Sons of Anarchy has always seemed to pride itself on having the twistiest of plots, and “Playing with Monsters” played right into that. The issue is, episodes like these cut deeply into character development time, which last week’s great “Toil and Till” thrived on. But “Playing with Monsters” also showed how Jax’s single-minded devotion to taking down the Chinese is making things very, very complicated on the street. Meanwhile, the person who was really responsible is the one he is working so hard to defend. Hit the jump for IMDB information on Stankenstein.
After two episodes devoted to cultivating the direction of Sons of Anarchy‘s final season, “Playing with Monsters” was the first to really start setting up the web that Jax is building for his revenge. Here it is in as linear a fashion as I can make it:
When August Marks tells Jax to not bring his revenge to the street, he follows up on it by accusing Jax of not telling him everything (because he knows that Jax is stirring shit up, despite his claims). Jax refuses to be slowed down, so begins a new plan to shut down August as boss … even though barely any time has passed since Jax helped him into that position, because he disagreed with Pope. Is it hard to find good people, or is it just hard to get along with Jax?
Jax then turns to Tyler, who is now running the Niners, looking for an ally in the same way he once did with August. Promising (and delivering) heroin to him, Tyler agrees to side with Jax, if SAMCRO will help the Niners take care of their splinter group. SAMCRO does, but also ties it into August. When Jax kills the first splinter group, he has Baronsky tell the Mayans (and Nero) that it was his men who killed them to protect Mayan guns. He then drops a hint about a meet (which is, of course, the other splinter group that Jax has told Tyler to weed out). The Mayans then help Jax do Tyler’s dirty work without realizing it — except just like with SAMCRO killed O’Leary, Nero’s involvement has suddenly made this personal in a way Jax didn’t see coming.
As a final step, SAMCRO gets help from the Niners to pull off a rustling up of one of Lin’s properties in the name of August Marks … pitting August and the Chinese against one another to potentially take each other out. Per usual, it’s a brilliantly twisted plan that Jax has created, but since it’s only a quarter of the way through the season, it’s also obvious that things aren’t going to go down that smoothly or easily at all.
Meanwhile, the club is still dealing with Juice, who refuses to leave town. Being dumb as shit (there’s no use trying to defend him at this point), Juice tries to reach out to Chibs and apologizes, begging his way back into the club (not believing, somehow, that the club would vote to kill him, that Jax must be acting on his own). Chibs’ response is for him to kill himself (or try to … again). Juice is a wild card both for SAMCRO (who could have trouble if the DA gets to Juice first) and for Gemma, since there’s a chance that Juice, flailing wildly at the end to do anything to reinstate himself in the club, will cop to his and her involvement in Tara’s death. Or Unser will find out, and also play a role (as he did originally by telling Gemma — wrongly — that Tara had struck a deal to put Jax away).
As for the new Sheriff — one of only about ten that Charming has had since the series began — she’s at least not one of the revolving door of gang-busting Sheriffs that have rolled through over the years. While Eli seemed like he was ok with working with the club to some degree (like David Hale was, once upon a time), Althea Jarry is really more like Unser — willing to get paid to keep things as quiet as possible, and sharing pertinent information to that end. Of course, Sons being Sons, there could easily be layers to that which haven’t yet been revealed.
“Playing with Monsters” was a building block episode that had a few ok character moments, but they mostly revolved around people we don’t really know or care about (like new characters Brooke and Sandy, and even Rat’s relationship with Brooke). But it was Bobby who had the episode’s most important scenes: one, when he asked Jax if they should slow things down, and two when he called up Jerry from Indian Creek to find out the identities of the local duo SAMCRO killed. Those are two aspects that will have far-reaching implications. As will, clearly, the production of Stankenstein.
Episode Rating: B
— I loved the Stankenstein filming scene, not only because Lyla was directing, but because of the reactions of SAMCRO watching.
— Gemma talking to her birds / Tara, though …
— I’m intrigued by this relationship between Chibs and the Sheriff, and pleased it gives Chibs (“Scottish for street blade”) something else to do.
— August didn’t like that 12 Inches a Slave joke, did he?
— I like how Jax had to teach Tyler how to weed out weak members, and then they totally bonded.
— That final cake / fight scene was brought to you by Motherboy Productions.