By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
The music of Sons of Anarchy really does play a major part in Kurt Sutter’s tale of outlaw bikers in small town U.S.A. and every piece is carefully chosen by the creator himself or musical director Bob Thiele — who also doubles as a member in the group The Forest Rangers, a house band that covers numerous tracks every season for the show’s soundtrack.
Generally speaking, Sons of Anarchy opens many times with a musical montage and closes in the same way with a song chosen specifically for those given moments. On Tuesday night’s episode titled ‘Sweet and Vaded’, the show closed with a Joshua James track titled ‘Crash This Train’. Fans of the show will recognized James’ past association with Sons of Anarchy from the season four debut when Jax and the gang are being released from prison to his tune ‘Coal War’ (Ain’t cutting my hair till the good lord comes).
The lyrics to ‘Crash This Train’ played beautifully the theme of tonight’s show at least by my own humble interpretations of the song. Now the central idea behind James’ song appears to be a slight revolt against the government for the lies being told to help sell the Iraq war while thousands of our soldiers continue to die but the chorus rings out with one simple message — ‘God if you can hear me, crash this train’. The request is asking God or whatever deity has the power to basically destroy this world we’re living in because it’s full of sin and death and lies and corruption and allow us to start over fresh.
It’s clear throughout this entire season that Tara wants to very much crash the train and erase the last few years of her life, minus the two sons she so dearly loves, and start fresh somewhere new far away from Charming, Gemma and the violent life her husband leads. As she’s weaved through the legal maneuvers to get ready for her upcoming trial, Tara has been manipulating her great escape the entire time. From getting Wendy on her side to help earn Gemma’s trust to securing the services of a good attorney who will help her put together the necessary documentation to take her children far away from this violent world even if she has to go to prison for conspiracy to commit murder.
The plot completely unfolded during the episode as Tara used Unser’s offer of help to secure a restraining order against an unnamed person while Lowen drafts up an agreement that will keep her boys away from Gemma’s clutches forever so long as both she and Jax sign the order. She promises that by day’s end, Jax will sign off on the papers and Gemma will be out of their lives for good. To get to this ultimate end away from Charming and the vortex of destruction she’s been living in for these past few years, Tara has to become the very thing she hates so much — a manipulative, lying and deceitful woman — or in other words her mother-in-law Gemma.
Like any well-crafted plan, Tara had to start putting these pieces into place weeks ago when she first got out of jail. She announced an unexpected pregnancy, with paperwork to back up her claim, which everyone including Gemma and Jax knew about. She began endearing herself to Wendy with promises of access to Abel in exchange for her winning over Gemma’s trust for the greater good of getting the boys away from Charming. Now she’s even enlisted Unser to her team after he was a victim of the kind of retribution that’s befallen the club recently when he was carved up by a group of Nazis looking for payback. The chess pieces were all in place and now it was time for Tara to call checkmate on Gemma….more on that later.
SAMCRO is still reeling from the loss of their clubhouse, but their family is starting to get back in order. Bobby returned with new members in tow, and they’ve found a temporary home in an ice cream shop they rented from their friend Mayor Hale. You remember Mayor Hale right? The guy who wanted to burn the Sons of Anarchy to the ground until he became an unwitting pawn in their game last season? At this stage of the game, Mayor Hale is a beaten man. His goal of upgrading Charming’s businesses is failing left and right and his dream to build a group of high end condominiums called Charming Heights is on hold while Damon Pope’s organization restructures. He hands over the keys to the ice cream shop while also passing some words of advice to our favorite bikers — they need to find a way to build some goodwill with the people of Charming real quick because once his tenure as mayor is over, the town council will vote to have the MC removed permanently.
First up before the rebuilding can begin, Jax and the crew have to vote in the new members that Bobby found wandering around Nevada. All three are unanimously voted in and Jax then decides that it’s time their prospect Ratboy becomes a full fledged member. All of the members agree, and the scene where Ratboy is inducted into the MC reminded me of the famous moment when Christopher is finally made on The Sopranos. Tig and Chibs call their prospect up to the table and he’s told to remove his cut. They make him cut off his prospect patch and at this point Rat is sitting with one ass cheek off the chair wondering what he could have done wrong. Seconds later he’s given his full Sons of Anarchy patches and inducted as a member. Great reception and hopefully Ratboy will have better luck surviving than the last four prospects because all of them (Miles, V-Lin, Filthy Phil and of course Half-Sack) are gone and buried now.
As teased in last week’s trailer, Nero is up against a wall right now with his own criminal case. While the Sons are celebrating reunions and rebirth, he’s stuck behind bars as a victim of their power play against a now dead U.S. Marshall named Lee Toric. The district attorney has an offer for Nero and his attorney — turn state’s evidence against Jax Teller and the Sons of Anarchy for selling the gun that landed in Matthew Jennings’ hand, which led to the death of four children — and he walks free. Within 24 hours he has to have an answer, which he shares with Gemma when she pays him a visit. It appears Nero’s loyalty will remain in tact because he divulges all of this information to his lady love knowing full well she may love him but she will always love her son that much more. Before Gemma goes she reveals to Nero that Venus paid him a visit last week with a black eye and a bad story about a new run in with her estranged mother. Nero is immediately put into damage control mode asking Gemma to please get Jax and the Sons to help Venus with whatever she needs because after all she is ‘familia’.
Nero’s worries are just mounting especially if he chooses not to take the deal from the D.A. but knowing full well that her case could fall apart once the DNA is returned from Toric’s room she starts to put other plans in motion as a backup. Namely targeting new friend of the Sons Charlie Barasky. He’s a dirty ex-cop who the D.A. is already familiar with so she pays him a visit with a friendly warning about his new association and how it may cost him dearly if he doesn’t want to help with her cause. D.A. Patterson could make things very uncomfortably for Barasky, his donut shop, his friend Collette and his retirement fund if he doesn’t step on board to help get the goods on the Sons of Anarchy.
Before Jax can deal with any of that, however, he first has to finish up his deal with the Irish kings and meet with his old friend August Marks. Jax lets Conner (the Irish King’s No. 2 in America) go back home again. In doing so, he closes the book on the deal with the IRA thus stopping any further bloodshed. That deal also means that August won’t be getting the gun distribution he was promised. Jax assures him with a smile and a handshake that they will figure this out and that he’s done with spilling blood for blood. For now they’ve reached a peaceful treaty, but there’s no way August will sit idly by for long without an income stream to satisfy his thirst and the itchy trigger finger he still has pointed directly at Tig’s head.
Back at the new clubhouse, Jax and the boys are greeted with a familiar face staring back at them in the window — one belonging to Miss Venus Van Damme. As we learn more about Venus’ sad tale of woe, when she was still living life as young Vincent Noon, her mother Alice was doing everything in her power to convince her son that heterosexuality was the only way to live. Her methods weren’t to pray the gay away, but instead Venus’ mother opted to molest her child repeatedly trying to ‘straighten him out’. From there the abuse turned even more sickening as Alice forced her into a string of child pornography videos before she finally escaped and found her true identity as Venus Van Damme. The problem she’s dealing with now is that her ‘nephew’ has been handed over to Alice for custody after his mother died and Venus is mortified that he will become the latest victim to her mother’s twisted game of abuse and molestation.
Jax and the boys (particularly Tig) opt to help Venus and pay a visit to her mother. Upon entering the house they find out quickly why Venus wants her ‘nephew’ out of there immediately. Things turn violent in a hurry and Alice escapes with the boy in tow as the Sons and Venus give chase. She eventually escapes but Jax calls on his old friend Charlie Barasky for help finding a license plate number so they can track her down.
As the secrets start to unfold, it turns out Venus’ nephew is actually her son but he of course has no clue about any of this. He grew up with his mother, who was a childhood friend of Vincent Noon and the pair had a drunken tryst one night and he was the result. Venus is scared to tell her son the truth so she’s been parading as his ‘aunt’ all these years while trying to shield him from the family she fought so hard to escape. Once Jax and the gang track down the warehouse where the family holds up, they discover the boy passed out in his underwear, drugged and incoherent. Alice shows up and immediately launches into a hate filled tirade aimed at her son about how his deviant and twisted life will only infect the boy and she’s a freak that should be put down. Jax has heard enough and with one bullet he silences Alice for good.
For all the evil deeds that Jax has done in the name of good, this one may have been his best deed yet. Alice was an abusive, sick woman who was only capable of inflicting pain and suffering on those around her, mostly the family she should have been devoted to protecting. With each venomous word that spewed from her mouth, Jax’s tolerance just faded away and the only way to stop her vitriol from bleeding out any further was to end her reign of disturbed tyranny once and for all.
Charlie has no problem disposing of the body after he witnesses the kinds of videos that Alice and her family were producing, but one has to wonder if he’s not working another angle here. Charlie didn’t mention to the Sons that he was visited by the district attorney so is it possible that this murder will be used to help put enough on the D.A.’s plate to convict Jax and the club while making sure he gets of scott free? Food for thought.
While all of this is going on, Tara has hatched her ultimate plan to get rid of Gemma and bring Jax even closer. As the old saying goes — keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Early in the episode we see Tara taking a pint of blood from her own arm while holding a conversation with her boss Margaret Murphy about the help she’s about to need. Tara summons Wendy to get things moving to play this out while getting a blank restraining order from Unser to help her cause.
Wendy runs and tells Gemma that Tara has flipped out and now plans to hand over custody of the boys to Margaret in case she goes to prison while cutting them out of their lives forever. Gemma takes the bait, hook, line and sinker. She arrives at the hospital seconds later demanding to have some private time with her daughter-in-law. When Margaret tries to intervene, Gemma tosses her against a soda machine, digging her nails into the hospital administrator’s throat while threatening worse if she gets in the way. This all happens in front of a packed cafeteria in case you were curious.
Tara runs to her office and plants the pouch of blood near her stomach when Gemma storms in the room demanding answers. Tara informs Gemma that she’s taking the boys away from Charming and keeping them far out of the reach of their ‘angry and psychotic grandmother’. Gemma’s reaction, like in most cases, is to lash out violently so she slaps Tara and Tara responds with one of her own, followed by a punch straight to the gut.
The cobwebs are clearing and the picture is coming into focus….
Gemma stops before she reacts and says ‘you’re lucky you’re pregnant’ and at this point it’s too late to back out of the game so Tara screams bloody murder and rams herself into the corner of the desk. Blood flies out from underneath her clothes at the exact moment that Unser, Margaret and Wendy storm into the room. The police take Gemma away in handcuffs as Tara is taken into intensive care.
Jax shows up a few minutes later, heartbroken to learn that his newborn child has died after his mother violently attacked his wife. Tara’s demands are emphatic and unyielding — Gemma can’t come near her or the boys anymore, not after this. Jax agrees and willingly signs off on the papers to ensure that his mother will no longer have any kind of relationship with his sons.
For those that may not watch the Showtime series Homeland I won’t spoil anything for you but to give a general sense of one storyline that happened this season. A few episodes into season three, things on Homeland were progressing in a strange and unpopular way with most viewers until a big reveal and twist happened during last week’s episode that appeared to put everything back on course. Unfortunately, TV viewers and critics are pretty savvy and no one was much buying the entire ordeal as just an entire plot point ending with a major twist. It felt like an escape of a bad story line that just wasn’t working. Whether that’s actually true or not (I personally don’t believe it is) that’s the perception the audience has of the show right now.
Now that diatribe isn’t meant to tear down another great show, it’s merely pointing out how plotting and executing a great twist is an art form and in this element Kurt Sutter is a Picasso or a Rembrandt. He’s executed similar moves in past seasons including my personal favorite at the end of season three which brought about the end of evil Agent Stahl along with the single greatest line in Sons of Anarchy history (Opie’s ‘this is what she felt’). Sutter had dropped a trail of breadcrumbs about Tara’s exit strategy, littered throughout the early episodes of the season like he was leading us all down the path of her escape. The pregnancy announcement out of nowhere, her strained relationship with Gemma that was bolstered by a new found friendship with Wendy, and she even managed to get Unser on her side. When it all played out we discovered that the pregnancy was never real and Wendy was meant to be Gemma’s friend right up until the moment she stabbed her in the back. Now Tara has a restraining order and legal documents drawn up and signed by her husband banning Gemma from having any involvement in her children’s life. She has the unwavering support of her husband after he watched his wife lose a child. And she has the pawns, rooks, knights and bishops all in perfect placement to hopefully call checkmate when handing over divorce papers by season’s end.
Will this all play out to Tara’s favor and her escape with the children alongside? Well, history tells us this will never end as well as planned but she’s making an attempt to get out as unscathed as possible with no more scars than she’s already endured. At least for now she’s got Jax in her corner while she tries to figure out a defense for her upcoming trial and she knows at the very least that no matter what happens, Gemma isn’t getting anywhere near her children. A couple of episodes back, Gemma screamed about the children being ‘her boys’ and Tara gave her a look of disgust. It was always going to come back around on Gemma for her possessiveness and inability to let Tara raise her sons and now she’s paying for every wicked thing she’s done. She’s sitting in a jail cell for at least one night, knowing that Tara finally got the better of her and it probably happened because for all of her lies and manipulations to keep Jax and Tara close, it’s pretty apparent her daughter-in-law was taking notes on how to win at this game.
Tara clung to Jax with tears rolling down her cheeks staring back at Lowen, who entered the room to present the paperwork necessary to close the door on Gemma for good. Tara’s swelled up eyes were the sign of sadness and loss to Jax, but deep inside they were tears of joy because she’s finally one step closer to leaving this life behind for good.
— The song that opened tonight’s episode was a track called ‘Love is My Religion’ — it’s a cover tune by the afore mentioned Forest Rangers of a 2006 Ziggy Marley tune.
— The song that closed the show was ‘Crash This Train’ by Joshua James. Check out his work and the song Coal War from the season four debut of Sons of Anarchy as well.
— The episode was directed by Paris Barclay, who also serves as an executive producer on the show and has directed 10 total episodes of the series over the last few seasons.
— Alice — Venus Van Damme’s mother — was played by veteran actress Adrienne Barbeau. Fans might recognize her best from her roles in the classic horror film The Fog and from the HBO fantasy series Carnivale.
— Actor Walter Goggins, who plays Venus Van Damme, said in an interview with TVLine that he would be open to returning to Sons of Anarchy again but didn’t spoil if it may happen this season or not. Venus and Tig certainly looked cozy at the end of the episode didn’t they?
— The title of this episode ‘Sweet and Vaded’ may give reference to the Latin word ‘vade’ which means ‘I go’ or ‘I walk’, which could be Tara’s smiling, sweet demeanor on the outside but in reality she’s become a cold, calculating woman just like her mother-in-law and she’s determined to walk away from Charming and the bottomless pit of death and destruction she’s witnessed lately.
Make sure to return next week for the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy titled ‘Los Fantasms’ that debuts on October 29 at 10pm ET/PT on FX