It all came crashing down on Sons of Anarchy this week.
Literally for Gemma, whose irresponsible ways came back to haunt her in the most frightening way possible; figuratively for Clay, who was forced to call a deadly audible on his plans to regain the Presidency; and somewhere in between for Jax, who is juggling more balls than a circus performer as the head of SAMCRO.
More than ever before, this year has been all about Jax, Clay and Gemma.
Juice has been reduced to Clay's errand boy; Chibbs is mostly just Jax's right-hand biker; Tig was given a mesmerizing platform at the outset, but has receded a bit since; Bobby is good for the occasional word of wisdom; and Opie... well, rest in peace, warrior friend. Rest in peace.
This show will always be about father, step-son and the woman caught in between them. That was never more evident than throughout this episode.
I was among the many who believed CLAY had to die last year. I didn't see any way the series could believably go on with him at the table. But kudos to Kurt Sutter and his staff for keeping Clay around the edges of the club, for maintaining his dark side and yet also letting viewers in a bit to see his motivations.
The guy is nothing but self-centered evil at this point, there can be no debate. He is only after what's best for him, damn the cost. But we're getting a chance to see him in quieter moments and to watch as he tries to pick up the pieces of a disastrous plan that has led to Rita Roosevelt's death, along with a clear path of evidence back to him.
Clay remains a villain, but he's a multi-dimensional one. He's also an intelligent one, although it must be asked, setting up the Nomads to take the fall when it became obvious the scheme had fallen apart. But it must be asked: Does Unser really believe Clay didn't set up the Nomads to be killed? Does Juice? I need not ask about Jax.
GEMMA, meanwhile, has been spiraling out of control all season long. It dragged on for a bit and it culminated here, but leave it to the ever-awesome Nero to make the reasons why apparent to Jax: this is a woman in desperate need of her family. She's without her husband now, Tara took her children away for awhile, Jax has been rather distracted as President. Gemma isn't nearly as strong or independent as she wants everyone to believe.
And now she's dead! Just kidding. She isn't dead. Neither is Thomas or Abel I'm sure. Not even Kurt Sutter would go there. But the flipped SUV and the fact that she placed the kids in such peril will not bode well for Gemma's state of mind or her relationship with Jax and Tara.
And then we come to JAX. Sons of Anarchy has felt a little all over the place on Season 5 - there's not really a constant through-line, between Opie's death... the deal with Pope... the Irish/Mexican mess... the presence of Nero and his companionship business... a surgically-enhanced Walton Goggins - but perhaps that's almost meant to mirror life for the new man in charge.
Jax has a lot on his plate. An awful lot. He's trying to broker a gun-running deal... while navigating a secret alliance with the CIA... while mourning his best friend... while partnering with Nero... while both expanding his drug dealing and hoping to get out it... only to be interrupted occasionally from club business because his hungover mom just slept with some guy who stole her SUV.
(And let's give props here to the series for properly using guest star Joel McHale; instead of spending way too much time on a big name unrelated to the overall story - yes, we're looking at you, Ashley Tisdale - the Community actor only popped up occasionally and was used instead to shed light on both Gemma and the wrath of Nero.)
And now it looks like, what, the Niners have turned on SAMCRO? Is there any other takeaway or anything else we know at the moment about the shooter aside from his skin color?
Again, it does feel like there's a great deal going on at the moment, perhaps too much, perhaps too many directions all at once. The show is barreling toward some major payoff as we close in on the final third of the season, but it's hard to predict anything going forward considering all the balls in the air right now.
Will the final, undead Nomad be the final nail in Clay's coffin? Will Gemma ever be allowed to see her grandchildren again? What sort of vengeance will Eli enact for the murder of his wife? How, if at all, will Jax extricate the club from its dealing with Pope?
Many questions. Not many answers at the moment. Just a handful of bodies left bloodied on the freeway.