When the Sons of Anarchy clubhouse blew up at the end of last week’s episode, it was a fairly safe bet that we were in for some rebuilding. Jax Teller’s crumbling morality has been a repeating theme all season, and we’ve seen him sink to depths we only expected from the likes of Clay Morrow. It felt like an exploding building, with him and everyone he loved inside, would be the fitting end to the bad choices he’s made, and his failure to get out from under the shadow of IRA guns. Instead, he spotted the bomb, everyone escaped unharmed, and it appears the explosion may have gone some way to wiping out Jax’s sins.
“Salvage” begins with Jax and Chibs surveying the clubhouse damage (total) as the music floods in. “I did this,” Jax says, head in hands, and nobody’s about to correct him. But while he can’t provide relief, Chibs does find the sole survivor of the bomb—Jax’s gavel. Outside, the restored president establishes an uneasy truce with Sheriff Roosevelt, who has his own problems back at the police station with Nero Padilla, who stands accused of murdering one of his Diosa prostitutes. Roosevelt suspects the truth—that the insane, vengeful, and now dead lawman Lee Toric was the culprit, and set Padilla up to get at the Sons—but he can’t prove it, and District Attorney Patterson wants to press forward with the charges because she has Toric’s same issue, minus the revenge motive; she needs to punish someone for a horrific school shooting, and Padilla might be her way into the club that supplied the gun.
Meanwhile, Tara continues to develop the slowest-moving exit strategy of all time. She’s preparing to go to jail and put her sons in Wendy’s custody, but this is apparently a season-long process. DA Patterson tries to speed it up, though, when an investigation of Toric’s hotel room makes it more or less clear that Padilla will be off scot-free when the DNA comes back. So she has one offer for Tara—betray Jax, and walk free with custody of the boys. That’s a step too far for Tara, but when Patterson removes her wig and declares that it’s “time to go hood,” moving Tara’s trial date up three weeks to put the pressure on, Tara’s resolve isn’t quite so strong.
Jax and the club hold a conference call with the elders of the IRA who just tried to kill them, and Galen offers them a deal. Clay will run the Irish guns on the west coast with a separate gang, and as long as the Sons ensure that the buyers remain, they can finally free themselves of guns. No more reprisals, no more deaths. Jax even offers to release Connor, the IRA hostage, and the elders are shocked to hear he’s still alive. For the first time, they may be questioning Galen.
That accomplished, the club heads north to break the news to the other charters that guns are over. En route, we’re treated to one of the show’s famous capers when two dirty cops in a town called Eden stop them en masse and plan to have their bikes picked up and sent to a chop shop, where they have a deal in contraband to line their pockets. They won’t budge, but Juice is eager to prove his badass credentials to the gang (especially to Jax and Chibs, who know about his earlier betrayal), so he beats up both cops while handcuffed to his bike. A chase ensues, and when Juice makes the leap into Ratboy’s van, the police bike he stole crashes into the pursuing car, and the police go over a ravine, ass-over-teakettle. The resolution is predictably clean—all the cops survive, but since they were dirty none of the Sons will be held accountable.
Jax gives one of his best speeches to the club, detailing how guns have sunk their teeth into the club. He cites all the main statistics, including the 20 deaths from the past two years and the fact that after lawyer’s fees and repairs, they barely even make a profit. He knows pulling away will put a temporary dent in their pockets, but anything less will sacrifice the club’s future. Unlike his father, he tells them, he’s not suffering a crisis of conscience; he wants the Sons to survive and thrive. Women, not bullets, is their means of doing so.
Everyone at the table pounds their fist in unison, and the vote is unanimous. Jax tells Juice to cut out the cowboy stuff, and then meets with Bobby, his long-lost former VP who everyone believes has been off forming a Nomad charter with the club’s other castaways. In an emotional moment, he tells Jax that he loves him, and he’s really been recruiting solid men to bolster the ranks of the Redwood Originals in Charming. United again, they hug it out, and for the first time all season, there’s some semblance of stability and hope on the SoA horizon.
For a grand finale, the club stops by the chop shop on their way home, and lures the mechanic into calling up the two policemen who chased them earlier. They take photos of all the stolen bikes and cars, and use them to force the dirty coppers to give Juice a new bike, and apologize individually to each member of the gang as the rest of them enjoy the spectacle.
Kurt Sutter has said that his show will end after season seven (though there’s some flexibility), and at the moment, almost halfway through this year, there’s a resolution in sight. But it’s far too early for that, and this is not a show to let a character like Jax get off so easily for his past sins. The most resonsant line of the episode came near the beginning, when he and Chis tried to convince Roosevelt that nothing like the explosion was ever going to happen again.
“I can tell you guys really believe that,” he said. “I’m just not sure I do.”
We’d be wise, as viewers, to heed his skepticism. Things have settled down, and this was the rare episode when nobody died, but the odds are that we’re trapped in the eye of the hurricane.