I know this is a backhanded compliment, but it’s also true: Last night’s episode of Sons of Anarchy would have been the perfect episode if they’d aired it six weeks ago. That was Kurt Sutter in top form, and aside from the fact that Charlie Hunnam’s accent was all over the place, we couldn’t have asked for a better episode. The truth finally came out, and it set no one free. Quite the opposite, in fact: The truth has doomed Juice, Gemma, and quite possibly Jax.
“How do I come back from this?” Jax asked Nero near the end of last night’s episode, and that’s the question that will drive the remaining two episodes in the series. Can Jax recover? It will take an unholy turn of events and some miraculous writing from Kurt Sutter for that to happen, but I wouldn’t put it past him. When Sutter is on, he is on.
In last night’s episode he was on, and no scene this season was more powerful, more intense, and more effective than Juice’s confession to Jax. Theo Rossi did a remarkable job of slowly, tearfully doling out the confession, letting us wonder if he’d tell the whole truth, whether he’d martyr himself, or whether he’d finally realized that he’d come to the end of his road. He managed — in revealing that he was a part of the lie, and a part of the coverup — to make himself more sympathetic than he’s ever been, as we found ourselves hoping that Juice could somehow slip out of the noose that’s been tied around his neck since the end of last season.
That’s probably not going to happen because in another remarkable scene, Juice refused to divulge the complete truth to Unser and Jarry, foreclosing any possibility that he’d be rescued and remaining — in a way — faithful to Jax, even as his fate had already been sealed. I honestly can’t get over Rossi’s performance, from the way he stood up tall to his rapist Tully to the quiet tears of relief as he confessed to Jax, or even his scene with Lin, when he elicited the name of the rat (Barowski? Robocop?! That was a surprise) and sheepishly grinning, “You can never trust a rat.” Juice is going to die, but he’s going to die with dignity, and he may be one of the few characters who manages that feat.
Another great performance last night was that of Jimmy Smits. Nero has been sidelined for most of the season, and it was unclear how he would fit into the end game. But he came up big, not with words, but in the way he reacted to finding out that Gemma, the woman he loved, was not who he thought she was. She’s a terrible human being, but even still, Nero’s heart is too big to either turn Gemma over to Jax or give her the justice she so rightfully deserves himself.
The truth also remarkably focused Jax’s anger and sadness. A few weeks ago, had Wendy revealed that she’d helped to hide Juice, he would’ve flown off the handle. When Nero told him that he couldn’t stop Gemma from leaving, Jax wasn’t angry. He didn’t seek revenge. He understood, as he should because no one has been more manipulated by Gemma than Jax. Jax even took Juice’s confession in stride: Juice may have f**ked up, but this was on Gemma. I hope that Jax follows through on his promise to give Juice the quick death he deserves.
Jax also manned up in a way he never has before. He took full responsibility for leading SAMCRO down the wrong path, for Bobby’s death, for the Dioso deaths, and even for Jury’s death. It is his fault for not seeing what was in front of his face, but in a way, it’s understandable. How could anyone suspect their mother of killing their wife?
Speaking of Gemma, the most reviled woman in Charming, Katey Sagal brought back some of that season two magic. She was good. It was almost impossible to know, in her scene near the end with Wendy, what was going on in Gemma’s mind. Would she quietly surrender to the inevitable? Or would she pull out a gun and blow away Wendy and Chucky in able to escape? Would she run away with Thomas? Given Gemma’s behavior this season, all of those possibilities seemed plausible, and I was actually relieved to see her escape with no more bloodshed. More importantly, she stood by Nero as he learned the truth, and she faced his disappointment.
“Everything in my life, I’ve pretty much torched,” she said. “But I was a good mother.”
No Gemma. You weren’t. You were never a good mother. You were not a good mother for having Jax’s father killed. You were not a good mother for pitting yourself against Tara. You were not a good mother for driving your grandkids around while you were intoxicated. You were not a good mother for killing your grandkids’ mom. And you were not a good mother for trying to manipulate your son for seven seasons. If it weren’t for Gemma, Jax and Tara would’ve gotten out years ago, and probably would be living sane lives in Seattle. Gemma is especially not a good grandmother for suggesting to Abel that he’d one day join SAMCRO, even after witnessing seven seasons of murder and mayhem. What is wrong with that woman?
Gemma deserves to die a slow, excruciatingly painful death, but at this point, I’d be satisfied just to see her quietly snuffed out in her sleep.
In revealing the truth, this week’s Sons of Anarchy set the stage for redemption. Juice got his in confessing to Jax. Gemma is too far gone to ever gain any modicum of it. I don’t think that Jax can save himself from death, either, and I don’t think there’s a way he can — as Nero suggested — honor the wishes of Tara and get out. But he can make things right between Charming’s Sons and the Indian Hills Chapter. He can get justice by killing Barowski, and most importantly, he can do the right thing by honoring Tara and getting Wendy and his kids as far away from Charming as possible.
Redemption may cost him his life, but it’ll be worth the price.