Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Season One: Episode 5- "Giving Back"

Coming into this experience as a blogger, I understood that I would be watching a television show that portrays a semblance of violence, a questionable moral compass and perhaps vulgar language. I have to admit that I did not expect to watch an episode or a story line revolving around a chronic masturbator, but that is exactly what happened in "Giving Back." In this episode, SAMCRO was tasked with protecting Chuck Marstein who was responsible for "cooking the books" for another illegal organization. SAMCRO has been hurting financially since the warehouse was burned down, and they were expecting to gain a portion of the "cooked" money from Chuck in return for protecting him against his former organization who wanted him dead. This scenario got me to thinking about the financial implications of the decision to protect this accountant, as well as the financial implications that may have shaped SAMCRO's actions in the previous episodes. What would it be worth to you to seemingly "babysit" this person:

Tony Soprano's Mansion
SAMCRO garage
The interesting aspect of SAMCRO is that the members of the gang do not possess the material items or live the lavish lifestyles that one would expect, especially considering the illegal nature of their "activities" and the risks associated. Take The Sopranos as an example of a crime syndicate that functions in everyday society, just as SAMCRO does. Tony Soprano lives in a sprawling mansion in New Jersey, drives a Cadillac Escalade, and can afford clothes and material items for himself and his family. In contrast, there is not one member from SAMCRO that lives in anything resembling a mansion. While the members of the biker gang are likely not lining up for welfare, there is certainly a clear distinction in how they live their lives compared with the mafia members portrayed in The Sopranos. This surely has to do with the rugged and rough nature of SAMCRO, as well as the identity of the small town of Charming that the biker gang embraces. 

Another storyline in this episode was Gemma's desire to throw a fundraiser to support increased costs for the Charming schools. As mentioned in previous blogs, the show largely revolves around the challenges of SAMCRO as a gang of outlaws in society. Issues such as hiding illegal weapons, fending off police forces and keeping order in the community are typically the focal points of most Sons of Anarchy episodes. In this case, the actions of Gemma showcase the dedication that they group has to the development and maintenance of the community. Now one can always argue the rationale behind such actions. Is Gemma truly attempting to use her standing in the community to make a positive difference for the schools and the city of Charming as a whole? Or is Gemma using this fundraiser as an opportunity to manipulate the feeling that patrons have about SAMCRO and their standing in the community? In essence, is the fundraiser yet another reminder to patrons about how involved SAMCRO is in Charming and how necessary their presence is to ensure peace and harmony in the town? Gemma's act of charity is not the only example of a television character involved in illegal activities trying to create a positive impact in society or "give back" to the community through action. This past spring, we saw the debut of The Following where the main antagonist is a serial killer who worked as a college professor, seemingly to educate the youth of America. Additionally,  one of the highest rated shows on television is Dexter, in which the protagonist actually works for the local police department hunting down those responsible for many of the same crimes he also commits. While these two examples may be stretches compared to Gemma's simple act of throwing a fundraiser, the fact is that many characters use their hobbies or jobs as a way to mask their true intentions. In Gemma's case, the impression that she cares about the city of Charming (whether the impression is truthful or not) can be seen as a disguise or a diversion from what she really cares about- the status of SAMCRO.  

Another plotline from this episode revolves around a man named Kyle and Opie. Opie, who hopefully you all remember from my previous posts is a loyal member of SAMCRO who spent time in prison and reaffirmed his belief in the club when he was released, despite the wishes of his family to follow another path. In this episode, we learn that Kyle was one of the main reasons that Opie ended up in jail. Kyle was a former member of SAMCRO who went on a
Jax, Opie and Kyle
"job" with Opie and acted as the driver for the mission. When the cops showed up at the scene, Kyle drove away and left Opie to take the fall with the law. Because of his actions, Kyle was banished from Charming and his status with SAMCRO was revoked. Throughout the first few episodes of the season, it was clear that all members of SAMCRO took their allegiances to the group very seriously. However, this is one of the first instances where viewers actually SEE how just how serious the commitment is. On one hand, Opie went away to jail for his part in a failed job. He never "ratted out" Kyle or another other members of SAMCRO because of the brotherhood they had formed. On the other hand, the implications of going against SAMCRO was also clear based on how Kyle was treated. In what may have been a momentary lap of judgement or a situation where fear overwhelmed him, Kyle lost everything by leaving Opie at the scene years ago. Kyle was forced to relocate and his family stayed in Charming while Kyle left the town. The group that once gave Kyle everything to live for also took everything away once the feeling of trust had evaporated. In this episode, Kyle was given permission by the club (thanks to a vote) to come back to Charming to see his son play at Gemma's fundraiser. As the show progressed, it actually seemed as if Kyle and the members of SAMCRO were rekindling their old admiration/respect for each other when members of SAMCRO noticed that Kyle still had his tattoo. Each member of SAMCRO has a full tattoo on their back depicting the Sons of Anarchy charter logo:
Jax and his tattoo

Kyle's Tattoo Removal
Since Kyle was no longer part of SAMCRO, he was expected to have it removed. At the conclusion of the episode, despite the seemingly good will shown toward both parties, the members of SAMCRO surrounded Kyle and gave him two options: fire or knife. Those were the two options that Kyle had to have his tattoo removed, and he chose fire. The graphic scene of a man's flesh burning was a reminder of how serious the SAMCRO bond is. It is life or death. It is blood, sweat and tears. And it is the unity that has kept them from breaking under the stress and scrutiny from outside attack.  

P.S. I know what you are all wondering- "But James, what happened with the chronic masturbator?" Don't worry- I didn't forget about him. After SAMCRO protected Chuck, they took him to the restaurant where he allegedly stashed some of the money that he had taken from his previous employers. However, the money that he had stored was counterfeit and of no use to SAMCRO. As such, SAMCRO sold Chuck back to the Chinese Mafia who wanted to ensure their previous masturbator-- errr I mean employer--- wouldn't cause them any more trouble as an informant. Unfortunately for Chuck, his time for his "favorite hobby" appeared to be very limited after he was turned over to the Chinese. 

Wave bye-bye, Chuck!

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