Spoilers for the latest "Sons of Anarchy" after the jump:
As was the case with many of "Breaking Bad's" best episodes this year, people are going to be talking about the ending to "Fruit for the Crows" for quite some time. If you're like me, it knocked the wind out of you, particularly since after last week's episode I fully expected that storyline to last the rest of the season. And it sealed the episode's status as one of the all-time best hours of "Sons of Anarchy" to date. We'll talk about that in a minute. But this was an installment jam-packed with major developments in other areas as well.
I don't think any of the club members (even those who voted against it) knew just what they were getting into by doing business with the Galindo cartel. They now have a much better idea, after many of them were nearly killed and Alvarez was shot in a drive-by attack. Jax's tailing of the shooters led him back to a house full of innocent civilians, who it turns out were threatened into working for a rival cartel. This guns for drugs plan may have started out as a simple proposition, but at this point it's become a lot more than that.
And that leads Bobby to make a decision that is going to have serious consequences no matter what happens: calling an officer challenge. Clay's no longer a good leader. He's more concerned with lining his own pockets than with what's good for the club, and Bobby recognizes this. But Clay's also still a formidable force, and is likely to do whatever is necessary to ensure his power stays intact. You can see that reflected in how Bobby hesitates before calling the challenge. If Clay isn't taken down, Bobby's in serious trouble, and he knows it.
Then we have Tara, who's growing more and more uneasy about the troubled waters the club is navigating, as well as the fact that Jax has been omitting certain details when talking to her. She was never all that naive to begin with and certainly isn't now, but this is still something she didn't sign up for. And with this new death threat (written by Wayne, but she doesn't know that), at some point she may decide that enough is enough. Or the cartel could kill her in the next episode, despite Wayne's attempts to warn her of the danger she's in. This episode makes it abundantly clear that no one (aside from Jax, probably) is safe, and that nothing is set in stone. Riveting stuff, all of it.
This is just a ton of great material, and by itself it would have made the episode more than worthy of an A. But then along comes the Juice plot to push it into classic territory. Police informant storylines almost never end well for the informant, particularly on a show set from the point of view of the "bad guys". Kurt Sutter has talked about a seven-season plan for the series, which means Juice couldn't actually implicate SAMCRO. That is, unless that plan includes a final three seasons featuring the Sons behind bars. The decision to move them to Ireland for a few episodes was controversial enough, though, so I just don't see that happening. Therefore, Juice winding up dead is probably where this was all going regardless.
But to see it end how it did was shocking and chilling. The way the episode was bookended by scenes of Juice praying (the second time right before he jumps from the tree) will ensure that this conclusion haunts me for some time. While we won't be sure until we see what sort of note (if any) he left behind, my gut tells me it won't say much regarding the true reason why he did it. He chose to die in order to uphold the sense of honor he felt towards the club, as well as to keep his secrets buried. Keeping secrets buried has proven to be a recurring them on this show, and for the first time it's resulted in death. It probably won't be the last time, either. What a way for "Sons of Anarchy" to pass the midpoint of the season, as well as the planned midpoint of its entire run.
- How Eli reacts to Juice's death is going to be interesting. This episode saw him growing more and more fed up with Lincoln and his strong-arm tactics, and now they've killed someone.
- Note: I wrote this before reading any other reviews. After doing so, it appears that the consensus across the web is that Juice is not dead, and that the sounds you hear in that final scene are not Juice's last struggles (which is what I assumed) but rather the branch breaking and him hitting the ground. That's possible, but I'm still going with my original assumption, since I didn't see anything to directly contradict it. If I'm wrong, oh well. It won't be the first time, or the last.
- In the spirit of reaching the show's intended midpoint, my picks for the top 5 episodes so far: "Balm", "SO", this, "NS", and "Gilead".
- Another important development: Lyla leaving. I haven't entirely been loving everything about this season, but this episode just brought it on every level. So much going on, and every moment of it compelling.
- Clay's not stupid. He figured out Wayne was the one who wrote the threat rather quickly, and warned him to back off. Wayne won't, though. I'm starting to get the feeling that he's not going to survive the season.