Sons of Anarchy, "To Be, Act Two": twist and shout at the TV

Quick Take: Sons of Anarchy, "To Be, Act Two"
"It's our club now." - Jax 

Review: Sons of Anarchy, "To Be, Act Two"
(S0414) First Dexter, now Sons of Anarchy? It's as if the writers from both got together and decided that this would be a great time to unveil a major plot twist that saavy fans had been predicting for months. No doubt, Dexter's goofy twist -- Professor Gellar (Edward James Olmos) turns out to be Travis' (Colin Hanks) "Dark Passenger" -- is the more egregious of the two. But that doesn't make the Sons of Anarchy big reveal any less annoying.

Part of my disappointment with "To Be, Act Two" is a result of my sky high expectations going into the season finale. I think most fans and critics would agree that Sons of Anarchy's third season was vastly inferior to the fourth. Yet Kurt Sutter and company were able to pull off an incredible finale in Season Three, arguably the worst season the show has done. So it isn't unreasonable to expect that the superior season, Season Four, would feature a kick-ass finale.

Alas, last night's season finale is one of the least satisfying episodes in recent memory. I wish I could blame the episode's failures exclusively on the lame and predictable twist, but I can't. The problems in "To Be, Act Two" are systemic.

Because the twist happened so early in the episode, I held onto hope that at a certain point things would start getting awesome. But that moment just never came. At 9:50 I looked at the clock, hoping there was still time to turn things around. By 9:55 I knew it was too late. This is all we are going to get. No last minute reprieve from lameness. 

There is a lot to get to in terms of recapping the episode, so I'm going to try to hit the important rapid-fire style. As always, if there is something I've missed or something you want to expand on, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

I've already mentioned "the twist" a couple of a times, but I haven't mention what exactly is yet. Here it is: Romeo (Danny Trejo) and Aceveda (Benito Martinez) are working with the CIA. Boom! Aren't you impressed?! Isn't your world rocked?! No? Well, shoot. The fact that the writers decided to wait until the finale to reveal this suggests that they assumed fans would think the revelation is a pretty big deal. Well, needless to say, they were wrong. Not only is the twist disappointing in the sense that isn't particularly clever, but fans on Sons of Anarchy message boards have been predicting it since Tara's botched kidnapping.

The reasoning the show gives for why the CIA is involved in a cartel war is suspect at best. I get that the government has been involved with gangs and drugs in the past, I know the Freeway Ricky Ross story. But I'm not really buying it. Maybe I would be a little more forgiving if the cartel war was confined to Mexico, but how could the CIA think it could keep the operation under its hat once things spilled over onto U.S. soil? I mean, there was an open air RPG battle for chrissakes. It all makes very little sense.

So the Galindo cartel and the CIA need weapons for their war against Lobo. I get that. But why do they need to buy their weapons from the Irish? Can't the CIA just funnel the guns from some Army base or something like that? Bringing the IRA into the mix seems like an unnecessarily risky proposition.

The Irish are willing to sell the guns to the cartel, but only if Clay (Ron Perlman) is there to broker the deal. Aside from serving an important role as a plot contrivance manufactured to keep Jax (Charlie Hunnam) in Charming, what reason do the Irish have for being so stubborn? If the deal with the Mexicans is good enough for them fly all the way from Ireland and risk arrest by multiple federal agencies, what difference does it make who the middle man is? The answer is simple: because the writers need an excuse to keep Clay alive. Why they insist on keeping Clay alive, I have no idea. I think the show could function just fine without him and by not killing him off they are stretching my suspension of disbelief to its breaking point.

By keeping Clay alive, not only are the writers showing a lack of confidence in themselves, but they are weakening the Jax character. At the end of the episode, when Jax sits down at the head of the table, it should be a moment of triumph. And yet it isn't. Sure, Jax is the Club President now, but he has no real power. He can't kill the man who killed his father and tried to kill his wife. He can't get his club out of the cartel business. He can't even get his best friend to serve as his V.P. Well, what the hell can he do?

A lot of stuff pissed me off "To Be, Act Two", but none more than the final scene. First of all, who let Tara (Maggie Siff) into the Chapel? That room, with its ornately carved table, is supposed to a sacred place. Non-SAMCRO members aren't to step foot in there -- and especially not old ladies. And then for Gemma (Katey Sagal) to show up just in time to get into a staring contest with Tara...jeez. I mean come on, we get it. Tara and Gemma are locked in an eternal battle for Jax's devotion. No need to beat us over the head with it.

Since Sons of Anarchy's first season, I've felt that one of the strongest parts of the show is the way J.T.' influences Jax from beyond the grave. But I think the final shot of "To Be, Act Two" may have ruined this aspect of the show for me. To have Jax and Tara morph into a picture of Gemma and J.T. was so on the nose it made me scoff at my television. Actually, a lot scenes in the finale elicited that reaction and it's a real shame.

Lingering thoughts on "To Be, Act Two":

  • I did a lot of bitching about the finale, but I want to give props to Ray McKinnon for his work as Lincoln Potter. For most of the season we have been trying to figure Potter out. Is he evil? Is he a self-righteous do-gooder? Is he working for the cartel? Well, last night we found out that he was just kind of a weirdo -- a weirdo with a heart of gold. And if anyone can play a weirdo it's McKinnon. I really wish they had given him more to do throughout the year.
  • There were two moments during the episode that briefly took me out of the action and reminded me that I was watching a TV show. One of which I really enjoyed, the other I could have done without. The one I liked happens when Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) goes into Juice's (Theo Rossi) cell to tell him he's free. Juice is sitting on his bed watching TV and the show he's watching is The Shield. Now that's some cross-promotion for you! On the other hand, I didn't particularly dig the montage scene with "The House of The Rising Sun" playing behind it. I thought it was cheesy when the singer swapped out "New Orleans" for "Charming-town" in the lyrics.
  • By Lucas High

    About the author

    Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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    1 Comment
    On: Thursday, December 8, 2011
    Josh said:
    For you to think that Jax's rise to the head of the club should have been a moment of triumph is ludicrous. For someone who claims to see all these twists a mile away, you missed something pretty obvious. Jax did not want to be President. He wanted to leave. He was ready to leave. He finally understood how hard it would be and that if he didn't leave now he never would. His rise to the head of the club was tragic, a sacrifice to save the men he loves. The finale was heartbreaking. We see how small the club really is. No matter how large they make their internal issues, the world is closing in on their way of life. We see that this whole season with the new Sheriff, Charming Heights, the RICO sting, the CIA. Jax and Tara can't leave- they're at the mercy of a larger world that takes their freedom, but won't let them leave.
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