The past of Clay Morrow collided with the present dangers of the drug world on Sons of Anarchy this week, resulting in the death of yet another SAMCRO member and a future for this club that looks bleaker than ever.
"Family Recipe" wasted no time answering the most pressing question from "Fruit for the Crows." Yes, the tree branch snapped, Juice survived his suicide attempt. But only in bodily form, really. His guilt-ridden, cornered mind was elsewhere from the moment he hit the ground, forced to not only adjust to life again - but to be thrown into an escalating war between the Galindo cartel and Lobos Sonora.
How do you fight for your life when you only just wanted to take it? How do you stand up for a family you only just betrayed? Theo Rossi has been nothing short of outstanding in this role over the course of season four, depicting Juice's pain and confusion with quiet, sullen looks and eyes that are somehow always on the verge of all-out waterworks.
And the reaction of Chibbs - a friend who was blackmailed by Stahl and can relate to the predicament faced here by Juice, even if he isn't aware of it yet - when he stumbled upon the truth? Anger... followed by shock... followed by sympathy? Riveting. Emotional. Perfectly done all around.
From Juice's second chance to Piney's final breath: Wow. Of those involved in the Clay/Tara/Piney threat triangle, this member of the Original 9 was the most likely to take a fatal bullet, but that didn't make the closing scene any less powerful, especially considering Piney's previous chat with Jax.
Piney is was a man who returned to an active life in the club for reasons as opposite as can be from the motivations now driving Clay at the head of its table. The latter wants money and to make a comfortable exit. The former wanted respectability, brotherhood, inspiration from the son of his late best friend. Jax screamed at Piney that he didn't want to talk about the past, but will he ever understand how the past holds the key to a safe future for SAMCRO? And also for Tara and his boys?
Will Piney's death - even if the club believes it was committed by the blood-smearing LS - finally wake Jax up to the dangerous path he has agreed to go down? And even if it does, at this point, what can be done about it?
And then there's the affect Clay's actions will have on others:
- Tara. It's unknown whether or not she'll learn of this incident before departing for Portland, but imagine if she ever discovers the truth. Piney was murdered, after all, via a chain of events that started when she told him about Maureen's letters.
- Opie. Father and son often fought, but no one could doubt their love for each other.
- Gemma. She was aware of Piney's threats toward her husband, and certainly aware of Clay's murderous side. How much inner club killing can one woman take?!?
- Bobby. On a practical level, he just lost one surefire vote against Clay for the Presidency.
So, RIP, Piney. I can't say at the moment whether or not your death was in vain from a storyline standpoint. But from a dramatic standpoint? You died a martyr for the cause of cold-blooded entertainment.
Piney's death and Juice's near-death were the two key developments on a packed episode that also showed us how Clay and the Sons have been able to survive in Charming for so many years. It goes far beyond intimidation. There are politics at work here, as Clay proved in his shrewd speech, donation and support for Elliot.
There's also the occasional need for chili, though you'll understand if I never go near any meal made by Chucky again.
That light moment eased the tension for a few seconds, but SAMCRO finds itself a key player in the middle a world it scarcely understands. Clay may know how to work the residents of Charming, but he and his crew have no idea how to respond to a bag of heads being dropped at their doorstep. Jax admitted as much when he bid goodbye to Tara.
This is war, Romeo's right hand man said. And he's right, of course. But the Sons have been at war for most of the season. Their biggest enemy isn't slicing up bodies and driving by in a hail of bullets. He lies within.