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Sons of Anarchy Review: "John 8:32" (Episode 6.09)

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<em>Sons of Anarchy</em> Review: "John 8:32" (Episode 6.09)

You may not have known the exact book and biblical verse from which it came (I didn’t, anyway), but you’ve heard the words a thousand times:

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

That’s the book of John, chapter 8, verse 32, and it’s the perfect title for the best Sons of Anarchy episode this season, and maybe the best period since the season one finale, “The Revelator.” Sons is so good at weaving complex plots and sowing the narrative with rousing action that it’s easy to forget how well it works as a family drama, with each moment haunted by the death of John Teller, but last night’s episode was a stirring reminder of the levels this show can reach.

The truth, in this case, appears in several incarnations. The first and mildest comes when Jax realizes the price Nero nearly paid to protect a club that has only brought him trouble. He was about to take the gun rap, and D.A. Patterson was on the verge of accepting his confession despite the obvious fabrication, and only a late bout of conscience saw Nero walk free. He’s free of jail, but he’s not free of Gemma, and as the truth of her latest conflict becomes clear—Tara faked her pregnancy, faked Gemma’s attack and faked the miscarriage that helped her in her secret custody war as she tried to break free of Jax and the club—Nero takes her side and confronts both Jax and Tara.

For his troubles, he gets punched in the face repeatedly by Jax (though snake-like, he lands a few blows of his own), and only Gemma’s trip to confront Margaret finally stops the fight and breaks through Jax’s unwillingness to believe that he’d been betrayed. That’s the second major truth of the episode, and it hits him like a sledgehammer. He uses Unser to get face-to-face with Lowen, the club’s attorney, who had been helping Tara all along. A show of anger is enough to get her to confess what she knows (the divorce is pending), and what she suspects (the divorce is real). Tara’s machinations were intricate, but in the end still poorly conceived. Too many people knew, and after Lowen frantically calls to let her know that the gig is up, the episode’s end finds her sitting at home. A baby rests on one leg, and a gun rests on the other.

Ironically, Jax had just worked out a deal with D.A. Patterson to set Tara free. He and the club realized that her ferocity has a resilient quality, and when she screws up the club’s new escort business by exerting pressure on Borowsky at the docks, they know they won’t be free until she has a victim. Jax decides to pay her a visit, and makes a compelling offer: He’ll give her Galen and the Irish Kings with a truck load of guns. This, as he notes, is “a win way above her pay grade.” In return, he wants immunity for the Sons for all gun crimes, and for Patterson to exonerate Tara for complicity in Otto’s violent murder of a nurse. With promotion in the back of her mind, she grudgingly agrees, but promises Jax that if he doesn’t come through, she’ll make life hell for the club and Tara both.

The future of that deal—the Tara part, anyway—is now up in the air. But there’s a third truth, and it’s one that’s remained somewhat in limbo for the entire series: What exactly happened with John Teller? We know Clay killed him, and we know Gemma at least knew about it, but there’s still a mystery surrounding the actual events of his crash. The story is re-introduced when a girl with bipolar disorder throws a pipe wrench through the new Sons headquarters. She turns out to be the daughter of a woman who was killed in the same crash as John Teller, and the girl’s mental disorder makes her transfer the blame to Jax and the club. It’s a strange coincidence, but it may be something more when Jax visits the girl’s father and recognizes the mother from the photo. He helps the father save his home in a rare feel-good moment that seems mostly designed to restore Jax’s damaged reputation, but there’s something unresolved with the mother.

The girl visits Jax to apologize, and as she walks home, she passes a homeless woman rooting through the garbage. This woman has appeared on the series several times, without explanation, and has always precipitated a major death. It’s unclear what she’s meant to symbolize (an angel of death? a ghost?), but something momentous is in the offing.

And it will likely start with Tara. When Nero meets her in the hospital, she lets it slip that Gemma killed John Teller. Nero confronts her in the waning moments, and finally, after almost six seasons, we get the fullest explanation yet of what happened. It mostly follows what we suspected; Teller fell in love with Maureen Ashby, Gemma found out and gravitated toward Clay, and after young Thomas’ death (Jax’s brother) during one of John’s trips to Belfast, she put the full stress of it on John, who became unraveled. He had been trying to get the club out of guns, but he couldn’t keep focuses, and Clay used his breakdown to actually make the bond with the Irish gunrunners stronger. At the same time, the Sons were in the midst of a gang war with the Mayans, and FBI agents were infiltrating MCs all over the country. John started his confessional journal and became a liability who stopped caring about this family or the club. And while Gemma didn’t kill him, she gave Clay her blessing.

Still, even this final truth is shrouded in gray area. Gemma rationalizes her decision as “living by the code,” but there’s no such thing as murder without punishment. She’s been living the consequences of that decision her entire life, and when Jax finds out, as he must, she may have to pay the ultimate price. So we see, in the end, that there’s irony to the biblical verse. In season one, we listened to “John the Revelator” in the closing moments, and now we’re reading from the Book of John. Jax’s father has a reach that is still powerful from the grave, but the truth he reveals isn’t setting anybody free. Instead, they bring Gemma, Tara, Jax and the entire club deeper into the web that eventually consumes everyone. As we near the end of the season, it increasingly feels as if the moral of this show’s story is that nobody escapes original sin. Jax may have a plan, and the pieces of knowledge may be falling into place, but he’s further than ever from freedom.