Sons of Anarchy, Season 6: Episode 2 – “One One Six”
Written by Chris Collins & Adria Lang
Directed by Peter Weller
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX
FX has pretty much let Kurt Sutter have his way with Sons of Anarchy. Even when disregarding how combative the series is with non-premium cable content (Sons is constantly pushing violence and sex to their extremes within the basic cable boundaries), the series is just structurally different from anything else on TV by design. Sutter and the other writers get their ideas together, and if those ideas fit into a traditional 42- to 45-minute episode, great. If those ideas extend to something that ends up being 59 minutes, that’s great too, because FX doesn’t police this show when it comes to length. What that means is that Sons sometimes drops a truly fantastic episode of television, because Sutter has so much going on in this series that he can pack 59 minutes with exciting scenes. It also means that if an episode is particularly slow one week, 42 minutes can work just fine (interestingly, several of the first few episodes from last season, including the episode in which Opie is killed, clocked in on the shorter side despite having a lot of content to work with). “One One Six,” though, is one of those instances in which Sons of Anarchy just feels too long. It’s not that this series can’t do a slow episode well. Watching characters like Gemma and Clay talk for an hour could easily make for engrossing television. But “One One Six” has a lot to work with, and it doesn’t work with it in a way that’s interesting or justifies how long and slow it is.
Obviously, after last week’s school shooting fiasco, all of the aftermath was going to be about Jax and Nero covering their own asses. Nero, admittedly, is a little shaken up about the event and goes as far as to point out who is innocent in this situation (he tries explaining to Jax why the child shooter’s mother, played by Samaire Armstrong, didn’t need to die). But both men are ultimately concerned about things blowing back on them. So, most of “One One Six” is a contemplative episode in which these guys try to figure out the best way to solve this situation, which ends up being “kill off any connections that tie the murder weapon to the Sons.” That’s a familiar A-plot for Sons of Anarchy: introduce a problem, solve said problem. But too much of “One One Six” is devoted to that problem when it has other interesting things going around it.
Take the Gemma/Clay scenes and the Jax/Tara scenes, for instance. With all the history there is between Gemma and Clay, any scene with just the two of them at this point is going to be entertaining. Despite how badly Gemma has wanted to see Clay burn in the past (both Tara and Gemma pushed vigorously to have Jax kill Clay not too long ago), there’s an ever-present connection she shares with him that acts like Kryptonite. Last week, we saw Lyla cry and ask for Opie’s help after she got tortured even though she knows Opie is dead. That familiarity as an almost involuntary grasp at comfort is the same thing that’s ingrained in Gemma when it comes to Clay. And she knows it, which is why she’s so desperately trying to get out of the room once Clay’s done playing his sob card. It’s not just that she picks up on the fact Clay is probably going to rat, it’s that if she stays in there any longer with him, she might lose control to her love for Clay that is buried somewhere in her. Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal have always been two of the best things about this series, so it’s really no surprise that their scene together is a highlight in “One One Six,” but it’s still a marvel to watch them play off each other.
Jax and Tara, too, are treading familiar ground here, but their exchanges wind up being some of the ones that resonate the most at this point in the story. They obviously still love each other, but love’s not enough anymore. They can’t be completely honest, because being completely honest in Sons of Anarchy gets you somewhere you don’t want to go. So, Tara’s getting ready to put things in place so that Jax doesn’t have legal control over his children, and Jax is withholding information about club business and sleeping around behind Tara’s back (as has been said in conversations of old between Jax and Opie regarding old ladies: you tell them everything or you tell them nothing; there’s no plausible gray area there).
The rest of “One One Six” is rather underwhelming, especially seeing Bobby ride around doing a whole lot of nothing. When it comes to characters who have taken a leave of absence on a television series, the temptation is to keep a camera on them if they’ve been a big part of the show (this is something Homeland set itself up for at the end of its second season by having one of the two lead characters leave the region where the show takes place). Feeding into that temptation can work, but it rarely does. Most of the time, those scenes just feel tacked on, as Bobby’s do. And watching Donal Logue run around trying to manipulate things to his advantage is just as uninteresting, despite both Logue and Mark Boone Junior being more than capable of executing good material. We’ll just have to wait for them to get that good material.
– Sean Colletti