I’m not a huge fan of Sons of Anarchy. I got pulled into it with the young gangster conflicted about the violent life he was born into, trying to move on and make an exit, go legit. While the series was focused around that, it was good. Plenty of crime, violence, drama and internal conflict to spend 45 minutes watching it and be entertained. It effectively jumped the shark when Jax took over the club, and his plans to leave the life of crime ended (which was around the end of season 4).
From there, it’s decline wasn’t precipitous, but it was steady. Harold Perrineau was interesting and turned in a great performance as Damon Pope, the Lawful Evil businessman and it was great to watch Jax frame Clay for Damon’s murder, effectively killing two birds with one stone. Yet the die had been cast, and President Jax was never as strong a character as VP Jax under Clay. Jax failed to extricate the club from crime. Tara began to accept her criminal life, went to jail and became a copy of Gemma who by season 5 was intolerable to watch. Even in a crazy season 6, the lure of getting the kids out of Charming is enough to drive the plot and convince Tara and Jax to betray the club and serve a jail sentence just to break the cycle.
But this season… this season was terrible.
The first problem is that a lot of characters we were invested in are dead before the season even starts. The Jax – Tara dynamic is gone (she’s dead). The Jax – Clay dynamic is gone (he’s dead). Opie is dead. Juice is discredited. Eli, who was an excellent foil for Jax, is dead. Gemma has already long since become evil. The rest of SAMCRO have become paper cutouts.
The second problem is that Jax apparently has no brain. He burns everyone around him without any proof. He burns Lin, which burns Marks, and burns the Indian Hills charter with nothing but a whisper from Gemma. His mother, yes, but also someone that he knows isn’t trustworthy from the get go (anyone else remember Jax convincing Gemma to backstab Clay after she got high and nearly killed the boys in a car crash?).
And honestly, trustworthiness aside, how could you not suspect Gemma being the murderer? She was there and saw “an asian guy” escape. Jax is aware of Tara’s plans at the time of her death and knew that Gemma would have a problem with Tara leaving with the kids. Gemma actively encouraged Jax to kill Clay (and is in general a bad bitch), so it’s not like murder is somehow out of bounds for her. How does this not instantly cause suspicion in Jax? Well, he’s lost quite a few brain cells this season, apparently.
Even if you choose to believe that Jax’s loyalty would prevent him from suspecting his own mother killed his wife, why then blow up your whole world to exact vengeance on an a random asian guy without a shred of proof? Sure, Jax can’t go to Lin and ask politely if he had Tara killed, but he could definitely tap his police contacts (Unser, Patterson, Jarry – and speaking of tapping, Chibbs’ relationship with Jarry is unbelievably dumb) and find out, surprise, that guy was in a Vegas drunk tank, off the official record. He probably could have found this out if he’d taken the time to listen to the asian guy before brutally murdering him too, but I can understand why you wouldn’t want the distraction of talking in the middle of your ritual killing (I read that in an etiquette book once). The point is, this information isn’t exactly top secret and there are probably a lot of other ways you could debunk Gemma’s assertion without going to the Chinese, at which point it either becomes obvious that Gemma is the murderer, or that you at least need to spend more time to find out who is.
I want to make one more thing clear, as a lot of internet comments seem to be under the impression that all of this poor reasoning is due to Jax being destroyed by Tara’s death and that vengeance doesn’t have to be rational. I’d buy that, if it weren’t for the fact that Jax’s revenge takes the form of a plot to destroy Lin in retaliation. Plans that are laid out and executed over weeks and months, it’s not like Jax rolled out with a shotgun bent on revenge the night he found out Tara was dead. You can’t excuse shitty writing with blind vengeance. As it stands, Jax could apparently spend a huge amount of time and effort planning his revenge, put his life and the lives of his crew on the line, but not spend a 20 minute phone call to his police contacts, or some discreet inquiries on the street about whether his revenge made sense. Where is the cunning gangster that required proof of Clay’s misdeeds and then so perfectly orchestrated his downfall?
Beginning season 7, everyone knew that the season would hinge on how Jax dealt with the situation and he did poorly. It took more than half the season before Jax even questioned whether Gemma was full of shit. It took Abel overhearing Gemma saying something really dumb to Thomas for Jax to get it right. Seriously, who confesses a murder aloud, in a house full of people, to a toddler? It could’ve been anyone at that door. Wendy, Jax, a club member. At least Gemma started the show as a dumb spiteful bitch so she didn’t have to fall very far for her part in this season.
Which brings me to the finale itself. On the heels of Jax killing Gemma, Unser and indirectly Juice in what probably should have been the first 45 minutes of the finale instead of an independent episode, Jax basically spends all episode abandoning his club, abandoning his children to an ex-gangster and his ex-junkie ex-wife, and throwing his life away for no good reason. The writers desperately tried to shoehorn in some Christ imagery and Shakespeare to fool you into thinking the story has depth, but SOA’s finale was DOA.
Okay, okay, so maybe in the process of realizing that he’s gotten a lot of people killed and imprisoned pursuing vengeance on the wrong people he’s decided that he can’t be allowed to live. Somehow, he believes emulating his father’s murder makes some sort of point (what point? I have no idea). Yet, how would Jax’s life be different if he’d actually been raised by a father? How would the MC be different if JT was still in charge? When Jax destroys his own notes and his father’s notes, it’s because he doesn’t want his children to follow in his footsteps, but he fails to realize that children need good parents more than they need to be insulated from the evils of the past. Jax could be so much more effective if he actually manned up and raised those kids as a loving father. Everyone knew that Jax was going to die in the finale. It’s a cliche at this point. A trope. I just find it hard to believe that this hardcore gangster did it to himself. Then again, if I lost 50 points of IQ over the course of an off-season I might off myself too.
The only redeeming feature of Jax in this episode is his murdering Barosky and Marks and killing some of the Irish to set things right. But these are almost entirely independent to the rest of the plot. He walks away from both murders. At this point, a highly connected top level gangster like Jax could just make a bid to disappear. He could go to Nero’s farm with his kids. He could do anything yet he’s only apprehended when he, like a moron, decides to talk to his dead dad’s marker on the side of the road. That’s right, a suicidal gangster talks regrettingly to his murdered gangster dad and yet fails to realize that maybe he should allow Abel and Thomas to avoid the same situation by being there instead of being another stop on the Teller Highway Death Tour. I was disappointed with this bridge from Jax’s vigilante justice. If it was more intense, in perilous flight from the police, trying to reach a safehouse and eventually the boys I would have felt for him and felt that he was still attempting to honor that initial impulse from way back in season 1. Instead, it’s a flaccid and utterly baffling mirror of his dad’s accident, starting from it’s endpoint (oooh, symbolism).
The final scene is a weak “car chase” that’s really just a 30 mile an hour police funeral procession, some really terrible CG crows, and Jax decides to give the grill of an oncoming semi an up close inspection. What. The. Fuck.
To summarize, Jax finally puts someone else in charge of the MC, escapes club justice, tidies up the loose criminal ends, escapes real justice only to allow himself to be caught so… he can have witnesses to his suicide? If he didn’t decide to kill himself in the most terrifying painful way possible he could’ve gotten away with it and moved on with his life. No such luck.
I hated this season and this episode was garbage.
My only consolation is that SOA won’t be back and I don’t have to hear one more fucking awful Katey Sagal cover, or another butchering of Queen or Nirvana set to slo-mo shots of random gangster shit.