Thoughtful & Abstract: Sons of Anarchy: Season Two

In which Shawn (@genx13) and Kim (@kimfreakinb) reminisce about Season Two of Sons of Anarchy. Shawn just started watching the show this Summer and Kim has been watching for years. As the Final Season revs up, here are some thoughts about the show’s sophomore season in the Fall of 2009.

Shawn: Well, you didn’t lie to me. I got a full dose of guns, porn, overzealous law, and a bit of the ultraviolence. I feel like there’s a conscious effort to expand the story right off the bat. We ended on such an emotional note last season that dealing with Donna’s death would have been a natural start to the season. What we got was a quick introduction to Zoebelle (creepy Adam Arkin) and AJ Weston (amazingly intense Henry Rollins) as the white separatists trying to take over SAMCRO’s business in Charming. The first episode ends with one of the more powerful scenes up to that point – the gang rape of Gemma. Seeing her as vulnerable as she was at that moment changed my whole view of her.

The electric shock that such a violent act sends through the system is hard to overcome. We’re talking about a season that includes a new level of violence and more gruesome deaths. And yet the shockwave that the violence against the matriarch of the club permeates the rest of the season. If they don’t pull off the revenge by the end of the season in a believable way then I’m done. It’s a huge chance.

I like the way the Jax vs. Clay story intersected with the rape revenge story as Gemma tells “her boys” about the rape in order to keep the club from completely falling apart. In many ways, her rape recovery helps bring her and Tara closer together and it also brings Wayne Unser and the Charming Police force closer to the Sons as he shares her secret. As the stories all come together with her reveal, the show really plows forward quickly towards the conclusion (more on that later).

I’d be remiss to start off my thoughts without mentioning the porn angle. Once again, nothing is really throw away. Take what is a fun additional business that gives the guys a reason to see naked ladies and get laid and raise some needed money – then turn it around and make it integral to the plot. Tom Arnold is hilarious in his role as Georgie. But then it provides us with a love interest for Opie that helps us move on from the Donna murder along with Tig’s confession after his wild mushroom trip. It also gives us an arson fire of the studio that will contribute to fueling the Jax vs. Clay rivalry to the point that Gemma has to confess the rape and it ultimately helps bring about the final justice at the end of the season.

So much here that it’s hard to focus. I’m wondering what sticks in your head? And Chibs took a big step up in importance here – how do you come down on that? And did the conflict with LOAN take away from what had been built as their conflicts with the Mayans in the first season?

Kim: So many things, I just don’t know where to begin. I would be remiss if I didn’t start off with professing my love for the casting of Henry Rollins. I think of all of the characters that are specially cast in the next few seasons, he’s probably my second favorite. I can’t spill the beans about my first favorite, only to say when you see Venus, think of me. Creepy, intense, and down right intimidating, with that brooding pouty face when things don’t go the way of the white supremacist, ideals his character holds. Right down to his death on the shitter, he was defiant and a die-hard bad guy.

Let’s talk about Gemma’s rape, because there are several things you said that I can agree with. The first was that this was the first time we see Gemma as truly vulnerable. To me, this vulnerability made me actually like her. As she is violated, you feel her pain and her fear and you really want Clay or Jax to seek vengeance for this act. And then…she covers up the truth and has to deal with this secret throughout the season. Revenge takes time, and we do get to see it on so many levels, in ways that seem completely logical, given the lives they all lead.

Let’s move to someone who is one of my favorites on the show – Chibs. We finally get to learn more about him, his past, his wife – wait, what? Chibs will be increasingly important in the remainder of the seasons, and you’ll get to see a lot of him. I love his accent. I love his attitude. I recall being concerned about the whole offer from Stahl to help take down Jimmy O and his seeming acceptance of it. Will he really work with Stahl and the ATF? Will he save his family? What’s my most favorite Scot going to do now?

I remember watching this season and my hatred for Clay grew, right along with Jax’s. Knowing what we knew about Donna’s death and the simple fact that he OK’d a hit on Opie pretty much sealed my dislike of him. Speaking of Opie, I saw much of Season Two as hinging on his relationships with the club. He solidifies his place in the MC after Donna’s death, only to be handed the knowledge that it was because of his beloved club that she was dead. I remember wondering how come he didn’t kill Tig. But then, it’s the draw of family, brotherhood, all the club stands for now that his wife is gone.

But I think what stuck for me from this entire season was Gemma’s reveal to Jax and Clay that she was, indeed, gang raped. The first time I watched that episode, I sat in the dark watching and cried. I cried for how painful that would be to admit that to your family. Jax’s reaction just floored me. The pure anger masked by concern for his mother. His reassuring touch that told her, “This will be handled. I’m not going anywhere.” And then, it hit me. I suddenly stopped having any sympathy for Gemma. She wasn’t telling them because it was the right thing for her mental health or her relationships. It was simply a tool for her to use to keep control of Jax, Clay, and, in effect, the MC. Once I let that sink in, I was right back to disliking her inability to allow anyone control over their own lives. Always manipulating to get to what she sees as the way things should be.

So, we see Gemma exact her revenge on Polly for her part in the rape, Jax takes care of AJ, Zobelle escapes with the help of the Mayans, albeit having lost his daughter, presumably to continue his LOAN activities and heroin dealings elsewhere. Justice not completely served, but that seems to be the norm for everyone who deals with the MC, no matter what their connection.

The problems with the Mayans are still there, but they’re not part of Charming, they’re not the direct threat to the way of life the MC is accustomed to in Charming. You clean up your own shit before you deal with others. The conflict in Season One sets up the uneasiness when the Mayans are protecting Zobelle. It’s all a continuing story, and much like the unpredictability in life, we can’t see how relationships between other clubs are going to change. We can’t see how relationships between club members are going to change. And that’s what keeps us watching. We have to see, we have to know. We’re rooting for – well, we don’t really know. I guess it’s for every one of the MC members to get exactly what they want out of this life. Except Clay and Gemma. I don’t want them to have anything.

How have you seen Jax change from Season One? Do you see him as edging toward his father’s vision of the club more or getting sucked into Clay’s version of the MC?

Shawn: It’s interesting that you brought up Jax’s journey. Season One was all about setting up Jax’s journey. We learned quite a bit about his father through the voiceovers and the references back to the book manuscript. The final episode gave us a peek at the black and white, evil and good, old and new battles that would happen in Season Two. And then…distraction on top of distraction. I think that it’s realistic but not as mythological as I wanted at first. This season Jax became more about emotion. He made decisions based on raw feelings and revenge. That included sleeping with a porn star – not a bad move in general but not his smartest under the circumstances. This is culminated with the ultimate in emotional reactions when he kills Weston on the toilet even after seeing Weston in a touching moment (albeit still full of race hate) with his son.

Let’s look closely at the Season Finale – “Na Triobloidi” which translates as “The Troubles”. We started with Zobelle and Weston in jail. The episode before felt like our thirst for revenge wouldn’t be quenched. We quickly find that both are to be released. The knowledge that Zobelle is an FBI informant and led away with Mayan protection means we have to settle for the death of Weston to even the scales. Otto settles his vendetta in the prison library and it seems like the season is getting a little balance.

Jax shooting Weston on the toilet is a low moment. It’s shooting an unarmed man on the toilet. In one way, it mirrors the violation that Weston perpetrated on Gemma at her most vulnerable. Taking him away from his kids forever doesn’t seem to be the role that Jax’s father would support. While I felt conflicted about the death, I accepted it as how justice is handled in this universe. But what happens next is how fate seems to work here too.

The last link and maybe the most distressing to Gemma is Polly and her role in allowing her father to do this to her. Gemma is able to kill Polly in the same house where Stahl has killed Edmond. Her cosmic punishment for this is to leave us and reluctantly her family on the run from the law. Cameron’s kidnapping of Abel and the death of Half Sack up the ante. A rape led to a death and that death led to another death and kidnapping of a son. The heartbreaking end to the season is transposed against the end of last season. The Jax at the funeral stood tall and was empowered. The Jax we are left with is broken and on his knees as his son is put on a boat and driven away.

I can tell that they are setting up lots of storylines for the future. This thing with the Irish and finding Abel foremost. Am I missing something? Or rather do you think they foreshadow the future accurately? Or is that even their duty? Seems like each answer keeps creating more questions. BTW – you’re right about learning to love these characters. Don’t let me forget to talk about that later.

Kim: Can I first say that I don’t give a fuck that Weston was unarmed and on the toilet? I think it was a fitting, brutal end to a despicable human being. Theirs is a life of violence and hatred and nothing good can come of it. Sad for his kid, sure. But let’s face it – his kids are already messed up and are going to need some straightening out and I can’t help but wonder if they’re better off without that type of fatherly influence. I suppose I could say the same thing about Abel, though, so we’ll watch as that all plays out. I think the whole idea is that every choice you make in life affects not just yourself, but those around you. We’ll see and feel that time and again. It’s all part of a tapestry of life that plays out throughout this entire series. It’s never going away until Season Seven ends.

Otto – so many times I think “poor Otto”. What he’s given for this club and what he gets in return seem at opposite ends of the spectrum. We know he’s not a “nice guy”, but even back in Season Two, I rooted for him. Perhaps because it’s Sutter himself, but I think moreover, it’s the whole “hey, he’s in the clink for the club and he’s carrying all of this burden around for them”.

I didn’t like the way the Zobelle fiasco ended. I wanted more justice, more something. Just because he’s an informant, he shouldn’t get a free pass. Donna certainly didn’t and she and Opie weren’t giving up anything. It’s kind of a “good guys don’t always win” kind of moment, but the good guys really aren’t all that good.

Gemma/Polly/Stahl/Edmond – good God that’s a mess. Is it just me, or do Gemma’s actions, possibly more than anyone else’s, always seem to push things in a negative direction? Perhaps it’s because I’m riding along in Season Seven that I have these opinions of nearly everything she does, but I have yet to see the over-arching good in her. Is it that she loves her place and status in the club or does she really want what is best for her family? I’m thinking the former, but she’s got herself believing the club IS best for her family.

I think at the end of Season Two I was left with the, “OK, Three will be about getting Abel back and trying to re-establish a basis of trust with the Irish”. They’re going to need some allies in this fight, and figuring out how to get it all done while returning Abel to Charming is going to be a struggle. We still need to see how Chibs’ wife, Fiona, is tied to the Irish and how that is going to affect him in the long run.

Jax has the new focus of getting his son back, trying to find his place in his relationship with Tara and how to balance it all with being the kind of man he desperately wants to be. I think he just wants to make his father proud, even though he’s no longer around. That ghost is always sitting with him as he thinks through right and wrong, what he should do next, and how to move his club in the direction his father saw.

Loving the characters is easy. Still no love for Clay, fleeting for Gemma, but everyone else is solid in my book at this point. The black humor scattered throughout the show pushes you in that direction because you get to see the not-so-scary side of this rough and tumble crew. I could sit and have beers with any one of them and not feel intimidated because we get to see how they deal with the stress of this kind of life.

Who are your favorites at this point? Jax, Opie, and Chibs for me, in that order at the end of Season Two. The desperate father angle made me love Jax more than I did in Season One. Opie’s real emotions in coming to terms with Donna’s death hit home for me, and Chibs’ increasing importance to the club and his ability to step back and think things through stick him up in that top tier.

Shawn: You asked about my favorites now that I’m 26 episodes into this. I was going to say Half Sack before his untimely demise. I felt quite a tinge of disappointment with his death but each season has to hit us on that emotional level. If I am thinking of the main cast it’s probably Jax, Opie, and Piney. You hit on the first two very accurately. Jax is our hero and his journey is the show’s journey. His pain at the loss of his son just puts him further into my heart. Opie is our “everyman”. He has been dealt lots of shit and continues to love the Club. It’s his family and his support group and the cause of all his problems. I’ve developed a big love for Piney. The man showed some suffering over the loss of Donna and what it did to his son. This season had him involved in the most fun scene of the season when they rescued Tig from the bounty hunters at the hotel. And I was on edge when Piney was at the cabin and folded up his cutte before going to shoot Clay. That scene when Clay tells him not to come back to the clubhouse without his cutte on was very touching. I’m hoping to see more of Piney with some ladies in the future.

Just have to give some love to a few minor characters that have made an impact for me. Happy – I feel like I like this guy. He’s all muscle and it seems like they are setting him up for a larger role in the future. Ernest Darby – mainly because I think Mitch Pileggi is a tremendous actor and makes a great bad guy. I hope he’s not dead in the fire. Ima Tite – I wanted to hate her because she’s moving in on Jax but her name is too funny and I’m not sad about more porn stories in the show.

I can’t let Season Two finish without a thought about where Season Three needs to go for me. I think the weak link is Jax and his women right now. Jax is a stone-cold hottie. I understand why all these women want him sexually. But he’s still his momma’s boy in many ways. Gemma is controlling him and I don’t see what is the long-term attraction for either of the women. I need to see more Jax and Tara. The search for Abel is about creating a family with Jax and Tara. The baby is lost and when he returns he becomes a new addition to the couple. Tara’s laying down the law with the hospital administrator was hilarious in many ways as it showed the influence of Jax on her but it also shows that she’s going to do anything for this man. But my confidence in the two of them as a couple is shaken still.

I’m all in for Season Three and it’s going to be a quick watch for me. I can’t seem to get enough. You set me up perfect for Season Two – gimme just a few words of encouragement for what’s ahead and I’m gone.

Kim: I’m so glad you mentioned Happy. He is one of my faves heading into later seasons. Ima irritates the piss out of me. Whenever someone is rude to her, it just makes me laugh. If you want to like a porn actress, like Lila. She’s very likable. Jax needs to keep it in his pants and decide what he wants, once and for all. Tara’s worth way more than whatever he’s giving her. Honestly, if I were Tara, I’d have split long ago. I suppose even doctors have their self-esteem issues. I don’t buy that it’s her mad love for Jax that lets him treat her this way and keeps her around. I think going into later episodes, I still never fully understood it. It’s a head scratcher for me, but I don’t dislike it. It just confuses me a bit. It can’t be solely the fact that he’s gorgeous. It just can’t.

I think we can both agree that up through the end of season two, the casting has been spectacular. I don’t think there’s really any character I see played better by another actor. If loving this group is wrong, I sure don’t want to be right.

Up next in Season Three: death, romance, killing, more killing, travel, and a whole lot of accents. We might even see a “Don’t do that – it’s your sister!” moment that reminds me of Star Wars, whichever episode it was where Luke & Leia kissed.

And we now we go dark.

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Shawn Bourdo

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