“Sons of Anarchy”: Halfway, and Half There

I love Sons of Anarchy, I do. I love all the plot twists, backstabbing, and adrenaline. I even relish in the moments so gruesome I watch them behind spread fingers. But lately, I’ve been struggling with it. What’s usually an hour filled with juicy motorcycle club drama, illegal activity, requisite violence, power struggles and family secrets has become a bit of a drawn out plot mess.

At the end of last week’s episode, when Jax (Charlie Hunnam) broke up with his childhood sweetheart, Tara (Maggie Siff), and promptly slept with a porn star, I wasn’t sure Jax could recover my sympathies any time soon. (Granted, as a female, I’m not exactly the target audience for the FX show, and am perhaps more sensitive to some of these fragile relationships than other fans.) Yes, we’re supposed to think that Jax is doing it for Tara’s own good, and their story is far from over with Tara carrying Jax’s child. However, Jax has always been the most sympathetic character in the show, and his relationship with Tara helped keep him a sensitive, family-oriented guy who was trying to get the best out of his beloved club. And now, halfway through the third season, without his son or his girlfriend, Jax is floundering.

The Sons as a club have a strong moral code, something that helps us as viewers stay on their side despite their acts of brutal, sometime heartless, violence. This is a very important emotional connection to keep intact, and although it’s a hard line to walk, up until this season, the show has done quite well. Now, I’m not sure whose side I’m on, and it seems that neither do any of the characters.

The Sons are getting involved in the Mayan’s drug running, a business they would never have touched in the past. Jax is following his stepfather, Clay’s (Ron Perlman), leadership blindly. Gemma (Katey Sagal) is ignoring Jax’s deal with the authorities that will likely get her murder accusation acquitted, and instead deciding haphazardly to go on the run again, creating even more liability for the club.

Sure, the show has always focused on loyalties shifting and developing more complex relationships, occasionally digging up an old skeleton while they’re at it. But this season needs focus more than any other. The only plot line carrying us through this season is the kidnapping of Jax’s infant son, Abel. The club is now finally headed to Belfast, where Abel has been for the past seven episodes, and after so much time spent on lies and missed opportunities, hopefully that means things can start moving forward.

But even with Belfast and the impeding battle with the IRA and the Irish Sons promising good tension in the future, back in Charming, things are beyond a mess. Tara is now alone and being followed by a jilted member of the Calaveras. Unser, their last police ally, has turned on them. Their bail for a previous assault is quickly running out. Gemma is a wanted fugitive. And the city of Charming itself doesn’t want the Sons around now that they’re no longer doing what they’ve promised: keeping their streets safe.

With so much on the line, and no strong character to pull us through now that Jax is drowning in grief and poor decisions, I’m starting to lose faith that this season will pull through. With no hero, or anti-hero for that matter, on any clear side, what I’m now rooting for is plot resolution. And while I know the Sons value retaliation above almost anything, what I need now is redemption.