Brief spoilers for last night’s Sons of Anarchy coming up after the jump:
“Balm” was not just the biggest Sons of Anarchy yet; it was the best. Having built all season on last year’s violent shocker turn—the accidental shooting death of Donna—the show has stepped up the stakes, threats and conflicts further, all the while going deeper into its characters.
And my God, what a closing performance last night by Katey Sagal, an absolutely riveting revelation of her rape that should put her in Emmy consideration next year. Nothing in Segal’s sitcom-performance career could have prepared us for what she’s done in the role of Gemma this season. Nor, for that matter, did the initial character of Gemma; she was introduced in the series as a tough biker mama, but this year she (and her husband, series creator Kurt Sutter) have made her a complex, empathetic but still challenging character.
Meanwhile the show has managed to make the rivalry between Jax and Clay more intense while at the same time shading it with moments of connection. And the aftermath of Gemma’s revelation, which has thrown the two men together just as Jax was preparing to go nomad, promises to complicate things further. They both have an interest in kicking some white-supremacist ass now, but I wouldn’t expect that to fix anything between them.
This series has never been better, but given its acceleration this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sons of Anarchy got even better soon.