Episode Title: "Darthy"
Writers: Chris Collins & Kurt Sutter
Director: Peter Weller
I have to admit that I would have enjoyed the ending of “Sons of Anarchy” season four if it had given us a more satisfying wrap up for Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman). So many people wanted him dead by the end of last season that it felt contrived when Galen O'Shay (Timothy V. Murphy) demanded to deal only with Clay and the Galindo cartel blackmailed Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) to keep the drug and guns deal alive even if it meant sparing Clay.
But for now, I’m on board with Clay’s significant status quo change. The “Sons of Anarchy” creative team can’t (and they probably won’t) walk this one back and the stage has been set for the rise of a new rival MC.
Full spoilers ahead for “Darthy.” Donal Logue will keep beating up Big Otto if you read this review before catching up with the series.
The opening minutes of “Darthy” were stunning as Clay finally told the assembled members of SAMCRO the extent of his crimes with the NOMADS and his attempt to undermine Jax’s reign. It was the kind of moment that I didn’t expect to see for another few seasons on this show. Kurt Sutter and his creative team have gotten a lot of mileage out of the cat and mouse battle between Clay and Jax.
Now this stage of the game is over.
By unanimous vote, the club kicks Clay out and strips him of his patch. And they all vote to kill him... except for Bobby Muson (Mark Boone Junior). It was clear from the start that Bobby and Clay had worked out a deal before the meeting and it was probably just as obvious to Jax. But without a unanimous vote, the most Jax could do was lay down a serious beating on his step dad.
After every monstrous thing that Clay has ever done on this series, it was still oddly affecting to see him break down in tears at the loss of his club. Clay may have only acted in his best interest, but the club was his life for decades. Later in the episode, Clay even has his SOA tattoos blacked out by Happy (David Labrava) as the club members watched. But I suppose that Clay was lucky. We’ve already seen the club insist on removing one man’s SOA tattoos by fire for abandoning Opie years ago. What Clay did to the club was much worse.
It’s almost sad that Clay can’t see that the only two remaining bright spots in his life were only there for him because Jax had leverage on them. Jean Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi) was forced to rat on Clay to save his own life and Gemma (Katey Sagal) only got close to him in order to regain favor with Jax and Tara (Maggie Siff).
Now that Clay is out of the club, the direction of the story seems to be leading towards a SAMCRO Civil War of sorts. If all goes to plan, Clay is going to try to temporarily skip the country with Gemma and build a new crew to run Irish guns. He keeps offering Tig (Kim Coates) a place in his new venture and I think that Tig will take him up on it... provided that he survives next week’s season finale.
Juice will probably also join Clay, since Jax doesn’t really want him around. But if there’s a fourth member of that makeshift MC, I think that it will be Bobby. He had a well reasoned argument for going behind Jax’s back to get Clay out of the club alive. But if Jax truly sees Bobby as a traitor then maybe his place is by the side of the man whose life he just saved.
There’s been a lot of talk this season (and even from Clay in this episode) that Jax is a better leader than his step-father. But it’s not really true. Every time that Jax looks to get the club out of trouble or danger they just dig themselves in even deeper. Sending Tara to deal with Big Otto Delaney (Kurt Sutter) was a disaster and Jax also shattered the club’s long time bond with the Grim Bastards.
More strikingly, Jax hasn’t been keeping his promises. It was fairly obvious that Jax and Tara had no intention of letting Gemma back into their lives even if she got the proof of Clay’s guilt that they wanted. Nor is Juice probably long for this world if he hangs around SAMCRO. Jax has even promised to hand Tig over to Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau); which may be the one promise he won’t break because his refusal would set Pope against the club once again. But if Jax goes through with it then it would further diminish the ties of SAMCRO brotherhood that once meant so much to him.
Weirdly enough, Jax and Pope seem to have developed a mutual admiration for each other. When Jax needs advice for how to deal with Clay, he turns to Pope. And as the club moves into less dangerous illicit activities and legitimate front businesses, it all seems to come from Pope’s example.
Maybe at some point Jax will realize that he’s never going to leave SAMCRO like this. Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits) seems to have realized that his dreams of getting out of the life are dead when he accepts being pulled back into his old crew and lends Jax a significant sum of money to secure SAMCRO’s assistance. Smits has been a great addition to the cast this season and he’ll hopefully be sticking around beyond the season finale.
One of the weaker aspects of this episode was the way that Romeo (Danny Trejo), Luis Torres (Benito Martinez) and the Galindo cartel completely ruined Jax’s negotiations with the Irish for no good reason. It felt like an artificial way to raise the tension again and put SAMCRO at odds with both the cartel and the IRA. I applaud the destination but I question the path we took to get there.
The build up of Donal Logue’s new character, Lee Toric seems to suggest that he’ll be causing problems for SAMCRO well into next season. It reminds me of the way that Pope was name dropped in last season’s finale. We learn a little bit more about Toric in this episode when he sees Tara and gets her side of the story. Toric is the brother of the nurse killed by Otto with the cross smuggled in by Tara. So he has a vested interest in making both of them pay.
However, Toric seems to have an unusual amount of pull within Otto’s prison if he can simply visit and beat up Otto at will. That doesn’t sound very much like a retired U.S. Marshal, does it? And do you think someone packing all of those guns in his hotel room will simply accept a slap on the wrist for Tara? I don’t.
If we don’t see Wendy (Drea de Matteo) again on this series, then the character got the best send off that she could hope for, given her history with Jax. The Irish kidnap Wendy to force Jax into paying them the money for the weapons stolen by the cartel. And despite Tara’s friendly overtures earlier in the episode, the newly freed Wendy is more than angry enough to threaten to report her abduction and Abel’s in order to reclaim custody of her son.
Big mistake. Not only does Jax not tolerate Wendy’s threat, he forcibly shoots her up with heroin and promises to report her for erratic behavior... which could lead to a failed drug test that will cause no small amount of problems even if she doesn’t slip back into addiction.
Much like everyone else on “Sons of Anarchy,” Wendy brought the majority of her problems upon herself. But when a former drug addict who was responsible for Abel’s addiction at birth is now more sympathetic than Jax himself... that’s a big problem for him. As Jax tells Bobby in this episode, you can’t have the gavel and not be a savage.
Next week, we’ll see just how savage Jax really is.