S4E8: Just in time for Halloween, Ren and Stimpy’s Bloody Head Fairy comes to Charming, California along with South Park Tenorman-flavored chili. Odd pop culture references aside, this week’s Sons of Anarchy featured the usual ultra-violent shock and awe that the series is known for as the seeds of all out war between clubs, cartels, and Charming heats up.
“Eventually we’ll be less desperate, make smarter choices.” – Jax
Poor guy can’t even kill himself right. This week’s show picks up right where last week’s ended: with Juice trying to off himself. Luckily (or unluckily, if you’re Juice), the branch of the tree he hung himself from snapped, leaving him and his guilt alive for another day. Chibs and Tig arrive at the warehouse to bring Juice back to the clubhouse for the big vote.
Jax and Opie discuss the impending vote for new leadership. While Opie believes Bobby is a better choice for the long term, Jax is still siding with Clay, convinced that while their deal with the Gallindo cartel is dirty, the money from it can make the club whole. Clay and Tig both vote nay on the deal but the vote is forced off the table for the time being when Lobo cartel members do a drive-by and shoot up Teller–Morrow. The Sons are able to grab one of the shooters as they try to escape. Even worse news for the Sons: they’re carrying a bag of severed heads, one of them being the president of SAMTAZ, Armando. Thanks to Happy busting up the Lobos member from the drive-by, and some Sodium Pentothal (courtesy of Luis Torres), Romero’s right hand man, The Sons and the Mayans learn that one of the Mayans has been leaking information about both clubs to the Lobo cartel. Jax formulates a plan: leave the Mayan rat alive, leak some false information in order to draw the Lobo cartel out and have Torres and his men take them out. Unfortunately for the club, Torres needs the Sons to be an infantry unit in case things go south. Bobby can’t believe it, but agrees with Clay that they need to be united on this or else they’ll wind up dead. Luckily the infantry is safe and sound because even though Pedro was never out of Alvarez’s sight, the Lobos must have known something was going down because they drive a truck to the warehouse with the bodies of the severed heads.
“Why do I believe him when he say’s it’ll get better?” – Tara
Since the early days of the show, Gemma and Tara have had all kinds of discussions about family and what their roles are as old ladies, with Gemma always convincing Tara to stand by her man and their family. Tara’s faith in Jax’s ability to keep his family safe is gone and Tara tells Jax that she’s leaving with the kids. Jax agrees, knowing that club is in over its head. It’s good to see Jax is being smart here and not only is he not fighting Tara about getting out of Charming, he agrees and supports the decision.
“Charming needs a hero, Elliot.” – Clay
Despite the madness going on the drug war, the city of Charming has its own problems, and Roosevelt’s wife has orchestrated a fundraiser to preserve Charming Central Gardens instead of Mayor Hale’s vision for Charming Heights. Clay and the Sons are on board with stopping Hale, because a bigger city is bad for business. Clay makes an impassioned speech and gives 75K to the cause, he also presents a check for the same amount from Elliot Oswald; the man who he believes should be the mayor of Charming. I’m sure Sheriff Roosevelt is none too pleased with the illegal half of the donation to his wife.
“That bag of your heads is a get out of drugs free card.” – Piney
Jax heads up to the cabin to speak with Piney about his conflict with Clay. Piney tells Jax about how for ten years he gave up the club and the ideals of John Teller until Jax came in. No matter how much damage John did to his immediate family, the club can still be saved. But the prince of the club disagrees whole-heartedly, stating that the idea that he can change anything is arrogant and that what he’s doing now is for his family. Piney still can’t believe how much like his father Jax is and asks of the vice president to remind himself of the great man JT was before he forgets. The old, cranky club member has always tried to steer Jax toward the path John wanted, or at the very least away from the path that Clay has led the club on. I’m not sure how much more biker Yoda can do except reveal the unread batch of letters from John to Maureen and the fact the Clay killed JT – which he is still threatening Clay with on the condition that he pulls the club out of the drug game.
Clay also stops by Piney’s cabin. Piney is smart and makes the pres give up his weapons before entering. Still thinking he has Clay dead to rights thanks to the letters, Piney maintains his position and demands that Clay cut ties with the cartel to which Clay calmly agrees and walks away, only to quickly return, smashing the door into Piney and then scouring the cabin for the letters which Piney declared weren’t there. Clay realizes that Tara still has them. Piney tries to play dumb and begs Clay to leave the doc out of this. “Too late,” would be the last words Piney would ever hear as Clay shoots him point-blank with a shotgun in one of the series’ most shocking deaths ever.
We all knew someone as old as Piney just wasn’t fit for this world, but Clay offing him really does showcase that any given week, any character can join the big biker club in the sky. Sons’ dark humor also popped up this week in the form of severed head flavored chili. Just like many a great week for the Sons, some of the last week’s biggest storylines got put on the back burner, but occasionally crept up, like Juice’s issues which weren’t mentioned at all, however Theo Rossi’s acting conveyed the growing guilt and nervousness in Juice’s head. Chibs did find his MC brethren cleaning up the chain that he tried to use to hang himself and the Irish MC member took the suicide attempt as Juice feeling guilty over having to kill people. It’s only a matter of time before Juice tells everything to Chibs, which will in turn give him a hard decision to make; keep his friend’s secret or off him with a good ol’ Glasgow Smile and a knife to the chest to match?
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The pilot for the series of the same title. The story of Ben Elliot, a New York doctor who gives up his practice to begin a new life and a new dedication to his profession in the Colorado Rockies. In the pilot episode, as Ben travels to the high country town of Purgatory for a visit to the schoolhouse that also serves as his clinic, he encounters a seriously ill girl whose superstitious father will not let him treat her. He also finds an elderly rancher who has been wounded in a hunting accident.