Episode Title: "Crucifixed"
Writer: Kem Nunn
Director: Guy Ferland
Previously on "Sons of Anarchy"
On “Sons of Anarchy,” it seems like the characters can’t get out of trouble without digging themselves into an even deeper hole. The bulk of the fifth season’s story is the direct result of Tig (Kim Coates) accidentally killing the daughter of Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau) to avenge what he thought was an outside attempt on Clay Morrow’s (Ron Perlman) life.
Lies upon lies have led to the current status quo of SAMCRO, where they find themselves under the thumb of both Pope and the Galindo drug cartel with a RICO investigation also waiting in the wings. There may be a way out, but it’s becoming very clear that there could be a lot of collateral damage along the way.
Full spoilers are ahead for "Crucifixed," so hold off on reading this review if you aren’t up to date with “Sons of Anarchy.”
Last season, the survival of Jean Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi) was nothing short of miraculous, if not a little contrived. Even at the beginning of this episode, Juice gets a lucky break in the form of a pair of cops waiting outside of his home while Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) was tailing him. Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) warns Juice to get out of town and save himself, but Juice can’t bring himself to run. He has nothing to live for except SAMCRO.
The subsequent confrontation between Juice and Jax was terrifically underplayed by both Rossi and Hunnam. There are no histrionics as Jax lays out every crime that Juice committed against the club. It seemed like Juice was relieved that Jax knows the truth and it was almost as if he was prepared to die for what he had done. Instead, Jax offers Juice the same lifeline that he gave his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal): get proof that Clay was behind the Nomads’ home invasions and all will be forgiven.
Unfortunately, Jax is not very trustworthy at this point. Privately, Jax tells Bobby Muson (Mark Boone Junior) and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) that they will eventually expose Juice’s crimes to the club. And I don’t believe that Jax and his wife, Tara (Maggie Siff) have any plans to honor their deal with Gemma. To be fair to Jax and Tara, Gemma did nearly get their children killed..
Rossi tends to be at his best when Juice is wound up, and the latest turn felt like an earned twist instead of simply delaying the inevitable. The story also put the audience in a position to feel some sympathy for Clay again. He’s still a monster who killed several of his friends and beat his wife, but Clay seems to have a moment of remorse and clarity when he refuses the suggested deal from Romero Parada (Danny Trejo) and Luis Torres (Benito Martinez) to eliminate Jax and let him regain control over SAMCRO.
Normally I’d just assume that Clay was playing to an audience, but if he really wanted Jax out of the picture permanently then he could have jumped at the offer. Instead, Clay returns to his home and tells Juice that he’s not even sure he wants control of the club again. That could have been performance to maintain Juice’s loyalty, or it could be a rare moment of emotional honesty for Clay. His unexpected kindness towards Gemma was also effective, but she’s simply following Jax’s orders instead of following her heart. It’s almost sad that the two people closest to Clay are the two that Jax is already blackmailing to bring him down.
While Jax has been getting close to Pope, he’s still eager to avenge Opie (Ryan Hurst) by hunting down his killers with the rest of SAMCRO. Between Pope and the SAMCRO prospects, Jax and company locate Randal Hightower, the inmate who caved in Opie’s skull. Unfortunately, Randall is under the protection of T.O. and the Grim Bastards, SAMCRO’s most loyal allies in the world of the MCs.
If Jax was thinking clearly, he would have honored the bonds of loyalty between the Grim Bastards and SAMCRO and kept his word not to kill Randal. Instead, he has Chibs blow Randal’s brains out in front of the Grim Bastards and he effectively shatters their two decade alliance. It’s no small thing. SAMCRO has alternately been aligned or at war with the Mayans and the Niners for years. But the Grim Bastards have always had their backs. And with the s***storm ahead, SAMCRO no longer has any real allies when they need them the most.
On a side note, it seems like Juice’s betrayal of the club to hide his black father really was for nothing, as Jax and Bobby can barely believe that was the reason he informed on them. Jax even mentions that it’s time to change the bylaws of the club to get away from their more racist history. The long alliance with the Grim Bastards already proved that SAMCRO was capable of making that change.
It’s almost hilarious to see how proud Pope appears to be about Jax’s attempts to legitimize SAMCRO’s endeavours and “think beyond the street.” But it’s also troubling how easily Pope is willing to discard the foot soldiers who carried out his orders to attack Jax and his friends inside prison. That kind of suggests that Pope will also dispose of Jax and SAMCRO if they ever lose their value to him.
Pope also reminds Jax that the clock is ticking on Tig’s life and that he fully intends to continue making Tig pay for killing his daughter. It’s less clear if Jax will allow that to happen or if he’ll honor his deal with Pope. The only way this will end satisfactorily is if either Tig or Pope eventually dies. There is no compromise to be had.
Meanwhile, Tara’s storyline took a much darker turn that could land her in prison, or even cost Tara her career. Even as Tara is courted for a coveted position by an out-of-state hospital, she makes plans to return to prison and convince Big Otto Delaney (Kurt Sutter) to recant his RICO testimony.
After the strange turns in Tara’s last two visits with Otto, she should have seen something coming. Instead, Otto puts one over on her by convincing Tara to smuggle his dead wife’s crucifix into the prison, where he proceeds to use it to kill one of the nurses. It’s a shockingly brutal moment, even for this series. Implicating Tara as an accessory for murder may have been Otto’s final “f*** you!” to SAMCRO. And despite Otto’s desire to die, it seems likely that the state will put him on trial for killing the nurse before letting him reach death row. So he may have inadvertently added months or years to his life.
Jax’s assurances to Tara that he wouldn’t let her go down for Otto’s crime was touching, but there’s really nothing he can do about it. And both Tara and Jax have to share the blame for letting it happen.
The extra minutes for this episode helped the story juggle multiple events and plotlines without seeming too crowded. The extra space also gave Chibs two of his best scenes of the season when he reaffirmed his loyalty to Jax and when he reached out to Gemma early in the episodes. This series has a remarkable strong cast and it usually shines when it gives everyone something to do. And now that Bobby appears to be disillusioned with Jax’s leadership, a potential coup by Clay doesn’t seem so unlikely.