Well, that didn’t take very long, did it? After a fairly calm premiere that seemed to give all of our main characters a genuinely peaceful moment, “Booster” shows that the storm clouds are once again gathering over the boys of SAMCRO. The clubhouse has been smashed to pieces by a vengeful sheriff, Jax and Opie and Opie’s truck took a similar beating at the hands of Russian gangsters, and Gemma’s eying Tara with a dark vigilance that we haven’t seen since the early days of the first season. Kurt Sutter and company haven’t wasted any time getting the fires going, and despite a couple of story concerns here and there they’re burning in a very satisfying fashion.
Clearly the biggest move of this episode was to show how the retirement plans of Jax and Clay are going to collide with the intentions of the club as a whole, and it’s a serious collision being built up. After severing ties with the Russian mafia last week, Clay has now made a deal with a new entity that can not only keep the Russians off their backs for good but is also willing to buy as many weapons as the Sons can produce. The catch? That entity happens to be the Galindo drug cartel, and its representative Romeo Parada (played by none other than Machete himself, Danny Trejo) wants the Sons to help out running drugs through Northern California.
Understandably, the club – which has made a point of honor to keep drugs out of Charming as a public service – isn’t thrilled with this option. Piney’s disgusted that Clay would even consider making such an arrangement, newlywed Opie doesn’t want any business that could put him away for hard time, and Bobby and Tig are put off by the fact that he made this deal while only involving Jax (though Tig’s loyalty to Clay still seems to have the upper hand). Others seem a bit more ambivalent – Juice’s eyes never left the massive stacks of cash, Chibs wants to keep up the gun volume for the IRA – but the battle lines are being drawn and all signs point to what’s certainly going to be a contentious vote.
The fact that Clay’s made this decision without even consulting any of them – and that Jax is willing to go along with it*, trading his support for Clay’s backing to leave the club – shows that for the first time, SAMCRO isn’t the most important thing to our main characters. Clay and Jax have certainly done some very stupid things over the years, but they’ve always done it with the club’s benefit in mind. Here they’re not even trying to justify their decision, unable to see past the mammoth stack of cash in front of them as their lifeline to retirement. It’s a little bit extreme to me – I have something of a hard time swallowing that Jax would go along with this as easily as he did** – but we’re only two episodes in, so I’m willing to give them more time to present his character shift.
*The scene between the two in the tow truck was excellent – it’s rare to see Clay show any form of weakness, and to admit to Jax that he sees the end coming was quite poignant even with his eyes behind sunglasses. And it’s nice to see Jax made the same connection I did that McGee of SAMBEL died for very similar reasons.
**Though the fact that he’s pushing Clay to make Opie the club president shows he at least wants to see the club steered in the right direction, even if he’s no longer part of it.
The long-term consequences of this deal are still to come, but the short-term consequences of dumping four bodies in a public place are delivered straight to the club’s front door courtesy of Sheriff Roosevelt.. Not content to just search the place for weapons or drugs as has been the routine before, he calls in the fire department, and (in a terrific scene for Rockmond Dunbar) finds “hot” walls to take an axe to as payback for the bodies dumped on the construction lot. This wasn’t a vindictive move or a desperate one, this was just Roosevelt sending a message: play by my rules or pay for it. After the club’s been so mired in manipulation and double-crosses, it’s nice to see an adversary who’s a seemingly unstoppable force, literally laying down the law in a way they’d have no trouble interpreting.
But even that’s not so certain, as I’m curious on Roosevelt’s last words to Clay about knowing the boundaries and being willing to operate within them. Was this just a message to walk the straight and narrow, or is there a chance that he’d look the other way on some things if they do right by him on others? Certainly he didn’t seem happy at Hale’s obvious strong-arming to get the job done.
And of course there’s Gemma, digging deep into exactly who knows what about John Teller – and getting an unwitting hint from her grandson when he rummages through her purse. That leads her to Tara and Tara’s files, where she learns that apparently Tara’s got enough suspicions that she’s pulled J.T.’s accident report with Unser’s name on it. It’s looking like this season we might actually get an answer to the question of who killed J.T. (if it was in fact murder), but could Unser really be a suspect here? We all know he’s ridiculously loyal to Gemma, but playing any part in her husband’s death seems beyond the pale for even a morally ambiguous officer. We’ll have to wait and see what develops, but if he was involved I’m hoping for a damned good reason.
Gemma might be gunning for Tara, but she’s far more formidable than she used to be – and also more in tune with the club’s moods and needs. Standing in the wreckage of the SAMCRO clubhouse, Tara decides to bring out some “good news” and reveal her engagement to Jax, in an awkwardly hilarious moment that breaks the tension as anger is temporarily sidelined with congratulations. How hard will Gemma push on someone who’s going to be her daughter-in-law?
Once again, the episode seems to end reasonably well for all parties, but this time we’re surrounded by broken glass and suspicious glances on the part of the club’s sergeant and secretary. Nothing’s ever clean for SAMCRO, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Prospects and Groupies:
- He doesn’t have much to do this episode beyond springing Jax and Opie from the Russians, but I have high hopes for Danny Trejo in episodes to come. He’s a great actor with a rough quality that meshes perfectly with the world of Sons of Anarchy – hopefully it’ll work better than his last role as a cartel member.
- Looks like Lyla’s not pregnant after all, but that’s something she and Opie are trying for. And it can’t happen soon enough for Opie, speaking derisively of her director as “the Prince of Labia.”
- Not much of Potter this episode – his task force being temporarily shelved in the wake of the undercover agent’s death – but he continues his amusing idiosyncrasy, sitting in the office with chocolate milk and offering Roosevelt supportive lines like “Be the badge!”
- Great split in the opening scenes with Clay/Gemma, Jax/Tara and Opie/Lyla, showing just how much each of them are willing to tell the other. And it always remains unnerving to see Jax discussing death with one of his baby sons in his arms.
- “Don’t go settin’ fires when there’s nothin’ to burn.” “I don’t do that.” “…” “…Not all the time.”