Two weeks ago, we debated the darkness of Jax in an edition of the Sons of Anarchy Round Table.
But in case it was somehow unclear before, "Crucifixed" left no doubt in the minds of all viewers: this is a very different and dangerous Jax Teller than we've ever witnessed before.
Than anyone has ever witnessed before, as T.O. rightfully summed up with a simple question: Who the Hell are you?
The answer is coming into focus: he's a man permanently damaged by the brutal murder of his best friend. Indeed, the death of Opie was certainly not done just for shock value. Its reverberations have been felt throughout Sons of Anarchy Season 5.
Jax is callous and unmoved by grand plans or alliances; he is simply seeking revenge... or is he?
Most of his actions over the past few weeks have been legitimate. You can't exactly fake pushing someone off a rooftop or green lighting a bullet in the brain of your friend's cousin. The wrath he exhibited toward Juice here was also real. Jax has already been betrayed by Clay and is understandably on edge; he doesn't have room for sympathy or understanding when it comes to any sort of rat at his table.
But we do get signs that Jax has something in mind beyond beatings and bloodshed.
He's making moves with Hale that will provide for Lyla and also for SAMCRO to make some clean money. Clean money via a bit of under-the-table dealing and bribery involving a cross-dressing photo scandal... but still. That's pretty darn clean when compared to drugs and guns.
That Jax who believes in his father's philosophy is still there somewhere. He still wants to lead the club someplace safe and profitable, but first he must rid it of Clay and his influence. Such a drastic move requires drastic measures. As drastic as handing Tig over on a fatal platter to Pope?
That's impossible. Even as we watch Jax grow cold and calculating, and even as Pope nods along in approval, I have to believe there's some kind of long con being played here. Will it be successful? Will Jax be able to axe Clay from SAMCRO... and keep Tig alive... and pull one over on Pope? Those are some seriously dangerous plates for one President to spin simultaneously.
And that's before we even get to Tara, who was played by Otto and now must deal with (A LOT) of blood on her hands. What a disgusting scene. I audibly gasped. And what a perfectly said closing quote, with Tara as deep as she has ever been in club business and with her realization that there's really only ever one way out of it: killing, killing and more killing.
While viewers were shaking their heads over Jax's deeds, meanwhile, they were likely also squinting their eyes at Clay, trying to figure this disgraced biker out.
Does he have an ounce of honesty or sentimentality remaining? Is he being honest when he's thanking Juice and begging Gemma* to be sincere with her feelings? Or does he sense a game afoot? Is he on to their deals with Jax and just trying to push them back toward his side?
My money is on the latter. Clay has been in full-on survival mode for over a year now and will do or say anything to keep his spot at the table; heck, just to keep breathing. Say what you want about the guy, but he's perceptive. It's easy to see him reading into Juice and Gemma's friendliness and doing whatever he can to change how they view him.
(* It's been said Ad nauseam, but deserves yet another mention here: the fact that Katey Sagal has not been nominated for an Emmy is nothing short of criminal. Just look at her reaction to Clay leaning in for a kiss, as she played a sickened, sad Gemma to perfection without uttering a word.)
So that was the focus of this extra long installment. Both Jax and Clay are trying to move their pieces into place for that final showdown. Each is scheming in his own way, with Jax taking the violent reigns and Clay playing it cool and calm. At least for now.
Juice is freaked out. Tig is unknowingly being used as a pawn. Bobby is disenchanted with his leader. And Tara has been made into an accessory to murder.
It's going to be a wild final two Season 5 episodes - and each will be 90 minutes long, TV Fanatics. Grab a helmet and hold on.