Sons of Anarchy, Season 6: Episode 6 – “Salvage”
Written by Mike Daniels and Kurt Sutter
Directed by Adam Arkin
Sunday nights at 10pm ET on FX
With TV series that are as relentlessly dark as Sons of Anarchy, an episode like “Salvage” should feel out of place and awkward. It’s not that it’s happy or anything (there’s still plenty of fighting and scheming going on); but this episode isn’t oppressive. And a lot of series really beat you over the head with that oppressiveness until it feels like there’s little point in sticking around if there’s no enjoyment in it. If “Salvage” is out of place, though, it’s anything else but awkward. Completely immersed in a mythology of brotherhood, “Salvage” brings Sons of Anarchy back to its foundational concerns: how does this family overcome its obstacles? Specifically, how does it overcome its obstacles as a family.
“Salvage” is full of scenes and moments that recall Sons of Anarchy‘s early days and even those of something like Spartacus, whose concerns with brotherhood were even greater than this biker series. Jax brings together a full table of Sons after the destruction of the Charming clubhouse, and after delivering a speech worthy of the name Teller, the brothers pound the table repeatedly out of both recognition and appreciation (these two things are sometimes exclusive in Sons of Anarchy). Bobby finally has a chat with Jax, and it turns out to be the strongest example of familial loyalty seen in this season so far. Everything here – concerning the Sons – is of the same mettle. It’s easy to miss how important an episode like “Salvage” is to this series at this moment. Many have already left the Jax and co. behind, despite the strong numbers Sons pulls in. And those who have stuck with the series may be doing so out of completionism or for the entertainment that comes with watching pulp television. “Salvage,” though, is that rare moment when pulp is blended in seamlessly with the higher purposes of Kurt Sutter’s series, suffocated as those purposes sometimes are.
Juice serves as one example of cathartic release as he beats down a police officer after the group gets pulled over on the highway. He says he’s trying to prove to Chibs that he still deserves a reaper on his back, but Juice needs that moment for himself just as much as he does for anything else – similarly to how we need to see Juice do that so that all the questions that have been circling him get pushed to the wayside. What’s more, that whole scenario creates an action set piece for us. When The Walking Dead returned on Sunday, there was a hushed approval with specific positive attention directed at that premiere’s action sequence. If we appreciate that kind of ability to keep finding interesting ways to bring in the action, then we owe that amount of appreciation and then some to Sons of Anarchy for pulling out the chase sequence in “Salvage.” It’s much more difficult to make chases interesting than it is with zombie attacks just because of how many chases we’ve seen as viewers of television and film. But the one we’re given in this episode is genuinely great, opening with Juice lashing out on the cop and concluding with Juice jumping off a stolen police bike into the TM van so that the police SUV gets run off the road and the Sons get away. If that doesn’t do it for you, what else could?
While some of the other storylines in “Salvage” feel superfluous (Clay’s presence; Tara’s conflicts), the heart of the episode is overwhelmingly fun. It’s great to see some kind of payoff with what the writers have been doing with Bobby. It probably won’t satisfy everyone, but Sons of Anarchy has never done that. Instead, it caters to those who are looking for those moments of emotional and table-slamming triumphs. “Salvage” is easily the least exciting episode of Sons of Anarchy this season. But it’s also easily the best.
– Sean Colletti