Sons of Anarchy, Season 7, Episode 2, “Toil and Till”
Written by Kurt Sutter
Directed by Bill Gierhart
Airs Tuesday at 10pm on FX
After multiple seasons spent on the sideline contributing minimally to any actual plot, Unser finally has the opportunity this week to get out from under the thumb of the club and do some good. At this point in the show, Unser is little more than Gemma’s own personal peanut gallery who occasional finds himself in a dangerous situation that is almost always her fault. With the addition of the always welcome Annabeth Gish as local law enforcement offering another path (a path with health insurance and a gun permit, however improbable) one can only hope he commits to moving away from SAMCRO’s influence in order to more fully enjoy his old age. Leaving the associated paperwork out where anyone from the club could see it is an uncharacteristic move for the normally careful Unser, but the show doesn’t care about what is or is not true to character anymore as long as any given action can move the story towards a desired end point.
As other characters who have likewise only recently bounced back from being thrust onto the back burner, Wendy and Nero’s quality time allows some worthwhile fleshing out of how both are doing emotionally. Wendy’s views on the club and her sobriety are valid all around, and her admittance that her sobriety may be short lived makes her one of the few honest people left out of everyone. Nero accidentally insulting her ability to be a fit mother is a genuine bonding moment that’s well played by Jimmy Smits, forming the foundation of a relationship between two characters who hardly interact. A scene like this, however brief, gives a glimpse of what the show used to be capable of before any sense of heart got swamped under gallons of blood. Granted, the car ride is on the way to do an errand in service of the club so it isn’t entirely an innocent bonding jaunt, but a silver lining of any size needs to be embraced to find any enjoyment in the season’s machinations so far.
Filling the “explosions and gunfire” quota this week is a mission for the boys to break up a drug shipment in the desert. The continuing rivalry with Lin and his men doesn’t have much juice, but it is obvious at this point the show is going to pull as much from this rivalry well as it can before bringing everything to a bullet-filled head. The adventure into the desert for the setup does give us some fun moments from Chibs, Rat Boy, and Tig, which is expected but enjoyable. For those paying attention, only two episodes into the season and a whole Sons of Anarchy bingo board is almost filled out. The only squares left by the mid-point of the episode are the kids being in some sort of life-threatening situation and a club member being murdered by a rival gang and/or his own club, with the latter checked off by the end of this week’s affair. (Note: SoA Bingo is not a real thing, but it absolutely should be.)
Juice’s predicament is entirely uninteresting already, and his potential relocation to Gemma’s dad’s place is a great opportunity to partially write him out of the season instead of continually forcing his danger into the rest of the story lines. Naturally that option is too easy for the show to embrace and Juice ends up back at Wendy’s apartment as the episode winds down, either waiting for death or figuring out a creative enough plan to get back in the club. There are too many plates spinning already and with the strategic killing of the two visiting Sons that is already backfiring, the very real threats from Lin and his men, and Jax’s clearly unstable state in regards to the club’s status, the show is in real danger of having a lot of broken china to clean up. Sons hasn’t successfully pulled off this many interwoven threads in a few seasons and this messy and patch-worked episode isn’t promising. It will come down to the way Jax’s arc plays out, but it isn’t out of the question that all of these arcs will cohere into one last well-done ride for SAMCRO.