‘Sons of Anarchy’ Review: “Toil and Till”
‘Sons of Anarchy’ season 7 roars out its 2nd episode of the final year, “Toil and Till,” as Jax enacts a new plan to seek vengeance against the Chinese, while Juice weighs the need to leave town, and Unser starts work as a consulting investigator under Charming's new Sheriff.
Last week’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’ premiere, “Black Widower,” saw Jax returning from prison with the goal of uniting the club and avenging Tara's murder, while Gemma and Juice fretted over their mutual secrets, and Unser made a shocking discovery that put him at odds with the club. So how does “Toil and Till” keep rolling the series toward its inevitable conclusion?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Sons of Anarchy’ season 7 episode 2, “Toil and Till”!
Re-reading my review of last week’s premiere, and observing some of the comments from you lovely folk continually reminds me what a divisive series ‘Sons of Anarchy’ can be to review. Few could argue that its stars truly give their all to the performances (a notion not lost on creator Kurt Sutter come Emmy time), though after seven seasons of breakneck plotting, occasionally contrived endings and black comedy, it’s hard to come out the other end without feeling somewhat numbed to the show’s disorganized storytelling.
In particular, I’m struck by how much the show seems to have lost in killing off Tara last season, a necessary bit of tragedy in light of the show’s ‘Hamlet’ overtones and overall nature, though Tara herself always held a unique presence within the narrative as someone looking for an out, or at least with a mind toward happy futures. The deaths of Opie and other such “innocents” could be chalked up to the club’s violent lifestyle, while Tara’s death at Gemma’s hands ranked among the more truly tragic moments, wherein a hopeful character met an undeservedly grisly fate. Without Tara’s vision of the future, ‘Sons’ seems solely defined by tragedy in its final season, and thereby more difficult to empathize with, and ultimately slog through.
At best, “Toil and Till” continually places Unser in a more central role than his usual sagely blundering, as the retired Sheriff reclaims a badge to act as consulting investigator under ‘Bridge’ transplant Annabeth Gish’s Althea Jarry. Of course, for all Unser’s unanswered suspicions about Tara’s death, and moral flexibility to aid Gemma in helping Juice get away from SAMCRO, the character still manages to get things profoundly wrong at times, overlooking any connection between Tara’s death and Juice’s sudden skittishness. Instead, we have Nero and Wendy picking up slack as voices of reason, while their continued bond proves a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season. Both remain drawn to the more dramatic and destructively “interesting” lifestyle of the club, a neat little moth-flame parallel emphasized in early minutes by criticism of Gemma’s smoking, which itself thematically links she, Jax and Juice’s crushing guilt in the opening montage.
And while Jax gets plenty to do tonight as well, staging absurd amounts of misguided Machiavellian revenge against Lin, and inadvertently lighting another powder keg in killing Jury’s boy, “Toil and Till” hasn’t yet found a groove for us to rally behind our protagonist, as long as the purely vengeful Jax rides blindly toward a tragic end. Dramatic irony has long been a staple of classic tragedy, wherein the audience knows something a focal character does not, but the unbridled revenge against Lin and his family makes Jax something of an unfamiliar character to the audience, at least while we know Gemma has pointed the “smart as he is dangerous” club leader in the wrong direction. Hopefully Jury’s own anger will awaken the more reasonable and cautious Jax we’ve shared empathy for in the past, rather than the current “don’t have a vision anymore” version.
Meanwhile, Katey Sagal puts in even finer work than usual as Gemma, playing up the conflicting sides to the chacter as she holds back tears explaining to Abel why Tara went to heaven, observing her handiwork in Unser’s crime-scene photos, or once more justifying her manipulation of Jax to Juice. That’s certainly more than we can say for what “Toil and Till” afforded Juice tonight, as he ultimately released Unser, and seemed sad about leaving his Charming life behind. Then he went to call Chibs about it. He didn’t. Then he went to leave town forever. He didn’t.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- So for anyone keeping score, Jax and Indian Hills robbed and killed the Chinese for guns, money and heroin. The Chinese assume that Nero and the Mayans might know that Jax or the Irish were behind the strike, though Jax somehow pins that warzone attack on two seeming junkies. Somewhere, the Niners shop for purple pants.
- Promotional photo gaffe! Unser seems curiously absent from the bed behind Gemma in the above shot. I always wondered how/when they took those photos.
- Oh, Rat and Tig. Someone needs a buddy cop spinoff!
- Happy does his best 'Breaking Bad' in disposing of the Triad thug's head in a box of fortune cookies, and of course never runs out of spots to bury bodies.
- Yep, racist RoboCop is still weird.
- This week in Soundtracks of Anarchy, Yelawolf's "Till It's Gone."
Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of road-rashing ‘Sons of Anarchy’ action? What did you think about tonight's latest, “Toil and Till”? Join us next week for another all-new ‘Sons of Anarchy’ review of season 7's latest “Playing with Monsters,” and stay tuned as we bring you additional coverage on season 7 from cast and crew!