Sons of Anarchy Season 6 recap: “Straw”

If there is one centralized theme to Sons of Anarchy — this leather-clad Hamlet, this motorcycle-mounted Godfather — it is the sins of the father falling upon the son. John Teller’s change of heart came too late, and proved too little to save him from his scheming friend Clay, who took his life and stole his wife, Gemma. Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) has worked to make his vision for his father’s beloved SAMCRO a reality, but of course has been drawn to depths of depravity that probably exceed whatever gave his father pause. Sons of Anarchy Season 6, which creator Kurt Sutter has sold as the penultimate chapter in the series, wastes absolutely no time bringing this idea front and center, with a premiere episode that sets the stage for what’s sure to be another gut-wrenching ride.

To that point, we start off with another of Jax’s monologues aimed at his sons, Abel and Thomas, telling them the usual spiel about how there are things he has done that he’s proud of, and things he regrets. But however he worries what effect his actions will have on them, he tells his boys that their actions must be their own, just as he has taken responsibility for his. During this montage we see the usual suspects — Tara (Maggie Siff) and Clay (Ron Perlman) in jail, Gemma (Katey Sagal) making some breakfast, Nero (Jimmy Smits) administering violent discipline, Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) and Tig (Kim Coates) riding strong — but at the beginning there is a different face. A young, blond boy dressed very neatly, taking pen to paper as we hear Jax’s words. Could this be a flashback to the young Jax, before the violent life he seemed destined for took him? The answer will ultimately prove a beyond-tragic no. (And if you’re looking carefully, you can see clues of modernity in the room that show this takes place in the present time.)

Lee Toric (Donal Logue) has his plan for vengeance in full swing. Even though he is only a former U.S. Marshal, he has enough favors stored up to arrange for things like Clay being kept in protective custody while he tries to get him to flip, and, oh, for Otto (Sutter), his sister’s murderer, to be brutally raped every morning. In a quintessential bit of only-on-Sons-of-Anarchy humor, Toric enters Otto’s cell after one such encounter and cheerfully asks, “How’s your morning?”

A scene like this may seem excessive, even to some Sons fans, but what I like about this one in particular is it challenges us to watch something many of us say we want to see happen. A scumbag murderer like Otto should face unending punishment and nothing is too cruel for him to suffer. Well, that may be, but actually watching a bit of it drives that point home a little more and makes us feel the meaning of those words.

Toric is undeniably trouble for SAMCRO, but another potential problem can be found in someone who seemed like a sure ally. August Marks (Billy Brown), who rose to the top of his organization after the murder of Damon Pope, probably knows somewhere deep down that his boss’s death was fishy at best. But it benefits him, and he can’t prove anything anyway, so he’s made peace with it. Jax probably even thinks Marks will act grateful in his dealings with the club. And while he does prove quite cooperative, he still hasn’t given up on the demand that necessitated Pope being taken down: Tig has to die.

There’s conflict with Marks even as he asks this, knowing it certainly isn’t the path of least resistance. But in his words, he needs to make it right to Pope and Pope’s family. There’s no doubt a really good show that could be made following that character. C’mon, somebody needs to give Billy Brown his own show. Playing fifth banana on that junky Hostages show on CBS just ain’t going to cut it.

We see that well-dressed boy again, this time giving a kiss to his sleeping mother (Samaire Armstrong). There’s about a half-minute where you think that could be a young Gemma, but that changes when he steps outside and casually greets Arcadio (Dave Navarro), who calls him something that sounds like hijo (“son”) as he goes inside.

Speaking of inside, Tara is desperate to make bail but won’t talk to Jax because she can’t bear for him to see her in prison garb. She does confide to Lowan (Robin Weigert), though, that she suspects Gemma may have been the one who turned her in. Lowen lets Jax know this, and he immediately heads to Nero’s brothel to confront her. Gemma admits to having threatened Tara, in a typically Gemma attempt to “scare her smart,” but assures Jax she would never go to the police. Their business is cut short, though, when Lila (Winter Ave Zoli) is brought in crying and all cut up and burned to hell. She was taking part in a torture porn video that got way out of hand. The crew get in character and head up to the docks in Stockton to dispense justice to the Persian pornographers responsible. But Nero says if they’re going up that way they need to check in with Charles Barosky (Peter Weller) a crooked ex-cop who runs things up there. Chibs and Jax beg off, though, saying the guys they’re after might actually work for Barosky, so they decide to go poking around on their own first.

These little raids never go very smoothly, do they? This one is no exception. I mean, they try knocking on the door, but wouldn’t you know it, guns are drawn before they even step inside. The scene is predictably awful inside, with women chained to beds getting gang raped on a blood-soaked mattress and locked in cages. There’s also a tub of urine that will come into play a bit later. The requisite shootout goes down and the Sons get the upper hand, but it’s all busted up by some cops.

This is when they meet Barosky. He’s understandably angry, especially when Jax keeps insisting on calling them Persians. “Persia hasn’t been a country since 637 A.D.!” But eventually they suss it all out, and even beginning talking about a business partnership between Nero’s brothel and an escort service run by Barosky’s associate Collette (Kim Dickens). So no harm no foul, right? Except Jax sends Tig to set loose one of the pornographer brothers, and the guy says some untoward comment about hoping that Tig will see his daughter get raped. Tig reacts quite rationally and drowns the guy in the aforementioned tub of urine, then proceeds to contribute to the tub all over the guy’s corpse. Never fear, though, Tig’s got it all under control. He puts the guy’s body back in the porn cage and dumps it off the dock all quiet like. We leave him as he mumbles through a chorus of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”

Jax, Nero and Collette hash out the arrangements for the new legit escort service and plan to head over to Collette’s house to check it out. Nero begs off, saying he needs to go pick up his son, leaving just Jax and Collette, who share an instant, obvious attraction. He looks around the place, likes what he sees but gently rebuffs Collette’s subtle come-ons. That is until he gets a call from Lowen saying that Tara doesn’t want him at the bail hearing in the morning. After that he can’t quite bring himself to get up off the bench and go, so later Collette finds him and comforts him with words, then takes him upstairs and comforts him some more. Um, with sex, if that description wasn’t blatant enough for you.

Sons of Anarchy Season 6 Charlie Hunnam Kim Dickens FX

Toric makes his rounds, visiting Tara and Clay, offering them both chances to turn in the club and win their freedom. Both decline initially, although Tara breaks down after Toric leaves, knowing she is facing five to seven years. And Clay has second thoughts upon being taken out of his special cell and into Gen Pop. He turns back to the guard and says he wants to make a deal.

All right, so now it’s time to see what that young, well-dressed boy has been doing all this time. He has popped up throughout the episode, drinking something at the donut shop where Jax and Nero met with Barosky, and he even shared a quiet stare with Jax outside the shop as Jax was set to leave. But the next time we see him he’s at a school, where he sits on a bench by himself and rolls up his crop white sleeves to reveal several cut marks on his arm. We then see what he’s been drawing, horrible pictures of death and destruction. And then the capper, an automatic weapon he pulls out of his backpack. The boy then walks into his school and begins shooting. We don’t see what happens inside, but we hear the screams and see the blood splatter on the windows.

Again, one could accuse Sons of Anarchy for exploiting the tragedy of Newtown (and so many others), but I can say after having watched the next couple episodes that the event does figure greatly into the rest of the series, and the Sons are forced to deal with some very real-world consequences to their business dealings.

So wow, all that and I didn’t even get to Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) trying to secure three other club members to start a Nomad chapter with him, Toric shooting up and getting weird and naked in his room, Tara delivering a jailhouse beatdown to an inmate who took her stuff, and Chibs working out his anger with Juice via another beatdown.

Yes, we’re off and running for Sons of Anarchy Season 6. What did you think? And how about Anarchy Afterword?

Photo: Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX