For a while, it looked like that Kurt Sutter had peaked in the second season of Sons of Anarchy, and the idea that the showrunner could ever land the Emmy nomination he has obviously wanted since the beginning seemed preposterous. When he submitted Walton Goggins last year for a Best Guest Actor nom (as Venus Van Dam), that seemed like the only way he’d be able to land a nomination.
But I think, with season six, Sutter has earned one, for writing, for Paris Barclay’s directing, and maybe even for a few of the performances, in particular Jimmy Smits. I’m not saying Sutter should win (it’s the year of Breaking Bad after all), but he has miraculously managed 12 (so far) hour-and-a-half long episodes without really any filler (save for a few too many musical montages): It’s been a ridiculously fast-paced season, in which nearly every episode has managed a shock or a jaw-dropping twist. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a season of television with more episodes that felt like season finales, and in any other series, last night’s penultimate episode could’ve served as a great cliff-hanging season finale.
There’s also a really interesting tension in the series now: Because of the Hamlet inspiration, we know where the series is ultimately headed (everyone will die), and yet, we’re rooting for Jax and SAMCRO to finally go legit(ish), even though we know that any success that SAMCRO finds will be short-lived and ultimately won’t matter. There’s probably only 14 or 15 episodes left of the entire series now, and a season ago, many of us didn’t care who died — they’d all become fairly despicable characters — but Sutter has rebuilt their reputations this season. He’s added the humor back in. Tig is weird again; Bobby is hilarious; Chibs cracks jokes (“Jackie boy, you just advanced race relations in Ireland 50 years”) and Jax even displays an occasional grin or warm-hearted smile after a hard-won fight (that resulted in piles of dead bodies). At this point, there’s no one on this show that I want to see die, and that includes Tara (Scratch that: Wendy can die).
In fact, there was part of me that thought, when Tara declined the immunity deal with Patterson and skipped town with Thomas and Abel, that Jax might have let it go. After all, he told Tara a couple of episodes back that he understood why Tara had schemed against him. He had almost forgiven Tara’s betrayal, and there have been occasions in the past where Jax had suggested that Tara leave with the boys until the danger had died down. If only he could let go of his pride, and see what’s best for his children, maybe he could earn Tara back.
But as far as Jax believes, the danger is over now. He finally got out of guns. He dealt with the Irish problem. In using August Marks and his gang to mow down the Chinese, he had also dealt with the Chinese problem. Clay is dead. Galen O’Shay is dead. He has his legit escort business up and running. He still has the D.A. investigation hanging over his head, but given what Jax gave Patterson, that doesn’t feel like a grave threat, either. Everything has worked out perfectly.
Until Juice — f#$ing Juice — decided to let that guilt get the best of him. Sutter has been teasing Juice’s emotional baggage all season long, and he’s been keeping a secret that many of us had forgotten about in his back pocket, waiting until just the right time to unleash it. That time was apparently just when Jax and the gang had finally got their head above water. Juice takes a few too many Oxy, confesses to Nero that he had killed Darvany (under Jax’s orders), and BOOM: More conflict. This is not just an interpersonal beef between Jax and Nero, either; there’s the real potential of an all-out war between SAMCRO, Nero’s gang (The Byz Lats), The Mayans, and the One-Niners that could extend into next season. This is not just Hamlet, it’s the Montagues and Capulets, Hatfields and McCoys, and Nero and Gemma are the Romeo and Juliet at the center of it all.
That’s another thing that’s been great about this season. Sutter hasn’t abandoned plot strands; he’s playing all the cards, and he’s pulling them out of his back pocket when we least expect it. As we head into the season finale, there’s tension in every direction. Between Jax and Juice; between Jax/Gemma and Tara; between Jax and Nero; and between SAMCRO and their rival gangs. Sutter may close some loops on a few of those subplots next week (Juice is so dead), but I get the feeling that the blowback on Darvany’s death is going to extend well into next season, and that the situation with Tara may not be resolved either (that may be wishful thinking, because I’m not ready for Tara’s death yet). What we do know from the sixth season so far is that there’s no way to predict where the finale is headed. He may have to resort to the occasional narrative cheat, but Sutter has stayed ahead of all of us the entire season, and the results have been so devastating that we’re willing to forgive the shortcuts.
Random Thoughts and GIFs
— It’s bound to be short-lived, but I love that Nero’s humanity, and his fatherly instincts, overrode his anger with Jax in that final scene. You can’t choke a guy to death when he’s grieving about the loss of his wife and kids.
— We’ve seen a lot of disgusting sh*t on this show, but watching Gemma stick her finger down Juice’s throat to make him vomit was definitely one of the more stomach-churning sequences. Makes me miss those the days when Otto was just getting anally raped in prison.
— With Pope Industries taking over the gun trade, the threat to Tig is finally off the table, which means we get to see him hang around for a while longer and fuss with his hair. The rebounding of Tig’s character — and his weirdness, and his affection for Venus Van Dam — has been one of the highlights of this season.
— Another of those highlights has been the transformation of Bobby from morose VP carrying a lot of weight to fun-loving, laid back Bobby, who is cracking jokes about needing someone to hold his dick while he pisses. I missed that guy.
— One of the things that has kept me on Team Tara all along has been the alternative, Wendy, who is almost useless to the series now, except as a face that Tara can slap the sh*t out of.
— Tara needs Ed (the guy with the van) from Breaking Bad to find her and the boys a nice place in New Hampshire. That’s the only way she escapes.
— I am officially putting to bed any earlier suspicions I had about Chibs aligning with the Irish against SAMCRO, which is probably exactly where Sutter wants me, right before he pulls that out. There’s no way the Irish and the Kings aren’t part of the oncoming war.
— Spoilers, Sutter. SPOILERS (this tweet came before the episode aired)
— I liked the way Juice’s tattoo also tied into the episode title, “You Are My Sunshine.” Also, Theo Rossi is ripped and I still can’t get over the fact that he’s 38 years old.
— I totally dug the rendition of “You are My Sunshine” in the final musical montage, but is this not an odd collaboration: Jamey Johnson, Twiggy Ramirez, and Shooter Jennings.