Sons of Anarchy: “Huang Wu” (Episode 6.10)

TV Reviews
Sons of Anarchy: “Huang Wu” (Episode 6.10)

No show in history has done the montage set to music better than Sons of Anarchy, and the final scene of season three, set to Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey,” probably deserves Greatest of All Time consideration. But the opening to last night’s episode, with Katey Sagal (who plays Gemma) covering Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer,” deserves a place with the epics.

It’s not just that the music is beautiful, though it is. What truly distinguishes a Sons montage is the amount of dialogue-free storytelling crammed into a space of three minutes. It’s not solely about conveying emotion; there’s real plot advancement, and it becomes a sort of narrative music video that adds depth both to the story and the characters. In “Huang Wu,” the tenth episode of the season, we learned that Tara fell asleep with the gun at her side, but that Jax doesn’t intend her any immediate violence. Clay is out of solitary, and out of his strait jacket, Wendy is fully on the junk, and Gemma, as ever, is plotting. Jax finds himself at the school where a gun he sold helped kill a number of the children, and from there he heads to a church, watching two boys who can’t help but remind him of himself and his dead brother, Thomas, in simpler times.

But it’s Tara who commands our attention, and that continues for the full hour. She may not always be the most fully fleshed-out character, and she may be totally doomed after the fake pregnancy/miscarriage plan that was always destined to fail. But “Huang Wu” is unquestionably her episode, and Maggie Siff makes the most of it. The most powerful scene may come at the beginning, when she visits her office, sees the fake blood stain that temporarily fooled Jax into believing his mother killed the unborn child, and breaks down crying. That’s when the freefall begins. She visits Wendy to yell at her about confessing to Gemma, but she finds a wreck of a human being, high and flailing about to find her way to rehab. She calls her a coward, and she’s right, but it doesn’t fix the damage. And while Tara still thinks everything she did was right, it can’t change the weakness of her plan. She relied on Wendy, Unser and Margaret, and each in their own way betrayed her. It must seem catastrophically unfair; others have done worse, but for her, there is no forgiveness.

And everywhere she looks, she’s being threatened. Jax has the club trailing the children to make sure she doesn’t run off, and even though he holds off his own violence, he tells her that “someone’s gonna get hurt” if he doesn’t put some distance between them. Gemma is more blunt, telling Tara in an ominous scene that if she doesn’t leave Charming, they’ll have to tell the kids that “mommy passed away.” And even the remains of her marriage are in tatters; she catches Jax in bed with Colette, the madam in charge of Diosa del Sur, the new “escort service” run by the club. (There is very little explanation about why DdS went through, when it was all but shelved permanently last weekend by Borowsky.) Even though she wanted divorce, the scene is too much for Tara, who tears Colette away and punches her before she’s pulled off. When Jax confronts her on the street, all she can say, in a moment of total breakdown, is, “What’s happening to me?”

She only has one move left, which is to approach D.A. Patterson and accept her deal to turn in the club. But Jax got there first, with a plan to give up Galen and the Irish gunrunners, and Patterson has to turn her away. She makes a vague offer of protection first, but Tara knows that nobody can help her now. The show closes on her exit, and we can only guess at the drastic moves she’ll resort to next. She has no friends, and she needs to protect her children at all costs. You get the feeling the gun in her purse, like the one in Chekhov’s plays, won’t go to waste.

Siff is the star, and the show wisely gave her space to maneuver. By Sons standards, “Huang Wu” was a bit of a set-up piece. Jax’s plan to give up the Irish is falling apart at the seams, and things start to get very dicey when Clay’s trial date is moved up, leading Galen to speed up their plans to break him out of jail on the transport. He also insists on meeting the Italians with Jax to secure the last wavering client, and he uses the moment to shoot two Chinese gangsters who arrive on the scene. The strategy works, but Jax and his gang are chased down by the Chinese, and they want the gun business for themselves. Jax promises to let them know where they can get the Irish, but the Chinese keep a hostage, Happy, just in case. (And for those of us who have been wondering when Happy was going to die, since he’s always been the most expendable Son, that answer seems to be “soon.”)

All events are converging on the upcoming prison transport, a party to which everyone is invited, and Jax has found himself beholden to almost every player. Sons continually lets us think Jax is out of control, only to have him hatch a brilliant plan at the final moment to set things right, but now, it seems, the consequences are too high. The price of leaving the gun business continues to be through the roof, and there are potential enemies everywhere. In the church, watching the children, you could see the stress eating at his face, and for the first time in maybe the entire series, he looked old. But he’s not out of ideas yet, and his final scene, where he listens to a baby monitor as he works on an old motorcycle (his dad’s, maybe?), hints that if there’s anyone who can handle all the responsibilities on his shoulders, it’s him. He may be past redemption, but he’s not defeated. But the biggest choice of all awaits him, and he has no chance to delay: What will he do about Tara?

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