Episode Title: “Hands”
Writers: Chris Collins & David Labrava & Kurt Sutter
Before Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and several of the core members of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle club were sent to prison for 14 months on weapons charges, Jax’s girlfriend Tara (Maggie Siff) found letters from Jax’s father, John Teller which were smuggled into Jax’s bag without his knowledge in Ireland. Fearful that the letters would cause Jax to murder his step-father, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) and force him to stay with SAMCRO indefinitely; Tara hid them from Jax upon his release. However, Tara confided with Piney (William Lucking) about the letters and he made the mistake of trying to use them to blackmail Clay.
Clay killed Piney and he also made a poor attempt to frame the Lobos Sonora cartel for the deed. Meanwhile, the suicidal Jean Carlos “Juice” Ortiz (Theo Rossi) finally met Assistant U.S. District Attorney Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) and he discovered the full scope of the RICO investigation against SAMCRO. He attacked Sheriff Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) for dragging him into it, but Lincoln gave Juice few options other than to cooperate. Meanwhile, Gemma (Katey Sagal) discovered Piney’s body and she enlisted former Sheriff Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie) to help pin the murder on the Lobos Sonora.
Gemma later told Clay that she knew the truth about Piney but she would keep his secret to protect their family. Gemma also made Clay promise not to hurt Tara and he agreed. But when he was alone, Clay immediately called the number provided by his allies in the Galindos cartel and he put out a hit on Tara’s life.
The next day, Clay tries to act normally as he takes a large amount of money out of his personal stash to pay the gunman off. He also tells the gunman that Tara is traveling to Oregon and where he can find her. But Gemma is suspicious of Clay’s behavior and she checks their safe after he’s gone. Realizing that their money is gone, she calls Unser as he continues to stage the scene of Piney’s murder. Meanwhile, Jax gets his sons ready as they join Tara on the road trip. When Clay hears that Jax and the kids are with Tara, he tries to call off the hit. But Romeo (Danny Trejo) tells him that it’s impossible.
Even so, Romeo does warn the hitman that Jax is with Tara and definitely armed. Elsewhere, Roosevelt discovers that Lincoln had Juice moved to another facility while SAMCRO attempts to locate their missing member. Lincoln once again backs Juice into a corner and he seems to agree to cooperate in order to survive and in the vain hope that Lincoln will keep his word and not attempt to shut down SAMCRO entirely. However, Juice is now forced to call and check in every four hours. On the road to Oregon, Jax and Tara have never been happier as a family. They even get to have a picnic together at a public park.
But just as Tara is putting the kids back in the car, a van pulls up behind her and several men pull her inside. Jax pulls out his gun and gives chase as one of his shots seems to slow down the van. Tara tries to jump out of the van, but one of the gunmen slams the door on her hand, gruesomely injuring it. Jax finally catches up to the van and uses his body to shield Tara as the hitmen inexplicably decide not to mow them down. As the paramedics take Tara back to her hospital, SAMCRO goes on full alert from what they believe to be an attack from the Lobos.
At the hospital, Jax learns that Tara’s hand is so badly injured that she may never fully recover or be able to perform surgery again. Clay meets Romeo and the Galindos, who give him a refund for the botched hit. But they add that it isn’t over until Tara is dead because Clay made them believe she planned to expose the cartel’s drug activities. Clay also warns the Galindos that they will need to provide some LS members so that Jax can get the revenge that he wants. However, Gemma isn’t fooled and she confronts Clay over his broken promise. She pulls a gun on him as he taunts her about her role in the death of John Teller. Gemma even takes a shot at Clay and lands a solid punch on him.
But Clay gets the gun away from his wife and he mercilessly beats her. In the hospital, Tara gives into despair as she tells Jax that something was bound to happen to keep them trapped in Charming with the Sons. She can barely even look at Jax when she orders him to leave her alone. Outside, Roosevelt offers Jax his condolences, but Jax can’t even deal with it now. But Roosevelt does take the time to approach Juice and apologize for his role in Lincoln’s blackmail plan. Elsewhere in the hospital, Jax confesses to Opie (Ryan Hurst) that he has been lying about his intentions to stay with the club. Instead, Jax just wants to get out and be there for his family because they need him more.
At Clay’s home, Unser is stunned when he sees just how badly Gemma was beaten. She tells Unser that he was right, Clay can’t be saved. But rather than pin Piney’s murder on Clay or let the law handle him, she has a better idea. Gemma wants Jax to kill his step-father.
For an hour of dramatic television, it doesn’t get much better than this. There were definitely some holes in the story, but we’ll get to those momentarily.
This may be the best episode of the season, but there were three standout scenes. The first was the attempt on Tara’s life; which held more jeopardy than usual because it seemed like the cartel was actually going to go through with it. It was an exciting sequence, with some minor flaws that may actually not even be flaws. If Jax really takes the time to replay the events in his head, then he should note that the gunmen had him and Tara dead to rights and they didn’t fire because Jax was in their way. The question that Jax should be asking is why would the gunmen even care about not killing him if they were really from the LS.
The other thing to consider is that the gunmen could have just shot Tara and driven off. Kidnapping her seemed to overly complicate their getaway plan. Given how brazen the attempt was, there’s very little justification within the story for Tara’s survival. She only lived because the writers conveniently kept the gunmen from pulling the trigger on her. If the injury to Tara’s hand is permanent, then it’s a high price for her life. But I suspect that the writers want to explore the tragedy of what she lost rather than do away with Tara entirely.
A second standout scene saw Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal deliver some of their best work in the series during the brutal confrontation between Clay and Gemma. Both from the perspective of the audience and the characters, what Clay did to Gemma is pretty unforgivable. It really paints this season into a corner… If even Gemma wants Clay dead, then there is no way he should be able to survive past the end of this season. He’s irredeemable and it will be supremely annoying if the writers of this show try to let him come back after everything that he’s done this season. That said, Perlman has been fantastic as Clay goes further and further out of control. Clay has become one of the most legitimately reprehensible characters on TV and it’s impossible to look away as he destroys himself.
But from an emotional standpoint, nothing topped Tara’s descent into despair over her injuries. Maggie Siff doesn’t always get the powerhouse moments, but it was impossible not to feel for Tara as she described her ruined future with Jax. Their dreams were crushed with Tara’s hand and this might be the incident that keeps them in Charming for the rest of the series. And that doesn’t meant that they’ll stay together or that Tara will make it out the season alive. However, if the writers killed her at this point it would undercut what they did in this episode.
Rumbling in the subplot is Juice’s betrayal of SAMCRO; which seems inevitable at this point barring another rabbit out of the hat like SAMCRO pulled last season. There was a great character moment when Roosevelt apologized to Juice for everything that he had been put through and Juice accepted it. But it may be too late for either of them to escape Lincoln’s grasp.
This season started out a little slow, but the intensity level on “Sons of Anarchy” is currently unmatched by any other series on TV. There are four episodes left this season and I want to watch them all now.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.