Maybe all "Sons of Anarchy" needed was to have nothing left to lose.
After a couple of middling seasons in which the show seemed stuck in a holding pattern, "Sons" is hitting a stride it hasn't seen in quite some time, as "Some Strange Eruption" delivers another effective episode heavy with meaningful conflict, drawing lines in the sand between characters whose motives were often murky to the point of confusion in years past.
Jax is, understandably, out for blood after the murders at Diosa last week, and the anti-hero prince turned savage king is barreling headlong into his problems, dispensing with the manipulations and back channels that helped dig the bloody hole he's currently standing in.
With the series hurtling toward its conclusion, many of Charming's denizens find themselves throwing their cards on the table this week. Jax spits his entire plan to Lin before punching his face in. Gemma doesn't wait long to point her pistol at Juice, and Nero's hit a point where he's tired of serving two masters who have no qualms about damaging him professionally and personally.
While the show's narrative drive had become too reliant on Jax's brilliance in recent episodes (seriously, he's outsmarted everyone with really, really rudimentary schemes), "Some Strange Eruption" sprints ahead in a much wiser manner, by allowing Unser and Jarry's actions to derail Lin's scheduled execution. This show has a headache-inducing habit of playing all of its cops for fools and degenerates, and it's nice to see Jarry as conflicted, like a much younger Unser, rather than straight-up crooked. She's self-justifying as much as she's making sense when she lets Chibs know why she's taking the bribes, and it definitely felt like we were watching a conversation that happened between Clay and Unser before the pilot.
As for our other lawman, Dayton Callie has been a pleasure to watch this season. Unser seems to be speaking for the viewer when he explains how fed up he is with all the violence in Charming, and I'm anticipating his final clash with Gemma as much, if not more, than I am Jax's run-in with mommy dearest. Unser and Gemma's relationship has always been one of the most engaging parts of the series, and the look on Wayne's face when he inevitably realizes he's been protecting the wolf all along is going to be hard to watch.
Between the usual amount of punching and kicking and shooting, "Some Strange Eruption" raises a whole new bevy of questions about loyalty and motive, even as Jax finally dispenses with the subterfuge tactics that had been grating my nerves for recent weeks.
While all the club's hate for the Lin crew is now out in the open, it remains unclear what made the Triad turn their guns toward Redwood in the first place. This episode strongly hints that Jury (the Indian Hills president whose son or lover or whoever was used as a patsy by Jax three episodes ago) was the one who dropped the dime, but that doesn't make a ton of sense. Yes, Jury logically wants to kill Jax, but would he really sic the Triad on the club and endanger so many other lives? If the show wants to drive the whole "a man who seeks vengeance should dig two graves" idea home, then I'm OK with Jury being the culprit, but it seems a little too dark for the character.
Baroski (Peter Weller) also seems to know a lot more than he's telling about the Triad gun robbery at the port. His hair-trigger execution of the Stockton cop that Jax wanted to question was a little-too-obvious, and I'd say Baroski is a prime candidate for treachery now that Jax went and got Collette killed. Nero, meanwhile, seems to be back in Jax's corner, but that may just be a survival instinct. After all, how is he really going to trust this knee-jerk version of Jackson once he's sure his son is out of danger?
And Juice … poor, poor Juice. This guy just can't catch a break. While this episode moved at breakneck speed again, the writers did well to stop the prototypical montage at the end (Can we PLEASE stop mandating a montage at the end of each episode? It's tired.) and give Juice and Gemma's clash its due. There's zero chance that Juice shoots Gemma, so that cliffhanger is a waste, but the already spun-out-of-control Juice will fall into an even deeper depression now, as the last person he trusted just put a gun to his head. That last pained "I saved you" from Juice was a gut punch.
Five episodes in, and this is shaping up to be the best season of "Sons of Anarchy" since the first two installments. Keep 'em coming, Kurt Sutter.