A few thoughts on the “Sons of Anarchy” series finale coming up just as soon as I give you my blanket…
Amber Dowling already wrote her review of “Papa's Goods” last night, and I said most of what I had to say about the series in yesterday's column. As someone who skipped out on most of the final two seasons, I can't really speak to all the various club beefs that were settled in these last few episodes, and whether I'd have found them interesting had I stuck it out from first to last.
In terms of the part of the show I still cared about, “Papa's Goods” felt very reminiscent of the “Breaking Bad” series finale, albeit presented in the bloated, montage-heavy style of “Sons.” With Gemma's murder behind him, Jax finally can admit to himself and others what a monster he is, and that the club's world is so toxic that the best thing he can do is die while making sure Wendy turns the boys against their father and his club. (Good luck with that, buddy, given Grandma's gift of the “Son” ring to Abel.) He settles all Family business, going on an impressive killing spree that succeeds because the local cops are, as always, completely incompetent, then absolves the club of any guilt for killing him by running off and arranging a suicide-by-cop that winds up being a suicide-by-former-cop, in the form of “Shield” star Michael Chiklis as Milo the truck driver. (Sutter, making sure we don't miss the symbolism, not only has Jax spread his arms in a Christ pose, but has Milo yell out “Jesus!” as he slams on the brakes.)
That Jax could on the one hand recognize that he has to send his family away from this club, and on the other commit a whole bunch of additional murders to keep the club itself alive, was a dichotomy the finale wasn't especially interested in – so long as Wendy and the boys are safe, it seems, he has no problem allowing Chibbs, Tig(*) and the other survivors to keep doing what they do to each other and the surrounding community. I suppose that's not out of character – these are his friends, and Jax has always had a weakness for keeping the club going (see him caving to the CIA agents at the end of season 4) – but it felt like something that needed to be addressed somehow, with the Jax/Nero conversation being the most likely place to put it.
(*) This week in Alan Wants A Web Series: “I'm Your Venus” (or, if you prefer this Twitter suggestion, “Penis, Be Damned”), following the ongoing romance of Tig and Venus Van Damme, and never once dealing with any club business.
And boy oh boy, that Jax/Nero scene. As I said yesterday, even at this late date, even in the midst of absurdly long episodes, “Sons” could provide great moments, and opportunities for performers to do great work. Jimmy Smits has always been a superb actor, but Nero gave him a handful of the best scenes I've ever watched him perform. I look forward to seeing the next long-running drama he improves late in the run. (Any preferences on that, people?) Jax and Chibbs' rooftop discussion of leadership and sacrifice was also really on-point on all levels (because it didn't require the digital effects needed for some of the highway chase material at the end, it was the best-looking scene of the finale).
We can question certain individual details – Would the heads of the other charters be satisfied that Jax broke the spirit of the agreement, even if he still got a unanimous vote and died? Would the Irish Kings let things go because Jax was dead? How much trouble is DA Patterson going to get into for letting a spree killer walk out of her office? – but Sutter was understandably more concerned with wrapping up long-running business. The futures of the club, the kids and Jax were all resolved in fairly definitive fashion (even if we suspect Abel will return to Charming one day), and Jax even got to encounter the homeless woman one last time to ask who she was. (She, of course, didn't answer, but she – like the rest of the episode – was surrounded by religious imagery. Make of that what you will.)
I'm glad I came back for these last few weeks less to find out how the story ended – after a certain point, I stopped caring about who would live, who would die, and what would become of SAMCRO – than to get those small moments in the middle of all the excess that reminded me of how great this show could be when it got out of its own way long enough.
What did everybody else think? If you stuck it through to the end, did “Papa's Goods” feel like a worthy payoff to the time you invested? If you came back after some time away, how did the finale feel to you?