A carving fork and dish water? Jesus, Sutter! Why? That’s one hell of a way with which to dispatch one of the series most important characters. What a brutal way go go. There were certain end points that we could’ve predicted for the sixth season finale of Sons of Anarchy, but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted how Kurt Sutter would arrive at them. There were a lot of moving parts in last night’s nearly two-hour finale, but ultimately, the season ended the way it needed to end, in a completely, utterly destroying, devastating fashion that not only put a bloody bow on the year’s most significant plotline, but set the wheels in motion for a compelling multi-gang rivalry in the final season.
A friend of mine, who emailed me right after the episode ended, said it best: “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuu.” Sutter, once again, pulled the rug out from under us, and left us traumatized, with ass bruises and wounded souls. Sutter may not write dialogue as well as some of the other leading showrunners, but in terms of pure storytelling and plot construction, few can rival him. This season of SoA had the construction of a Boardwalk Empire season, but the pace of 24, and although only two major characters died this season, the devastation feels deeper, because the two he chose to kill off have propelled plotlines more than any other characters throughout the series. For six years, Jax has been reacting to Clay, or working toward a happy life with Tara, and now Jax Teller is left with all the power, and none of the happiness.
“You’re a husband and a father and a man before all of this,” District Attorney Patterson told Jax in one of the the episode’s most critical scenes. “Own your place.” When Patterson delivered those lines in the diner (and CCH Pounder was magnificent in that scene), you could sense that her words had gotten through to Jax, and for a few minutes at least, I had the sense that Tara Knowles might escape the season alive. Jax had obviously felt betrayed by Tara’s decision to flee, but the moment Jax saw Tara in the park, it was obvious Jax wasn’t going to kill her. There’s too much history, too much affection, and too much love between Jax and Tara. For all of Jax’s faults as a leader, he cares about his kids, and he’s smart enough to know that Tara was right in trying to get Thomas and Abel away from SAMCRO. In fact, it was only two seasons ago when Jax had the same thought: He had, for a time, planned to make certain things right within the club, and leave with Tara and his son and escape the path put before him. He’d gotten sucked in too deep, but there was still time for Tara and his sons.
The exchange between Tara and Jax in the park was flat-out amazing, and while I’ve appreciated Maggie Siff’s performance all season long, it was that scene — vulnerable, scared, sad, and resigned — that I felt for the first time that Siff could be worthy of an Emmy. “Can you let me say goodbye to them before you take me?” she asked Jax after tearfully conceding that her plan to save her kids from Jax’s life had failed.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Jax said. “I’m not going to hurt them … You don’t have to run. Not anymore.” Who else actually pumped their fist when Jax said that? When it felt ever so briefly like Tara was going to make it through this? I had such a huge sense of relief. Jax had seen the light; the importance of being a good father and husband had finally broken through is pride and ego and the betrayal he had felt. Jax made the most selfless decision of his life: He was going to turn himself in, and do what’s right for his family, and no one in the club was going to stop him from it, because Tig, and Chibs, and Bobby knew it was also the right decision.
But there were too many soft, lingering close-ups on Tara’s face in the episode for us to believe that she’d make it out alive, and when Gemma was asked for something like the fifth time in the episode whether she’d heard anything about Tara yet, the end game began to come into focus. But who could’ve anticipated that Gemma — heart broken and drunk after Nero had dumped her — would lash out in a fit of rage and stab Tara repeatedly in the back of the head with a carving fork? GOD. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Sutter couldn’t give her a quick gunshot in the back of the head that’d kill her before she’d even realized what was happening. She’d have to know her killer, and she’d have to feel the stabbing pain of a fork through her skull while she was also drowning in a sink full of dishwater. Sutter, you’re a cruel son of a bitch.
We haven’t seen much of Gemma this season outside of crazy bitch mode, but when a shocked Roosevelt walked into that kitchen, saw Tara’s body, and explained to Gemma what she’d done, Katey Sagal delivered one of the most powerful scenes of the series: You could actually see the wave of acknowledgement, then regret, guilt, and then grief overcome her before Juice broke open the moment with two shots into the back of Eli Roosevelt. Even though I’d predicted that it might be Rockmond Dunbar’s last episode on the series, I did not see that coming. You’re a cold bastard, Sutter.
There’ll be a lot of questions about what happened next that we will be forced to mull over for the next nine months. I thought that maybe Juice — who probably knew he was a dead man, after Jax had venomously whispered “You betrayed me” into his ear — was going to take the fall for Gemma, frame himself for the murder of Tara, and then commit suicide. Instead, he helped Gemma to her feet, sent her on her way, and then tried to cover up the murder in a half-assed way, either because he’s Juice and he does things in a half-ass way, or because it was part of a larger plan to set up Jax for Tara’s murder, or maybe it was something else entirely. Just Juice being Juice. We won’t know until next September.
In the meantime, we’ll be left with the lasting image of a bereaved Jax holding his dead wife’s bloody body, wracked with grief, and sobbing in front of a confused DA Patterson. What assumptions will she make? Jax’s gun is on the floor, but the evidence should quickly rule him out as the murderer. Will suspicion next fall on Nero, who Jax may believe killed Tara to even the score for the murder of Darvany? In Nero’s speech about Karma earlier in the episode, Nero all but said that Jax would be owed more tragedy for the lies, and for taking the life of an innocent.
As for Nero, Sutter wisely turned him from ally into enemy, one with whom many of us may sympathize. Even though he didn’t agree with the Mayans’ decision to engage in turf warfare with the One-Niners, Nero chose blood over love, joining his Byz Lat brethren at the table along with the Mayans and what’s left of the Chinese. If there’s one quibble I have with the episode, it’s that some of that felt rushed, and that Sutter had not properly laid the foundation for Nero’s decision to dump Gemma, turn on SAMCRO, and join a war of which he wasn’t interested in being part.
But it does set up an intriguing rivalry in the final season: Two characters — Jax and Nero — with whom the audience has sympathy, engaged in a war both had tried so hard to avoid. With Nero taking on a leadership role within the Byz Lats, it all but means that Jax’s efforts to build a legitimate business will blow up in his face. SAMCRO will be left without the escort business, and without guns, and there will be a wild card (Juice) in the mix, and a legal charge or three hanging over Jax’s head. How will Jax contend with all of this while he’s still grieving over the loss of Tara? It’s going to be an amazing final season, and though I’m excited to see it, I’m in no hurry to watch the inevitable tragedy unfold.
A Few Thoughts:
— I hate the thought that, by the end of the series, Thomas and Abel may end up with Wendy. But technically, I believe that Wendy officially has custody of them, according to the will that Tara and Jax signed. I don’t know how Jax kills Wendy now, since she’s all the boys have left, but that should be a fun custody battle next season.
— What happens to the deal between Patterson and Jax now? It obviously falls apart, but what will the repercussions of that be?
— Unser still does have an important role in SoA: He’s the messenger, but he’s a terrible one. Damnit, Unser: Get all the facts before you start rattling off half truths. If you want to blame someone else besides Gemma for Tara’s death, blame Unser. Although, with Eli dead, it does open up the possibility the Unser takes his position on an interim basis next season, which would allow him to try and mediate the disputes between the rival factions next season.
— I am not looking forward to the episode where Jax finds out Gemma murdered Tara, although I am really curious about how Kurt Sutter will kill his own wife. I bet he saves the most gruesome death for Sagal.
— For those of you who complain about Chris Hardwick and his talking shows, if you stuck around for the Sons post-show (or at least, the first eight minutes of it, before it moved online), whoever that host was has to make you appreciate how good Hardwick really is at his job. That was terrible and awkward and lifeless and uncomfortable, and if they decide to make that a regular show in the final season, I hope they get a new host.