Throughout the course of these fifth season recaps, someone in the comments will invariably suggest that I obviously don’t like Sons of Anarchy because all I do is complain about the show. Meanwhile, about 75 percent of the comments are also complaints about the show, while the other 25 percent are complaints about the complainers, which is to say — there’s a lot of complaining going on, and in places like Italy and many of our families, it’s easy to mistake complaining for affection.
That’s kind of how I’ve felt about SoA this season: I legitimately enjoy both the show AND complaining about the show, as well as the complaints about the complaints. It’s Internet fuel, y’all, and the 1500 words I spill about SoA each week has been one of my biggest highlights of the fall. I appreciate you all throwing out your own theories, as well, and last night’s season finale proved most of us wrong. Kurt Sutter may be a hack, but he’s a brilliant, unpredictable hack. He has absolutely no skill when it comes to the long con, but no one pulls a plot twist out of his ass better than Sutter.
Let’s get right to the complaining:
1. Opening Montage — You can tell a lot about how an episode will unfold based on Sutter’s frequent opening musical montages. For instance, we should’ve known that something bad was going to happen to Abel in the mid-season episode in which Abel and his stuffed frog were highlighted in the opening musical montage (by the end of the episode, Abel would be bleeding from the head ONTO that stuffed frog). The first shot in last night’s episode was on Tara getting out of bed, and that song sounded like something you’d hear in a late-night Skinemax soft-porn cancer flick, which is to say: It was awful, but it got the point across: It was going to be a rough, downer of an episode for Tara, Gemma, Clay, and Nero, each of whom were highlighted in the montage.
2. Who Is More Useless? — Before we get to the meat of the episode, however, a quick question: Who was the more useless character this season: Chucky or Filthy Phil? What the hell did Chucky do this season besides move around boxes (and inexplicably learn French in last night’s episode), and Filthy Phil’s biggest contribution to the season was appearing last night on ANOTHER SHOW (Raising Hope) in his SAMCRO cuts.
3. A Nice, Hot Bowl of Nails — The most inexplicable turn last night was, again, the Nero storyline. I rewound the sequence twice because I thought I’d missed something. Who is Dante? Why is SAMCRO and Nero tracking him down? Where did the dog fighting ring come from? I get that Nero is reclaiming territory that he lost control over, but I feel like there was an entire episode that I missed. It was a brutal dog-fighting sequence, though, and it did work to build some sympathy for Tig ahead of his meeting with Pope. I typically do not get squeamish around violence, but DUDE: Dogs fighting? A dumpster full of dead dogs? F**K ME. I think maybe Sutter was just trying to make a statement about the brutality of dog fighting, which is great! He just failed to provide any context again. The bowl of nails, however, was a nice tough. The Latino rap music while SAMCRO was pursuing Mexicans, however, was not. Does Sutter really need to match the rap music to the ethnicity every single week?
Anyway, the reason for the entire sequence was so that SAMCRO and Nero could come into a windfall, which they took from Dante. That will play into this recap later.
4. “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak. With most miraculous organ.” — Hamlet — Well, that’s one way to avoid talking to the cops: BITE OFF YOUR TONGUE. Christ! Honestly, Otto: Just f***ing kill yourself, brother. What kind of life does he have at this point? He’s a crippled, half-blind mute. But you know what? SHOCKING VIOLENCE WILL NOT SAVE THIS EPISODE. Especially when it’s barely in service of anything. Sure, Lee Toric witnessed it, but Toric did nothing with it in this episode. In fact, Toric was barely in the episode. Unser filled us in about his backstory (Harvard. Special Forces. Commendations. Misconduct violations. Basically, he’s a character out of The Shield), but it never played into the finale.
5. “You stupid cracker bitch.” — Don’t ANYONE tell me that that was the revenge Jax had in mind all along. Don’t even ATTEMPT to tell me that Sutter had been setting that up all season. Was it cool? YES. Did it make sense? Not really. It was a relief, though, to see Tig get to take the fatal shot on Damon Pope. It was even more of a relief to see Tig survive. However, it would’ve been a lot more satisfying if Tig had been able to take that shot 8 episodes ago, or if Sutter had kept Pope around more throughout the intervening episodes to keep his evil brewing. There’s a lot of context to this character that was essentially wasted. But yes. IT WAS COOL. And no: I DID NOT EXPECT IT. All that was running through my mind was “How is Tig going to get out of this one?”
It never occurred to me at the last second that Jax would start picking off Niners, mostly because Sutter hid Jax’s true motivations the entire season, which is a cheap way to surprise your audience. A better writer (say, Vince Gilligan) doesn’t disguise motivations; he may misdirect, but he doesn’t outright lie, which is essentially what Sutter had to do to make this twist work. (Though, it did work).
6. Jax’s Revenge: Clay Edition — And the biggest reason why we know that Jax wasn’t setting up a long con is because, up until relatively recently, the Clay piece in his plan didn’t exist. Jax had been working all season to marshall evidence to convince the club to call upon Mr. Mayhem. When that failed, then I guess he hatched the plan to save Tig and frame Clay for Pope’s murder (knowing that Eli would be happy to go along with the frame-up job). The other twist here was Juice’s role in getting Clay’s gun to Jax (and stabbing Clay in the back). Maybe I simply don’t remember it, or missed it, but I don’t readily recall Juice handing the gun off to Jax, and had I known (or remembered that), it would’ve made the scene between Juice and Clay more tense. We also see Gemma stab Clay in the back, which actually made me feel sorry for Clay. August Marks also put the hit out on Clay (as Jax planned), although the episode ended before that took place, sparing Clay’s life once again.
7. Bobby’s Dime-Store Wisdom — Bobby’s only contribution last night was to highlight that Jax had become exactly what Opie had worried that Jax would become. “It wasn’t about being smart enough to hurt him, it was about being smart enough NOT to hurt him,” Bobby said. “You had a chance to be different.”
“Maybe I’m not so different.” And the cycle repeats.
8. “Only men need to be loved, sweetheart. Women need to be wanted.” — And this is where the windfall that Jax and Nero got from Dante comes into play. Gemma obviously chose Nero over Clay, but for Nero, there was still the allure of the farm, and he has the money to go. Will he or won’t he? My guess is that it will depend on whether Jimmy Smits gets a better job offer during the SoA hiatus.
9. Tara Will Be Next Season’s Prison Bitch — The entire episode seemed to be building toward the death of Tara: There was the musical montage; Tara’s hand healed and she was offered the other position; Wendy’s warning to her to get the hell out of Charming before something happened to her; Gemma’s threat to her NOT to leave; Lee Toric hanging out in the background; and Tara following through with the living will (still left unsigned by Jax). In the end, though, Sutter went with Plan B: Lock her in prison. A cop out? I dunno. We’ll see how it plays out next season.
10. So Many Unanswered Questions: I feel like we could devote an entire post to the unresolved situations, though I do appreciate an open-ended season finale. Will August Marks successfully take out Clay? (No) What’s the state of Clay’s deal with the Irish, and his independent business with Tig? Will Juice’s betrayal of Clay blow back on him? Will August Marks widen his scope and put a hit out on Jax? Will Marks be next season’s Big Bad? What’s going to happen to Tara in prison? Did Gemma actually follow through on her promise to call the investigators on Tara? Will Nero stick around or buy the farm? What’s up with Wendy and the living will? What’s Lee Toric’s role in next season? HOW HAS UNSER’S CANCER NOT KILLED HIM YET?
If there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from Kurt Sutter, however, it’s that ALL of these questions will be resolved within the first 10 minutes of next season’s premiere, and he’ll move quickly on to more plot lines.