Sons of Anarchy Season 7, Episode 6, “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Kurt Sutter & Mike Daniels
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm on FX
Insist things have been made right. Take a drink. Smile smugly at the friends and family that surround you in your time of “triumph”. Rinse, repeat. Such is the cycle SAMCRO, and by extension Sons of Anarchy, finds themself in after once again conquering a would-be enemy with nothing but fire power and questionable wit. The thing about this cycle of pulling solutions out of nowhere shortly after discovering impending danger is that it makes for a repetitive and predictable season. Instead of Kurt Sutter emptying out his story bucket and taking chances when possible, the show has found itself in a rut of inevitable violence and unsurprising dialogue. A few developing threads this episode have great potential to reverse this trend, but they move so slowly it is possible nothing could come to fruition for a few episodes more, though at this point, any forward momentum is welcome.
The Juice situation is all of a sudden trying to add inventiveness singlehandedly, a welcome sight while he remains on the run. Much of his time on the lam has been static, so even though his visit to the Mayan outpost doesn’t go according to plan, it lights a fire under the show to switch directions, however slightly. Nero and Juice in a storage closet together is the best one-on-one in this episode filled with them (Wendy and Bobby, Gemma and Gertie, Gemma and Nero). Both men consider what their commitment to the club has done to their lives, contemplating the deals that landed them in their current situations and how to save themselves before it’s too late, or in Nero’s case, if he even wants to. Each of them have their backs against the wall because of promises made and broken but only one can fall back on the club if he so chooses. Juice is at their mercy and is quickly running out of ways to wriggle out of his spot between a gun and a hard place.
Elsewhere, in the roving California desert adventures of Gemma Teller, everyone’s favorite mid-mental break matriarch runs into a walking banality played by none other than Lea Michele in her much-anticipated cameo. Michele is a glorified cliche here but her performance is much better than expected and works for what the character is supposed to be. It is entirely believably that in another life she would have ended up as a young mother working in a truck stop diner who has to write down an order for just coffee. That’s right, Gertie (actual name of this character) at one point writes down an order for just coffee as if it is too difficult to remember without the assistance of an order sheet. Having Gemma rely on help from strangers to survive while she finds a way back home would have been an entertaining path to follow, and as a result Unser and Wendy’s quick arrival feels slightly like a cop-out. Gemma could have turned into the biker chick version of Guy Fieri and explored dozens of road side diners!
Her quick return home safe and sound does initiate what looks to be an unraveling of her lies on a scale of epic proportions. Nero doesn’t even know the full truth yet and is already looking at her like she’s human kryptonite. He barely hugs her at the end and if any club members hear the truth, a lack of loving hugs and pats on the back will be the least of her problems. Every interaction with Jax has the potential to be her last peaceful words with her son, which lends a certain tragic suspense to their relationship. Gemma has never been completely without family, even at her lowest moments. Seeing her completely cut off from the club and her support system, with not even Unser sticking around, could complete her already begun descent into insanity, which is when things in her corner of the show can get really interesting. The work Katey Sagal could do with full on lunacy material is infinite and glorious, she just needs one final push and Gemma is over the edge for good.
Jax’s offer to the Lody is the first recent dealing the club has had with a fellow gang that seems legitimate. Of course the episode sinks right back into familiar race issues between the Aryans, SAMCRO, and the Lody, all but blocking a successfully merging that could be positive for everyone. Jax naturally has a solution for everything, but at one point his backstabbing of one ethnicity just to accomplish a deal with another will undermine any master plans he thinks he has. With Juice up against a wall, Gemma unraveling at an increasingly worrisome pace, and half the club in crosshairs because of past deeds, it’s debatable how many of them will even live to see the promised land Jax keeps imagining they’ll get to as a result of all his ploys.