Sons of Anarchy is firmly in set-up mode with “Burnt and Purged Away”, an hour that finally saw several season long plotlines set in motion while ostensibly leaving most of the big stuff for the two-part season finale. It’s a deliberate episode, but not dull by any means: mainly because of how long we’ve been waiting for many of these events to happen. While the installment was short on dramatic fireworks, there’s still something undeniably thrilling about watching Potter’s plan unfold in pretty much the way he intended it after observing the various threads come together over the course of the season. And we still found time for some last-minute craziness, assuming that final scene is actually what it looked like.
Anyway, let’s start with the aforementioned Lincoln Potter. This really couldn’t have gone any better for him, with Otto signing off on his statements against SAMCRO just as Juice phoned in with the location of the meet between the cartel and the IRA leaders. I’ve been quite impressed with the way the Otto storyline has progressed, even if it was based on a pretty flimsy premise. The sequence between him and Bobby was just about perfect, with Kurt Sutter playing Otto’s barely held back rage perfectly and Bobby slowly coming to the devastating realization of just what’s happening here before he gets placed under arrest.
Aside from that (well, and the final few seconds, but we’ll get to them in just a second) there really aren’t any other scenes here that truly stand out. As with last week’s “Call of Duty”, “Burnt and Purged Away” sacrifices a certain amount of visceral tension in favor of a slightly wider scope. And in this case I think that’s necessary, particularly since the finale promises to have more than enough intensity to make up for it. And there are tons of good to very good scenes scattered throughout, such as Gemma warning Clay about Opie (turns out Wayne told him without her knowledge or approval), saying she loves him, and giving him kiss on the cheek, all in a way that exudes menace.
I’m keeping it short this week, so let’s get to that stellar final scene. If Sons of Anarchy was going to attempt to find a way to keep Clay alive after all that’s happened, this would have been the only somewhat realistic way for it to happen. There was a way for this show to pull back when Jax pointed the gun at Opie and tried to talk him out of killing the club president. The situation could have been defused, and Jax would still be none the wiser about just what Clay has done. And as I watched that scene, that’s what I figured would happen, particularly when Jax said “don’t make me kill you”. But it didn’t. Instead, Opie fired twice into Clay’s chest.
There are two points I’d like to make about this scene. The first is how very in character it is for Opie to do this. This is an emotionally wounded man. He’s never fully recovered from Donna’s death, and recent events (Lyla’s birth control pills, his best friend leaving, and now this) have conspired to push him over the edge. Even the threat of death doesn’t faze him, or maybe he knows deep down that Jax won’t pull the trigger. Either way, it results in what appears to be a startling end for Clay Morrow.
Which leads me into my second point: Clay may not be dead. I could totally see him surviving this and getting rushed to a hospital, and that would infuriate me far more than Jax talking Opie down would have (although I wouldn’t have been happy in that case, either). The final shot looked pretty definitive, but after jumping to conclusions about Juice’s suicide attempt in “Fruit for the Crows” I don’t plan on making the same mistake twice. We’ll find out for sure next week, and if it does turn out to be a fake out this episode isn't going to look very impressive in retrospect. For now, though, it appears to be another very strong installment in Sons of Anarchy's excellent fourth season.
- There are other storylines I could comment on (like what’s going on with Wendy’s reappearance), but since it’s Thanksgiving weekend I think I’m just going to leave it at what I said in the review. See you next week, Sons of Anarchy fans.